Model rocketry enthusiasts, how should I proceed?

I’m about to re-enter the model rocketry hobby, I enjoyed it immensely as a kid, but there were rockets that I wanted but never got for some reason, the Saturn V, the Mean Machine, Big Bertha, the X-wing, and space shuttle orbiter (that used glide recovery, so cool!)…

I’m also looking for a hobby to share with my niece and nephew, my nephew shares many hobbies with me, especially shooting, but my niece is “meh” on the plinking thing…

Rocketry appeals to the child in all of us :slight_smile:

So, I’m trying to plan my strategy as how to re-enter (yes, I know, bad rocketry pun…) the hobby…

Option 1; buy a starter kit at the local hobby shop (the Estes Tandem X kit)
Pros; just need engines and batteries, can be launching rockets tomorrow

Cons; launch pad is basic and average, as is the launch controller, only has the standard launch rod and blast shield
Option 2; buy a starter kit from an online vendor (Eliminator XL kit)
Pros; rocket is ready to fly, has slightly better launch pad with both standard and large bore rod, able to handle longer rockets, kit is on clearance for 55% off

Cons; have to wait for it to arrive in the mail, can’t launch for a week or so, launch controller is average, blast shield is standard sized

Option 3; build my own launch pad, buy a launch controller
Pros; I have several plans in mind, one of which is setting up my old Bogen 3001 tripod as the base, adding on a launch rod with a threaded tripod adapter, and a large stainless blast shield, the tripod head has full 3 axis tilt, so it’s even more versatile than the Estes pads, the pride of building it myself, having a truly unique launch pad, more durable launch pad

Cons; still have to buy a launch controller, will take the longest to build, pricing might be higher than buying a kit

Option 4; build launch pad and launch controller
Pros; truly custom setup, pride of ownership and accomplishment

Cons; most expensive option, longest delay before launching

Option 3 has appeal because I can not only build my custom launcher, but I can also have my niece and nephew build up their own custom launch pads

Option 1 would be the quickest gratification though…

Good question and I’m in the same boat. I have three grandsons and they are getting to be about the right age especially the oldest.

I still have a Big Bertha out in the garage. After sitting around for 20+ years, I’d be afraid to fly it.

Option 1. You’ll be flying rockets tomorrow. It doesn’t sound like that big of an investment that it would keep you from getting better equipment over time.

BAR here.

(Born Again Rocketeer)

You’ve laid out the pro’s and con’s very well.

It is great fun to involve kids in the hobby. My personal preference is to stay away from the “ready to fly” things. Pieces of crap, really. There is something about building your very own rocket that flys…

That said, the eliminator is a pretty solid rocket. Can be customized, and is sturdy. The launch pad itself is decent enough. I would go with this option, and then work towards building your own (better) pad and electrical systems if the kids show an interest.

One word of warning. The Eliminator takes “D” and “E” engines and goes to 1400 feet. You’ll need a BIG launch field. If you have one nearby, I’m jealous. I could not fly one of these anywhere within a 5 hour drive…

Feel free to PM me with any questions about where to buy, and how to find plans to make those old models you remember so well…

I bet it would be fine. As long as the fins still feel sturdy… The recovery system may need to be replaced - the old shock cords tend to get brittle.

I briefly got into model rockets when I was in middle school. My dad still had some of his old ones from 30+ years earlier. We tried flying one of them, and lost it on the first launch. (It landed on the roof of a nearby school, IIRC.)

As far as launching location?

Out in the back yard…

50 acres of lightly rolling hay fields, which have recently been hayed, short grass in the field…

And one possibly inconveniently-placed Rocket Eating-Pond (one acre man made pond with a small population of small largemouth bass)

I don’t think the high fliers would be too problematic… :wink:

Buy a kit at a local hobby shop and establish a relationship with them. You’ll want someone local that you can work with once you get in deep.

As far as building my own rocket of my own design?

Let’s just say I got a paper tube from work, it’s the core of a roll of bubble wrap, about 2.5" in diameter and about 2 feet tall, reasonably thick walls, triple that of a paper towel roll, I also got a few iPod Touch retail boxes (clear plastic boxes) to use as fin stock…

It’ll be a monster when I figure out what I want to turn it into, perhaps a stubby multi stager, 2-3 D-engine stages? Or just one honkin’ big squat D or E class single stager, I want to have a design that launches like a real rocket**, engine burns for a few seconds, then the rocket slowly lifts off and speeds up as it gains altitude, pack a nice nylon chute inside, maybe a couple hard points for keychain cameras?
**kinda like this, and yes I know this rocket isn’t even in the same class as hobbyist rockets like Estes…

Whew… I’d be leery of using “found parts” like that for a rocket. Do you have any sure way to know if “reasonably thick walls” are actually thick enough?

At very least, use a hobby-grade motor mount…

And, no matter what happens, post a link to the YouTube video of the launch! Boom, whang, or whoosh, we wanna see!

