Gene's Big Adventure Balls 2006

Gene N's rocket on the pad

Gene Nowaczyk's Big Adventure

<p">BALLS 2006 Flight to 100K Feet

Sponsored by Aerocon, the Place for Rocketeers and Inventors



Gene Nowaczyk (pronounced Nova-Check) and his all-aluminum APCP powered vehicle successfully achieved a BALLS and solo amateur record altitude of over 93,000 feet September 2006 at Black Rock, Nevada. He recovered the entire vehicle intact and in a condition that was almost ready to fly again. All he needed was another 150 pounds of propellant.

Tailcone Nozzle Retainer being turned on the lathe

The eight inch diameter vehicle stands over 14.5 feet tall, most of that being motor. It was launched from a 14 foot rail using 1.5" rail buttons.

Total propellant weight was 147 pounds of APCP which consisted of his own formula: Ammonium Perchlorate 200 micron,  aluminum -425 spherical and 300, PVC for smoke, and HTPB as the binder. There were a total of 7 each 12" grains each having an inner diameter of 3".

The solid graphite nozzle retained with a custom tailcone (above) had a 2.66" throat and a 9" exit cone. The payload section was 28" long, not including the 5 to 1 350 deg. conical nose cone. There was approximately 8" x 8.0" diameter worth of space for the entire recovery section.

Three fins were used, cut from 3/16" aluminum and secured to the airframe with 10-32 screws tapped directly into the motor case.

TV broadcasting was done using a 5 watt transmitter and a 5 amphour battery pack. Signal was received on the ground through a helical antenna (shown below)

Total rocket weight was 318lbs at liftoff. It achieved a maximum velocity of Mach 3.45, about 2600 mph, and took 81 seconds to reach apogee.


Nosecone with Payload Compartment - Camera Side

The larger hole in the middle is the side looking video camera port


Nosecone with Payload Compartment - Open

2 BlackSky Altacc Flight Computers
Video downlink with GPS overlay
Active ion chamber

The night before, nosecone is taking it easy before the big flight
Checking the TV downlink


The vehicle was in the Mach regime for about 46 seconds. Apogee was at 93,284ft.!

Both parachutes were deployed at the top with a descent time for both of approximately 16 minutes. The nosecone and service module separated from the booster at apogee, the components came down on separate parachutes.  The booster, which weighed about 79 lbs after burn-out, landed tail first on the playa with no damage to the fins or graphite nozzle. The booster came in at 150 fps on an Aerocon 73" ballistic X-form parachute. The nose cone descended at 125 fps on a Brand R parachute with only minimal damage to the nose cone tip.

Luckily winds aloft were very light, about 15 mph at 45k feet.  Windspeed on the ground was approx. 3 mph. The booster had a great controlled decent just what was needed for the predicted recovery zone. The booster landed 3.8 miles from the launch site and the nose landed 3.6 miles from launch site.

Unfortunately in the excitement prior to the launch no one was manning the helical antenna for the video downlink so not much usable footage was realized, however the frames that were good really tell a tale. See below picture.

CO2 ejection system with 2 ea 88 gram canisters, fired with Daveyfire ematches. Each CO2 system was fired by a separate AltAcc unit. To make sure the parachutes both came out of their respective compartments they were held together with rubber bands.

The Effort Involved:
12 hours of computer simulation
60 of planning and development in the project
60 hours of machining and fitting
8 hours to mix and pour the motor on site
Launch tower took Gene and a helper 2 hours to set up
There were 5 hours of prep to get the rocket ready for the pad, 7 people helped Gene pull this off.
Road trip from Kansas took 31 hours one way.
Total cost - about $12,000


The aft end core sampled a bit of the Black Rock playa

The tailcone remained hot to the touch for another hour after recovery.

Gene recovering his successful 17 mile high rocket on an Aerocon 73" Ballistic X-Form Parachute
Someone pointing to the cool Aerocon decal
Notice the scorching on the aft end of the rocket

Gene, in the orange shirt and satisfied with a fantastic flight, searches for a beer
Aerodynamic heating on one fin leading edge
What the flight would look like from the International Space Station

Camera Eye View at Apogee, GPS Overlay is in Meters

3d max rendering from one of the only 6 good frames we had on the video tape


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