The "JOE BOXER" Launches

by Ky Michaelson


Those daring young men
and their flying machines

 

If you can dream it you can achieve it. That is my philosophy of life. When I was 8 years old my Father showed me a book that was published in the twenties. The name of the book was Colliers Wonderbook, which was published in 1920. It showed a man sitting on top of a rocket with a leather helmet on his head. In another picture it showed him lying on the ground smoldering. That picture read, "And he lived to tell about it". Those two pictures played a big part in my life. It gave me the spirit of adventure and the dream of actually launching a rocket into outerspace. Fifty years later I remember

 

 

Two years ago I read my first issue of High Power Rocketry. On the back cover was Frank Kosdon's ad on reloadable motors with a caption that read. "A new altitude record of 37,793 feet". Five months after reading HPR Jodi and I were at Black Rock, NV launching a rocket called the D.R. Hero. As most of you know it turned out to be one of the world's biggest amateur catos. Was I disappointed? The answer was, yes. Did I learn from it? The answer was, yes. And that was to never launch a rocket unless you have first hydrostatically tested the motor casing and then test fired the motor

 
Sonic Challenger 2 exceeded 50,000 feet and was recovered by shovel.

 

Black Rock was a year away so I had plenty of time to build my next altitude rocket project. I called Ron Urinsco see if he could build me a P motor. Ron built Jodi's N-4137 that she launched at Black Rock '95 that she call the JD Cruiser. That rocket reached an altitude of 31,185 feet. It was the highest recorded altitude at the event. Ron told me that he was working with John Johnston and Rick Lohr. He told me that they were working on designing a number of large rocket motors and one of them was a P motor and that they would be fully tested before they would even sell me one. That impressed me. So I told him, "Let's get to work".

Thirty days later we were at Delamar testing a new P motor. While we were there Jodi and I brought out another rocket that we built over the winter called the Sonic Challenger II powered by a Urinsco 0-2800 motor with a burn time of 8.1 seconds. The rocket exceeded 50,000 feet. The nosecone came down under canopy, but the rocket came in ballistic. I learned 2 things at Delamar. One- We could build a P motor that would not blow up. Two - Never try to recover a rocket and the nosecone with the same chute especially if you have a large ejection charge in it. The aluminum nosecone snapped a 2,000 lb. tensile strength stainless steel aircraft cable. We had to recover the rocket with a shovel. I think the nosecone landed someplace over in Area 51.

 
The JOE BOXER Graphics were a gleeming site to behold. $4,000 of glitter and glamour.

 

Jodi and I flew back to Minneapolis and immediately started working on our new altitude project. We had a busy summer ahead of us. We had to build a Big Kahuna for the NERO H.O.T. Summer Nationals, which was launched on an Aerotech Nitrous N-2100 motor, which was a successful flight except that it was not completely recovered intact, so I had to build an all new Big Kahuna in less than 3 weeks, attend the Sooner Boomer in Medford, Oklahoma and then drive to Orangeburg, South Carolina for LDRS. This time the Big Kahuna never made it off of the pad. It catoed. I thought to myself this is the last Big Kahuna that I am ever going to build.

After returning back to Minnesota I received a call from Nicholas Graham, Chief Executive of the Joe Boxer Corporation. He told me that he was coming out with some new rocket underwear and that he wanted to get some national exposure. I told him about the altitude project that we were working on. He said that he was very interested in that, but he wanted me to build a large rocket so everyone could see the Joe Boxer logo and he wanted to put a pair of Joe Boxer underwear and a pair of Russian underwear in it. I thought to myself, Oh man, now I have to build another Big Kahuna". That mean't going back to work in those hot Minnesota summer days. With Black Rock just 4 weeks away I took on another project.

I decided to job out the graphics for the Joe Boxer Rocket instead of hand cutting them out of vinyl. That was my first surprise when I received the bill for over $4,000. What did I learn from this experience? If you live in a nice house don't invite people that you are doing business with over to it. They might get the wrong idea.

