The sky was hazy with smoke drifting in from wildfires, but it did not deter members of the Utah Rocket Club and others from launching model rockets at HellFire 23 last weekend on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
“We haven’t compiled all the numbers yet, but there were more than 300 flights,” said Neal Baker, president of URC.
“We love clear skies, but with the smoke, they (rockets) kind of disappear from view sooner than we would normally like,” Baker said Saturday morning at HellFire 23. The event ran from Thursday through Sunday.
“We’ve actually been coming out here for about 25 years, and the club itself has been around for about 29 years,” he said. “We have a membership of about 110 people.”
He said HellFire is the club’s main event of the year with 120 flyers showing up this year.
“We had a large turnout of new folks and lots of kids that we hopefully helped to get excited about science and space,” Baker said.
“The lure of rocketry is a little different for each person,” he added. “Some people like building small-scale models and being precise with their work, other guys just want to fly great big rockets.”
One highlight this year included the launch of a 105-pound rocket that flew nearly 7,000 feet. The rocket was built by Scott Binder from the state of Washington, Baker said.
Two other men built and flew a 140-pound rocket. The rockets range from 3 inches high up to 30-feet tall.
Baker said another highlight of this year’s HellFire would not be classified as a success.
“We had a 10-foot tall rocket on a prototype motor that spectacularly failed on the pad,” he said. “… A successful flight includes a safe launch, flight and recovery.”
Bonneville Salt Flats is the perfect place for rocket launching, according to Baker.
“It’s a photo perfect location and it’s really a great place to be able to locate the ones that go high,” he said. “It’s possible to see them lying on the salt a mile away, plus fire danger is minimized on the salt flats.”
He said a lot of people attend HellFire not to launch, but simply for the thrill of watching. Between launches, visitors enjoy examining rockets and components up close and speaking with experts who build the rockets.
URC will be back on the Bonneville Salt Flats again next year for HellFire 24, according to Baker.