Spontaneous Combustion

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With experimental motors flying all weekend, several were bound to provide spectacular failures.

And as one of the photographers wandering the range, I was closer than usual to a number of N-sized motors vaporizing rockets on the pad or soon after liftoff.

In this example, a home-brew motor mixed with 8 pounds of black powder hit a bit of a burp right after takeoff.

As the solid propellant motors rapidly rise to full pressure and sufficient heat to melt aluminum, a motor casing rupture can burst a rocket apart from within… leading to a shower of rocket confetti overhead.

There was so much going on… I took 1000 photos in 24 hours. It will take a few days to look through all that…

(best viewed large)

PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE, Anthony Will photos, and 35 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 10 more comments

  1. snowbear2006 90 months ago | reply

    Oh, was that you that was showing us the photos on your camera right after the explosion? I was really busy and didn't get to drop off an e-mail address for you to send photos to and then - here they are on Flickr. The Sky Bowler photo is awesome too. We really appreciate you sharing these pictures with us.

    Did you get any photos or video of "Black Mach" shredding. I downloaded the altimeters this morning - it was doing 4000 feet per second only 5 seconds off the pad when the fin can failed. I swore I wouldn't let cameras distract me from watching it fly, but now everyone is asking me for a photo. It was the Black carbon fiber minimum diameter P with a blue fin can that shredded about 12:30 Sunday afternoon if you happened to get it. We flew right before the big Q motor hybrid. Oh, and please tell me you have photos of the Q hybrid tumbling to earth still burning...

  2. jurvetson 90 months ago | reply

    I am heartbroken to say that I had to leave at noon on Sunday to catch my flight... =(

    If you do find anyone with photos of those launches, please let me know at SteveJ@boxbe.com as that big bolus of nitrous oxide was something I wanted to see lit up. I got a lot of pad-prep shots. It was a gorgeous bird.

    KoRaYeM: yes. And I found that 1/4000 timing priority is plenty fine to freeze the action. I have played with 1/8000 sec exposures on the Mach flights, but it's not needed (lower ISO and lower noise is benefit of dialing back from "bullet-time" exposures).

    schoschie: I will post a Q motor launch, but I don't have video of this one. I find tripods too limiting to catch the action... and I can only pan well with one hand. =)

    PhotonQ: yeah, it was an unusual trip from Provence to Black Rock... It was great to see you at Paris CDG.

  3. PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE 90 months ago | reply

    @Steve : It was great to see you too. A crazy trip you had, indeed !

    Let me know, when you have time, about the picture in front of the "Space CDG board". Hope it looks "SpacyCool" =)

  4. paranoidroid 90 months ago | reply

    I have plenty of photos of the Sunday launches and a video of the Q motor hybrid. Add me on flickr, and on youtube (mosh1). Will need to spend a few days to process everything...

  5. GustavoG 90 months ago | reply

    Expensive fireworks, eh?

  6. jurvetson 90 months ago | reply

    a labor of love...

    Just saw this nice blog for teachers. Thanks Wesley.

  7. Wesley Fryer 90 months ago | reply

    Thank YOU Steve! :-)

  8. wadetibb 90 months ago | reply

    Great timing.
    >>>seen on
    1-2-3 group

  9. Steven Ford / snowbasinbumps 90 months ago | reply

    very cool shot. A FAV
    Seen in: :

  10. madhaus 90 months ago | reply

    Excellent shot!!!! Love the debris clouds. Too bad about the rocket, though.

    I was not there but the spousal unit was and I've put up a few of his Nike Smoke pix showing that 9.8 m/s**2 is pretty nasty without a recovery system.

  11. jaymcgavren 90 months ago | reply

    Love it love it love it! A mix of photographic skill and a dash of luck.

    I flashed back to the Challenger disaster - very glad no one was aboard this one.

  12. Dyche 88 months ago | reply

    BOO-ya! Very sad for the guys who put all their time into building this thing but it did provide a beautiful image.

  13. ti_fou_m_ye 87 months ago | reply

    Bit of a burp!
    Great capture!

  14. jurvetson 86 months ago | reply

    I just discovered a video from the distant flight line of this CATO.... The sound is nice and you get a sense of how fast it all happens...

    @mahhaus: Yeah, that was wild. Rockets Magazine published a pair of shots I took of that inbound Nike, 1/3 seconds apart...

    Nike Ballistic Lawn Dart

  15. CatDancing 82 months ago | reply

    What an awesome capture!
    'ACTION' Theme at:
    The World Through My Eyes

  16. kayodeok 82 months ago | reply

    Lovely timing in capturing this

    'ACTION' Theme at:
    The World Through My Eyes

  17. sallylondon 82 months ago | reply

    Incredible image! You (and all of the commenters above) obviously had a fascinating time.

    'ACTION' Theme at:
    The World Through My Eyes

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