Sonic Challenger 2 exceeded
50,000 feet and was recovered by shovel.
The JOE BOXER Graphics
were a gleeming site to behold. $4,000 of glitter and
The JOE BOXER Crew posed
with one of the two ROCKETMAN/JOE BOXER rockets that would
take flight that afternoon.
20 feet of flames rip from
as the rocket came to life.
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.
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.
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
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
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.