U rocket club tries to lift off

In the world of high powered model rocketry, itâÄôs easy to burn $100 in just two and a half seconds. ThatâÄôs about how much David Kittell, an aerospace engineering junior, spent on fuel for the maiden launch of his fifteen pound âÄúFreedom 8 .âÄù This fall, Kittell started the University Rocket Club, whose goal is to build and launch a rocket that will break Mach 1, the speed of sound. Although Kittell wasnâÄôt the only one burning money at SaturdayâÄôs monthly launch in North Branch, which is sponsored by Tripoli Minnesota, a high-powered rocketry club, there werenâÄôt any sonic booms. Kittell said heâÄôs never seen a rocket break the sound barrier at a Tripoli launch. Lindsey Wagner, an aerospace engineering junior and University Rocket Club member, said she thought it would be fun to be able to build a rocket and see how close they can get to their goal. She added that anyone who likes rockets can join âÄî they donâÄôt need a science background. While speed is one compelling aspect of rocketry, Tripoli member Mike Corbett said he especially enjoys the craftsmanship involved in building a rocket. âÄúIâÄôm content to see how nicely I can finish it. They may crash, but at least theyâÄôll look pretty crashing,âÄù he said. The most challenging aspect of rocketry, he said, is getting the rocket down without destroying it. Rocketeers use a delay charge âÄî a gunpowder blast set to go off at a certain time âÄî to release a parachute which allows the rocket to drift slowly back to Earth. Rockets often drift into surrounding cornfields, so most of the high powered rockets contain tracking devices that emit a radio signal. Corbett built his own rocket detector, an antennae used to locate the rocket by tuning it to the radio signal put out by the transmitter. SaturdayâÄôs launch was a family event, where kids blasted off smaller, lower powered rockets while Kittell and other adults waited for the engine and fuel vendor to arrive so they could launch their high powered rockets. âÄúItâÄôs a highly regulated hobby,âÄù Kittell said. Rocket fuel is only available here once a month, and a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is needed to get it. Tim Young, a University of North Dakota physics professor, started Rocket Technologies, a rocket engine and fuel business, in 2001. As the only rocket fuel vendor in North Dakota and nearby states, rocketeers depend on him âÄî especially since high powered motors canâÄôt be purchased online. He travels nearly every weekend, bringing supplies to rocket clubs in Minnesota and North Dakota. ItâÄôs a small group, he said, and he likes the close-knit nature of the hobby. Since heâÄôs licensed to buy the fuel in bulk and store it, he can sell it for less than it would cost individuals to get it. In addition to bureau regulations, the club needs a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to use the airspace. On Saturday, their altitude limit was set at 10,000 feet. That may not seem high to Gary Stroick, however. The Tripoli board member recently returned from an annual experimental rocketry competition in Nevada, where they had an altitude waiver for 100,000 feet. At experimental launches, rocketeers can design their own motors for custom flights. This year, one team successfully launched a full keg of beer in honor of a teammate who had passed away. StroickâÄôs wife, Carol Post successfully launched and recovered âÄúCeltic Flyer âÄù to receive a certification that will allow her to launch certain high powered rockets. She said she likes to see people getting excited; trying something they want to do. Corbett said he thinks the main draw is the addictive sound of the rockets launching. He likened it to the sound of flooring a souped-up car. âÄúI think a lot of guys just never outgrew that and now theyâÄôre into this and they like that sound of that rocket going up,âÄù he said.