NSL2010 NARAM 52




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The 2010 National Sport Launch

by Thomas Kindig, NAR 86635 L1

Here in southern New Mexico, most folks don't think a lot about the legacy of our area in the history of aeronautics and aerospace research and development. For us rocketeers, the story is a bit different. We live near by White Sands Missile Range which is one of the largest test ranges in the world. This is where the missiles, including recovered and rebuilt V2 rockets from post-war Germany have all been tested. It is also the place where Harry Stine developed and published the first safety code for model rocketry, and formed one of the first rocketry clubs. Most recently, NASA performed a test of the Orion space capsule abort system.

Many of our club members have met Lowell Randall who, now retired, worked with Dr. Robert Goddard here in New Mexico in the 1930s. Dr. Goddard brought his research to Roswell, NM. in 1930. Here he was able to conduct his work well away from a curious public.

At nearby Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB) we have the High Speed Test Track which was used to explore the limits of what men might endure in fighter aircraft, and in rockets headed to orbit. The test track is still active today in studying aerodynamics and structural stresses on airborne vehicles and escape systems.

Photo by Rickii Pyatt
NAR President Trip Barber and FLARE President Russell Payne check in Richard Davis of Tucson. (R. Pyatt)

So when Event Director Jim Basler of FLARE (Fellowship of Las Cruses Area Rocketry Enthusiasts) got it in his head to offer a bid for the NAR 2010 National Sport Launch, he was sure we had some very special things to offer. The heartland of all of this history is the Tularosa Basin. Our sister club SMRA (Spaceport Model Rocketry Association) in Alamogordo, NM. launches right in the heart of the Tularosa Basin. SMRA has a really well developed launch field with permanent shade structures, bunker, and an observation tower. The only drawback to the launch field is that when HAFB is in flight operations there are very strict limits on how high we may fly. SMRA member Denzil Burnam discussed this with flight control and FAA officials and we were given clearances of  12,686 feet AGL for the holiday weekend. 

Alamogordo is small military town with a casual pace and a friendly attitude. It also has the distinction of over thirty pistachio and grape producers and several wineries. There are rockets all over the place here, in front of commercial establishments and even in people's yards. Alamogordo is a rocket-friendly place.

By Thomas Kindig
Geofrey Kerbal of Phoenix with his rocket "Going Postal." (Tokind)

FLARE and SMRA are both very small clubs. FLARE has around twenty active members, five of them willing to commit to making the NSL happen. SMRA has around ten members, many of them also members of FLARE. Several of our HPR members actually come out regularly from El Paso, Tx., where there are no clubs. What stood out about this NSL was the roster of special events. Dave Kovar, a scale-model rocketeer and member of FLARE is a master of organizing public events. Dave was responsible for the 2009-10 series of Apollo Fortieth Anniversary  Commemoration events, presented by FLARE in Las Cruces and Alamogordo. Dave makes it a point to know everyone he meets, and the contacts he developed with the New Mexico Museum of Space History, White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, and the National Solar Observatory were an important factor in this event.

Many weeks of hard work and planning went into the Sport Launch. The Alamogordo crew focused on preparation of the launch site, with key members of the Las Cruces team trekking over the San Augustine pass on weekends to help out. To our delight the Mesa Verde Ranch put in a fresh gravel road completing access from the main road to our launch site just a few weeks before the event. FLARE had actually budgeted to rent equipment and buy gravel to do this. Mesa Verde just went ahead and did it for us for free.

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