Return to Model Rocketry

I came across high power rocketry while searching on the web a couple of years ago. I had not flown a rocket since the 1970s.  So, I started doing some more reading, contacted the local Tripoli Prefecture (Tripoli Tampa) and ordered my first kits.  As a result, I have gotten my Tripoli certifications, contributed to the local club leadership, and started this blog.  This post will detail some of the resources and knowledge I have gained in my return to model rocketry.

Estes Rockets on launch pad
Model Rockets on the Pad

When I started this article, I was thinking that it could be covered in one post. As it turned out, it is going to take multiple articles to cover everything. At the end of each article, I will post the link to the next. Here is a list of all the articles in the series.

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DISCLAIMER: This article contains links and recommendations to rocket kit manufacturers. My inclusion of these companies are based upon my interactions with them. As my journey in the hobby continues, I will be adding more links and recommendations to this article. Any companies not included in this article are not here because I have not used their products.

Return to Model Rocketry

Like many people, I flew Estes rockets in the 1960’s and 1970’s. At that time, the U.S. Space Program was in full swing. I witnessed Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab launches in my youth. My Boy Scout troop would have launches.

Boy scouts at launch - Return to Model Rocketry
Boy Scouts at a TTRA Launch

Back in those early days, the Estes launcher was a bit unreliable.  So, my dad built a launcher that was made from a momentary doorbell switch and industrial batteries from the railroad.  The igniters would almost glow from the current flowing through them. 

Since those early days, the model rocketry hobby has changed drastically.  The most noticeable change is the use of composite propellants, electronics, and construction materials.  The model rocketry community has also organized and matured. 

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Technology 

The technologies used today in model rocketry are quite amazing.  Sophisticated electronics, new building materials, and composite propellant rocket motors are now the norm.  The next few sections will cover each area in more detail. 

Materials/Kits 

For many years, the only material used for model rockets was craft paper and cardboard.  The classic Estes rockets were cardboard tube.  Today, there are many manufacturers producing model rockets out of craft paper, fiber glass, PVC, and carbon fiber.  What follows is a list of the rocket kit manufacturers that I have used in the last year. 

Estes 
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One of the original model rocket hit companies in the United States. I saw a display of their kits at a local Hobby Lobby. As it happened, my new property was big enough to launch A and B impulse motor rockets. So, I purchased a small kit and the flew the rocket many times.

They have gone under ownership change recently. So, there is renewed energy in the company. Estes still produces a lot of their old classics. On the other hand, they are updating their lines for stronger motors and more diversity.

Kits built:

LOC Precision 
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I have built numerous LOC Precision kits.  I have also visited their factory and here is the report on the trip. They are high quality kits with great instructions. I used a LOC Precision 5.5 inch Minnie Magg for my Tripoli Level One Certification flight.

Some of the kits I have built are: 

Binder Design 
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I used a Binder Design kit, the Excel with dual deploy, for my Tripoli Level 2 certification flight.  Good kits and great service.  Their products are made form high-quality materials and I love the screw switch they sell for turning on rocket electronics.

Kits built:

Always Ready Rocketry 
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It is always a pleasure to talk to Dave Ebersole of Always Ready Rocketry.  I built by Tripoli Level 3 certification rocket using his Blue Tube 2.0 on a custom design. I named that rocket BOTC84 which stands for “Best of the Corps 84”, my West Point class.  It was also a Basic Blue 4-inch kit used to build the Callahan’s Express. The VFW charity rocket was also built with Blue Tube.

Kits built:

Madcow Rocketry 
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Madcow builds paper, fiberglass, and carbon fiber rocket kits.  What I like about them is that they stock all the parts for their kits on their on-line store.  It is very easy to order something you need to finish your project.  Also, join their email mailing list.  Once a month or so, they offer a “hump day” sale that DEEPLY discounts the price of a kit.  Many of my projects are using MadCow kits.

Kits built:

MAC Precision Rocketry 
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I met the MAC Precision guys at last year’s AirFest in Argonia, Kansas in 2018.  Their kits are unique as they are made from canvas phenolic.  It is like a fiberglass with canvas as the fabric.  The result is an extremely smooth, strong rocket body.  I built my Scorpion from a kit they sold me at AIRFest and I used it for one of the tasks in NARTREK Bronze.

Kit built:

Semroc 
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Randy Boadway acquired the Semroc line of kits.  They are great craft paper kits and comes in every combination imaginable.  Some of the kits use the MicroMax motor.  You can find all his kits on his website erockets dot biz

Kits built:

Aerospace Specialty Rockets 
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ASP sells a lot of smaller kits that are perfect for many of the NAR competition events.  I used their Hang Time rocket for one of my NARTREK Bronze flights. 

Kits built:

Apogee Components
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Apogee Components has everything that a rocketeer needs to get going in the hobby. They also produce their own rocket kits. I used the International Thermal Sailor for a NARTREK event. Also, there will be more about Apogee Components in a follow-on article.

Kits built:

Summary

As you can see, today’s rocketry hobby is alive and thriving. The kit manufacturer’s I have listed are just a small sample of what is available. My wish is that you will return to model rocketry and grow our community. I want to thank you for reading and expect the next article in this series soon.

Model Rocketry Propulsion

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