My collection of model rockets
My collection of model rockets
My first experience with model rockets came when I took a shop class called Electricity and Transportation my sophomore year in high school. In the class I built the Courier model rocket kit offered by Estes Industries in the early 1980s.The exciting part of the class was that you got to design and build your own model rocket then launch it. Your grade on your model rocket was determined by your design and construction skills as well as how well your rocket flew.
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In the Electricity and Transportation class we used graph paper to design our own model rocket. The model rockets we designed were of cardboard, plastic, and balsa wood construction so as to adhere to the NAR(National Association of Rocketry) standards. We used Estes Industries single use model rocket engines to propel our model rocket designs. Using prebuilt model rocket engines from Estes Industries was much safer then building rocket engines yourself. Our shop class instructor had to sign off on your design before construction could begin. I chose to do a fairly standard design which included a transparent section in the body of the rocket where the recovery parachute was to be housed. What made my rocket unconventional is that I created a boxed wing design where the fore and aft fins were attached to one another by connecting fins.
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The first step was to cut the cardboard tube that made the body of the rocket down to size. I then cut out the middle section of the tube and inserted a transparent section where the parachute was to be stored during the launch. Next it was time to cut out the balsa fore and aft fins using a Xacto knife. It is very important the leading edge of the fins be in parallel with the grain of the balsa wood for strength. I used a door jam to mark straight lines where the fins where to be attached to the body of the rocket. I then used white glue to attach the fins to the body of the rocket. I coated the fins with sanding sealer then sanded them when dry to conceal the wood grain of the balsa. Time to cut out the connecting fins. Knowing that the four fins connected to the body of the rocket would not be offset exactly by 90 degrees I waited to custom cut and fit the connecting fins. Once cut and fitted I glued the connecting fins in place. Here is a picture of the finished product. Keep in mind that this model rocket is over twenty years old.
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Take video of your monumental rocket flight!
Before launching our model rockets we had to make sure they would take the proper flight path. In order to determine this you would attach a string midpoint on the rockets body then swing the rocket over your head in a circular motion. If the rocket was properly weighted the nose of the rocket would follow the circular path. If the rocket was top heavy the nose of the rocket would be perpendicular to circular path and you needed to add weight to the aft of the rocket for it to take the proper flight path.
On the day of the launch I choose an Estes B6-2 rocket engine to power my creation. This rocket engine is a standard engine designed for flights in rockets weighing less than 4.5 ounces. It has a charge that pushes out the parachute when the rocket passes apogee and is falling to earth. The launch of my model rocket design was flawless it flew straight and true like a model rocket should the parachute deployed and it was safely returned to earth. Unfortunately this was not the case for one of my classmates who built the biggest rocket possible with the construction techniques at hand and powered his creation with the venerable class D rocket engines. His model rocket was well designed and well built but he forgot to perform the circular motion test to see if his rocket was top heavy. At launch his rocket turned on its side, flew parallel to earth and turned into a missile which hit a board of education station wagon on the front fender that was on its way into our high school’s parking lot. The shocked school employee ran the station wagon into a bunch of bushes before she finally applied the breaks.My classmates and I had a good laugh at the spectacle after we made sure the school employee was alright. Our instructor issued a stern warning to the student who did not properly weight his model rocket but you could tell that he was also mildly amused at the spectacle. Keeps in mind that his happened in the early 1980s when school systems didn’t have “zero-tolerance policies”.
Model rocketry is a safe fun way of exploring the magic of rocket flight either as a school activity or as a way for a parent to bond with their sons or daughters. Estes has a great variety of model rocket kits, model rocket supplies and engines to fulfill your quest into the model rocket hobby.