Rocket Kits

Anybody ever built one of those flying rockets? What are best ones? Are they hard to build? How much do they cost for a good one?

I do have model building experience, but I do not know if this translates well to rocket building.

I built a couple way back (15 or so years ago) when I was a kid, so this information is probably REAL dated. They vary in difficulty. Some even come completely put together, but where’s the fun in that? Some of the more basic ones are just basically sticking the fins on (which is a tremendous pain, but there’s thingies to help you do it right) and slapping together the retrieval system (parachute, flappy thingie, helicopter blades, whatever) and it’s ready to go. And it gets more complicated from there. They make multi-stage rockets, payload carriers, all kinds of stuff.

We have an Estes kit in the garage with 3 different sizes. I bought it as a Christmas present for my daughter – I still think that it was one of the most-original presents we ever picked out.

A little care is necessary in building rockets: you want them balanced evenly or they’ll fly off at an angle. And there are some tips for when & where you fly them: large open space; be very aware of the wind aloft.

So Ya Wanna Build a Rocket?

A basic rocket kit will have a body tube, a motor mount, a nosecone, a bit of elastic, some string, a parachite and some balsa fins. (Going from memory here…)
[ul][li]Assemble the motor mount by measuring from one end of the small tube and poking a small slit in it with your razor knife. Puput one end of the spring steel strip in it. Glue a spacer ring over it. Cut an opening in the other spacer ring (if it’s not already cut) and glue that over the other end of the motor mount tube, with the opening over the steel strip to allow it to be lifted. When the glue is dry, glue the motor mount into the body tube.[/li][li]Cut out and sand the fins. Use the template to mark thier positions on the body tube. Glue the fins to the body tube.[/li][li]Cut the launch guides and glue them to the body tube.[/li][li]Paint the rocket (including the nosecone).[/li][li]Cut the parachute mount from the instruction sheet. Glue one end of the elastic shock cord into it and fold it along the lines into thirds. Glue the mount to the inside of the body tube. Tie the other end of the shock cord to the nosecone.[/li][li]Cut out the parachute and attach the shroud lines using the adhesive discs. There may be a swivel in the kit. Tie the shroud lines to the swivel and clip it onto the nosecone. If there is no swivel, tie the shroud lines to the nosecone.[/li][li]Put wadding into the body tube. Fold the parachute according to the instructions and put it in the body tube. Put the nosecone on.[/ul][/li]
The classic “first rocket” is the Estes Alpha. It has balsa fins and a vacuum-formed plastic nosecone. (“Back in the day”, the nosecones were balsa as well.) Later came the Alpha III which had a plastic tail section with the fins moulded in, and a hard plastic nosecone.

The best flying rockets I built were the Estes Astron Sprints. They had these slick elliptical fins and a tapered tailcone. Sweet. (They don’t make the Sprint anymore.)

The BEST rocket is the Estes Mosquito. (No matter what Johnny says.) Just a tube with the fins and nose. (I think they come as all-one-piece plastic jobbies now. You don’t want one of those.) When the engine is all used up (and you use the smallest engine in these suckers) it pops out and your rocket wafts gently to Earth. (And if you don’t spraypaint it a neon color, you’ll never find it.)

My record for re-launching the same mosquito was an incredible FIVE TIMES!

I also had a Sprint. It was pretty cool too.

The sprint looks better than the Mosquito. Coolness counts. I have a Mosquito in my model box. I haven’t built it yet. (I also have two or three vintage Sprint kits in there.) I think the Mosquito still comes in kit-form; though I could be wrong.

Funny story about the Sprint: My dad wasn in the FAA, and he told me about the Civil Air Patrol’s launchings one weekend. Since I was friends with one of the cadets, I showed up with my rocket gear and they let me join in. My sprint flew well, but on recovery one of the cadets yelled “Fire!” and we all ran toward the descending rocket with a fire extinguisher. Turns out that the cadet who yelled was unaware that the Sprint uses streamer recovery instead of a parachute. He mistook the bright orange streamer for a long flame.
Speaking of mistakes…

I had built a Cherokee-D. Nice rocket with a very pointy nose. After a launch, I had left the key in the control. When I clipped the leads onto the igniter I heard a hiss. I threw myself backwards and watched the rocket fly. The button on the launch control had stuck in the “fire” position. Always remove the safety key after a launch!

It’s been a while since I shot off any rockets. I don’t even have my kit anymore. But I did have a few good rockets. One I even designed and built all by myself. It was way cool. Started with the Teros kits so I could use the funky nosecone. (The two step “ramjet” one.) I cut down the body tube and re-cut the fins. It was like a Buck Rogers spaceship- fighter thing. It even flew. (Not that I shot it off too high. I didn’t want to lose it.)
There. That hijack should swing this thread from a IMHO-y poll to real, he-man MPSIMS. Now the mods won’t have to move it. Service with a smile, that’s me.

I put a one shot camera on mine once so it would take a photo. That was kinda fun at the time.

Be sure you have lots of open space when you use them as they drift quite a bit coming down to earth & check your local laws.

A few years ago, me and my dad got into rocketry pretty big, with him spending several hundred dollars on the large models (4-5 feet tall. We only shot them off a couple times, it was a pretty spectacular sight to see (they were G-engines), but recovery was extremely hard (we lived on a 5 acre plot of land, but that wasn’t big enough)

Yea, you’ll spend more time chasing the rocket and hoping it doesn’t land someplace bad (like a backyard, freeway, whatever) than you will building and launching it.

I have piles of model rockets in my closest and I’ve lost probably like 5 or 6.

They’re a lot of fun. Building them is easy; fin mounting was always a pain though. Eventually my friends and I got sick of tracking them down during “re-entry” so we started taping the nose cone on so the parachute wouldn’t deploy. Of course, you didn’t hear that from me.