We didn’t know what would happen. It was the first attempt. So many loose parts had to get along. Chances were nothing would happen at all; total silence. Or it would blow to pieces on the pad. Wait, what if it takes off? We added 4 heavy chains last minute to the elastic rope. Best case, the rocket would ignite, and maybe even rise a few inches, before toppling over.
We knew we only had a day for setup at the launch site. A storm was forecast for tomorrow. It had been another long day, we were bone tired, darkness fell, a cold wind followed. A full moon rose and for the first time, Eiger saw the stars above.
We decided to meet again at 7 am. We’d have no more than 5 hours then; winds were announced to pick up after 12 pm.
After breakfast around folding tables, we raised the rocket and checked the systems. Attached metallic skins. We worked fast, glancing towards the dark clouds gathering around distant mountain tops. By the time we filled propellant dust devils danced around Eiger’s spindly legs. Safety check. Everyone except the main crew up on the hill to hide. Ready-steady-GO.
Months of one step forward and .9 step back, endless failures and never-ending fixes, hope and despair dawn to dusk - now core-collapsed into 9.7 seconds of total victory.
A deafening rumble, a giant cloud of dust, main crew running from the expected red smoke. Minutes later we turned around and couldn’t believe our eyes. Out of the inferno, Eiger emerged standing firmly on its skinny legs, giving out a final, content puff.
There are moments in life, and then there are moments like these.
The score: 9.7 seconds firing, 10 MPa chamber pressure, Asterex engine worked like a charm, hand made body and aluminum tanks held up, Black Magic propulsion system performed like a boss.
Eiger jumped around and was airborne maybe a foot or two, couldn’t really tell for all the whirling dust. We named the mission Freedom. Next time, we’ll lose the chains and go higher.
Anecdote: As we were packing up a local came up in his car. “I heard a strange roar at my house and thought it was some kind of a new jet the defense was building,” he told us. “So I headed out to the airport but found nothing there and then it hit me, that’s probably the Pythom launch.” (Note: The man’s house was 3 miles from our site).
Also, welcome to Pythom’s new website, outlining the entire mission for the first time. See you out there.
Hard to think only two years have passed since Pythom got seed funding and started manufacturing. Our first full-scale engine was fire tested only nine months later, in spring last year. It reached a record 10Mpa chamber pressure shortly after, at 90% thrust efficiency.