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X-12 becomes the first Water Rocket to surpass 2,000 feet.

Autumn Equinox marks the time of the year when U.S. Water Rockets retires for the long Northeast Winter and stores their equipment for the break. This year we have broken from our secretive tradition and opened some of our top secret archives to allow the public to get a glimpse of some of their flights and record attempts which didn't go as planned.

Buried in the test data and onboard videos is a particular aborted world record launch attempt that became the first documented Water Rocket flight to surpass the 2,000 foot altitude milestone.

The weather conditions on that day were logged as absolutely perfect for the launch attempt at the record. The team had hopes of setting the mark above 2,000 feet, and all indications looked like we would do it. The setup and launch preparations went well, and the landing area was cleared of spectators by the team safety official. Everything appeared to be perfect.

As the extensive pressurization time elapsed for the compressor to reach the untested launch pressure required for the launch, a leak formed in the air line a mere 100PSI from the intended mark. The resulting rupture caused the pressure to drop suddenly, and forced the launch to be aborted. After repairs were made, the team reset for a second attempt. Things were going perfectly again when the line sprung a second leak only 30PSI from the target launch pressure. The pressure dropped too rapidly once more, and the launch was scrubbed.

We opted to discard the faulty line in favor of obtaining a replacement. When the new hose arrived at the launch site, we set up for a third launch attempt. The third time proved to be the charm, as the launch went flawlessly. The rocket flew high into the orange sky and achieved a maximum altitude of 2,001 feet (610m) before parachuting back to a perfect splashdown.

Upon review of the data, we were elated to hear that the rocket had reached an altitude of over 2,000 feet and that the onboard video from the rocket actually contained some images of the tiny distant moon, high in the sky, taken as the rocket turned over at apogee. The exhilaration was short lived when the launch crew captain announced that there would be no second flight to confirm the record because the sun had set and it would be too dark to risk launching. Without a second launch to confirm the flight, the record would not be accepted as an official record under the very strict WRA2 rules which U.S. Water Rockets have adopted for competition for the World Record.

Even if we had launched again, the light conditions would have been too low to record video proof of the launch, as required by the competition rules. Ironically, the very rules which the team helped draft have prevented us from claiming what would have been a new world record under the previous world record criteria, where no proof of any kind was required.

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X-12 launching to be the first water rocket to reach 2,000 feet. [Click to enlarge]

Onboard view from 2,001 feet. [Click to enlarge]

X-12 parachuting into the twilight. [Click to enlarge]

A beautiful photo of X-12 in front of the sunset. [Click to enlarge]

Flight one 6-6-2006.

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