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Results from "Launch Win98 on a Rocket"

Sunday, June 28, 2-5PM
DeAnza College (Parking Lot B), Cupertino, California

SVLUG's "Launch Win98" event took place as scheduled on the afternoon of June 28. The purpose of the event was to poke some fun at Microsoft's "Win98 Launch" which happenned the same week. MS chose the word "launch" for their event. So to spoof it we cut two Win98 beta CD-ROMs in half to make fins for a rocket. Linux users rallied behind the event.

[photo: photographers and SVLUG members] Photo by John Beale: photographers on the left and SVLUG members with the rocket on the right.

As expected, some reporters showed up too. We weren't sure what to expect after the press coverage of our Web page. This started as an inside joke at SVLUG that just grew out of control riding on the hype of Microsoft's Win98 event - many who reported on the "Win98 Launch" also mentioned "Launch Win98". So we started with a press conference, to take care of questions and introductory info ahead of time.

[photo: Ian introduces rocket at impromptu press conference] Photo by John Beale: Ian introduces the rocket and plans for the event at an impromptu press conference.

This page will describe how the event went, and link to other pages that do so. I had a great time there and it sounds like everyone else did too. Thanks to everyone who helped to make the event a good time.

Ian Kluft
"SVLUG Rocket Scientist" (...or something like that)

Table of Contents

Summary of the Event

From: Ian Kluft
Subject: [svlug] Win98 launches and crashes
To: [Silicon Valley Linux Users Group mail list]
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 20:20:55 -0700 (PDT)

I'll update the "Launch Win98" Web page shortly.  Here's the description of
what happenned today.

We had to take the press people aside and begin the event with a press
conference, since the crowd was big enough to get in the way of BayNAR's
normal rocket-launching operations.

We had three flights that were close to the forecasted altitudes for the
engine sizes we used.  In addition to the previously-announced Win98 rocket
with halved Win98 CDs for fins, another BayNAR member decorated an existing
rocket of his as the "Internet Exploder", an obvious spoof of the similarly-
named browser software, with its name and a decal of Slashdot's "Bill Borg"
icon.

The first flight of the Win98 rocket used a "B" size model rocket engine.
It was just a test flight.  All non-MS flight hardware functioned flawlessly
on this flight.  After shooting up a bit less than the forecast 250 feet,
the parachute was properly deployed.  But one of the Win98 CD-ROM fins had a
small piece chipped off in the landing.  The rocket was still flyable.

The second flight of the Win98 rocket used a twice-as-powerful "C" engine.
(Each letter doubles the power.)  The flight to over 500 feet resulted in
an uneven deployment of the parachute.  The descent was still adequately
slowed down but it impacted on the engine clip, bending it into a position
that would have been in the way of engine thrust on future flights.  The
clip was repaired by using pliers to bend it back.

While we prepared for the third flight of the Win98 rocket, the "Internet
Exploder" rocket had its turn.  It literally exploded on the launch pad,
with pieces flying in all directions.  Nobody was hurt:  They were standing
at a safe distance because, though rare, this can happen.  It was unclear
to us if the explosion was intentional on the part of the rocket's builder,
but the irony was not lost on anyone.

The third flight of the Win98 rocket used a composite-fuel (like the shuttle
boosters) "D" engine.  The launch took the rocket to about 1200 feet in
altitude, where a series of catastrophic failures caused the vehicle to
begin to disintegrate.

Post-accident analysis indicated that the rocket's elastic shock cord,
previously expected to be strong enough for flight on a "D" engine, had
been weakened in the previous flights, and was no longer strong enough to
withstand this much more powerful ejection charge.  When the shock cord
broke during the ejection, the parachute and nose cone separated from the
rocket body, near the apogee of the flight at 1200 feet.

The parachute and nose cone couldn't be recovered, and probably didn't
land on the DeAnza campus.

The rocket body fell back toward the parking lot launch site.  The shiny
CD-ROM fins made it easy to follow visually on its rapid return to Earth.
It impacted in the gutter, just across the road from the other side of the
lot.  The sound of the impact was audible from the launch site.

That's a half-mile round trip, straight up and down.

Investigation of the crash debris indicated that the fins were all still
attached, until the time of impact.  Two of them took the brunt of the force
of the impact.  It scattered a few large and small pieces around the impact
point.  After an extensive photography session, all pieces were recovered.

The rocket body tube and engine mount were undamaged.  All the parts came
along on display, when the SVLUG members in attendance convened over pizza
to discuss this second public display of Windows 98 crashing.  (The first
was at Comdex. :-)

The pieces will be available for viewing at Wednesday's SVLUG meeting.

Yes, as it turns out, the people who wanted to see a crash ended up getting
what they wanted — and they got it in more spectacular fashion than we could
even have planned.  Although most readers probably should have guessed the
outcome from the message subject, it was not obvious to those in attendance.
Some of them expressed concern after the first two successful flights that
I might have built the rocket too strong.

Pictures Online

Pictures of the event that we're aware of are at these locations: We'll post more, as we find out where they are.

Feedback to SVLUG webmasters.