 
The JOE BOXER Crew posed
with one of the two
ROCKETMAN/JOE BOXER rockets
that would take flight that afternoon.

 

Things were really getting hectic with only three weeks until Black Rock. I had to build the fin canister, the motor casing, the forward bulkhead, the nosecone and the payload section while John Johnston and Rick Lohr were machining the nozzle and pouring the grains. The fin canister was precision made within .10 thousands tolerance. The fin canister was preheated before we welded the fins onto it to cut down on the warpage. After the fins were welded on we then heat treated the fins and canister. Then we bored out the canister to fit the motor casing. All aluminum parts were made out of 6061-T6511. The motor was a P-4800 with a 10.5 second burn time. It had about 57 lbs. of propellant and 8 lbs. of tracking smoke. For a recovery I used 2 kevlar ballistic chutes that were good for over 1,000 miles per hour. They were attached to a stainless steel braided aircraft cable with a tensile strength of 9,000 lbs. I remembered what happened at Delamar. The cable was anchored to a 1/2" eyebolt. This set up was strong enough to pull a semi. One of the things I learned as a stuntman is that if you want to save your butt over build and use redundancy every chance you can. I used 3 Black Sky timers using all 6 channels to set off the ejection charges. One at a time one second apart. Mark Clark gave me some boron pellets to add to the black powder. This is an oxidizer that may or may not help to excite the charge.

Jodi & I loaded up over 2,400 lbs. of equipment and shipped it to Reno. We flew out to Reno, rented a truck and headed for Black Rock. I thought the last 3 months were hectic, that was just a warm up. Before I left I made a number of calls to friends of mine in the media. I didn't know that they were all going to show up for the record attempt. I was trying to prep the Joe Boxer Big Kahuna and the Joe Boxer Altitude Rocket at the same time, trying to give interviews to the press, The Learning Channel, The Sci-Fi Channel, Discover, NBC, CNN, BBC and plus do a commercial for Joe Boxer. That is when many fellow rocketeers came to my rescue to help set up my tower. Dennis Kieselhorst and Mike Dunkel worked on my electronics and ejection charges. We had to have both of the rockets launched by 11:00 am so the Joe Boxer Corporation could send the video over a satellite to the national television stations around the country. The first rocket we launched was the Joe Boxer Big Kahuna on an Aerotech 1939. Great lift off, except at about 1,500 feet a gust of wind weather cocked it. The altimeter set off the ejection charges that were more than adequate. Let's put it this way, if I ever want to fly the Big Kahuna again I'm going to have to build another one.

 
20 feet of flames rip from the engine
as the rocket came to life.

 


Nicholas shows off
the custom made ROCKETMAN Reocovery Chutes
that brought his baby
back to earth safe and sound.

 

Now it's show time for the Joe Boxer altitude attempt rocket. A million things were racing though my mind. Will this be another Black Rock '95? Did I do all of my homework? Did I forget something? After the count of 10 I had the biggest thrill of my life, the rocket left the tower at lightening speed with over 20 feet of thundering flaming shock waves. I was overwhelmed with excitement to say the least and so was the Joe Boxer crew. Not only was it a perfect flight, I heard the most beautiful words when Jodi said, "Ky, I see the parachute there it is!" The rocket landed less than a quarter of a mile from where we were standing. The nosecone landed 3 miles away under full canopy. Then I heard the RCO say, "Finally a high power rocket recovered from over 50,000 feet". We did our homework.

I hope that someday everyone of you will experience the thrill that I had at Black Rock. I'm out of the altitude business for now. I lived my dream, now it is time to build a rocket to go into outerspace. Our plans are to launch the Civilian Space Exploration Project sometime in August. Does the story end here? No. When I returned home I received a phone call from Nicholas Graham. He said, "Ky, I need a Big Kahuna in 3 weeks for a show I'm doing in San Francisco and I need another one for a celebration party in Las Vegas ". This Big Kahuna deal is not a dream anymore it's turning into a nightmare.

 

I want to thank everyone for their friendship and help they gave us with the Joe Boxer project it was definitely a heart warming experience for Jodi and I.