When I was younger, I was also really damn stupid. I made a “bazooka” tube-launcher, and went out and shot at other kids’ kites. Stupid. Illegal. Dangerous. Kinda fun…

Better yet was a friend who had an old Pinto, with one of the headlights blown out. He mounted a launch rail in the hollow behind the missing headlight. He could drive along, flick a switch inside the car, and launch a rocket. However, he could only do this while driving slowly. Going faster than 20mph, the rocket just tumbled back past the car.

Then there was the parachute bay filled with match-heads…

How some of us ever survived the teen years is a miracle…

I’d stay away from plastic fins if I were you. For larger models, go with basswood. You can also buy commercial body tubes on-line of various sizes.

You sound like you’d be interested in mid or even high powered rocketry as a hobby. Mid-size engines are E, F, G. and you can launch these yourself, provided you follow safety regulations. Anything H and above, you are not doing “model rocketry” anymore. For this, you’ll require certification from National Association of Rocketry or Tripoli Rocketry Association. Then you can get into H, I, J etc. These engines are often not one-use.

(remember that each letter is DOUBLE the total impulse of the one before. So a “J” iengine would be about 500 times more powerful than your typical “A” model rocket engine.)

At any rate, there are a LOT of resources out there to help you design and fly something safely. Have fun!

Start with standard hobby kits and get flying. Then, piece by piece, replace everything with custom-built stuff of increasing size and awesomeness. Report progress.

option 4: do what I did and realize that there was a reason you stopped doing it, and find a more productive way to spend your time.

This one. I’d prefer to get a starter kit that’s not RTF. Building the rocket is half the fun. An Alpha III might be a good compromise between RTF and build-it-yourself.

You can still get a Big Bertha kit. They have them at Amazon, and they’ll probably have one at the hobby shop. I don’t care for the modern graphics the rockets all seem to have, so I’d paint it in the classic 1970s yellow-and-black. If at all possible, find an Astron Sprint kit. They pop up on eBay, and I bought a couple of replica kits from Pimp Daddy Rockets about a decade ago. (PDR seems to have gone out of business several years ago.) The Sprint is a high flyer on a C6-5; a great performer if built carefully. Plus it doesn’t look like every other rocket. There’s an Astron Sprint XL kit, which I gather is a larger rocket, but I don’t know anything about it.

I have two boxes of unbuilt Estes rockets, most of them vintage, and replica Estes rockets (Sprint, Skyhook). No time to build them, the wife would think it’s stupid, and I don’t live in a desert anymore. But maybe one day…

One way to find out.

Is this not a fire risk?

No, the flame from the engine is deflected by the blast deflector, the flame is short, and the rocket very quickly climbs away from the grass, plus, we’ve had a good rain so the grass is wet and the ground is moist, the risk is infinitesimally small

However, what was a fire risk was Dad’s old Case 222 garden tractor he had back in the early 1970’s, see the muffler on the right side of the tractor? See how close it is to the front right tire?..

We were mowing the field, mowing a path for the horses through the dry high grass, I was probably 6 or 7, sitting on dad’s lap “helping him steer”, when a ball of dried hay got caught between the front right tire and muffler, it caught on fire in seconds, spreading rapidly, Dad turned the tractor around and “raced” back to the house at full throttle (on the 222, about 12 MPH), as we fled the flames, I remember looking over his shoulder as we fled the flames, sheets of fire, seeming to follow us, getting closer, and closer…

True story, actually happened…

Thankfully, we made it to the house, mom had seen the flames start, and called the fire dept., they arrived minutes later, fought the sheets of fire, putting it all out, all told, we lost about half the hayfield that day, all due to a badly placed tractor muffler, we never had a fire from any of my model rocketry.

Is there a risk, yes, but it’s minimal, it’s also why we always had a 5 gallon bucket of water ready as part of the rocketry kit, just to be safe…

You’re not a kid. You stopped doing this umpteen years ago and now want to restart. Good for you.

And now 15(?) years later some of your decision criteria on what to buy are whether first launch is tomorrow or next week? YGBSM. You waited 15 years to restart the hobby so you could rush and do something silly to save a few days?

Shoulda posted this last week and option 3 would be flying already. Bottom line: Time to first launch has no place in sound decision-making.
Now if niece and nephew visit only a couple times a year and one visit happens to be this upcoming week that alters the decision logic a bit. Buy Option 1, play rockets with them, then decide next moves based on whether their / your interest is piqued or nil. If you / they get into it, what you’ll spend over the next year will make buying Option 1 for one-time use immaterial. And if you / they go “meh”, buying Option 1 is the cheapest / easiest way to learn that.

IOW, despite my earlier whining about failing to plan ahead, choose Option 1 for reasons of economy of effort & money. If you do upgrade later you can always give the starter kit to the kids to take home once they’re big enough. Their parents will thank you; really they will. :smiley:

I wasn’t thinking about the way up, but the hot bits falling back to earth and starting a fire.



Glad to hear it. (I used to do IT support for my local fire brigade.)

Uh oh.

SOMEbody really needs to get a model rocket kit for Christmas. And some kids to fly it with.

Hobbies are fun. Especially when you can share them with others.