Sport Rocketry as a Hobby

Introduction

Kyle and I preping my WartHog rocket I am a charter member (along with my son) of the FAR (Fermilab Assoc. of Rocketry) club. Being members of FAR has greatly enhanced our enjoyment of this hobby. It's great to see the variety of rockets that exist between our own fleet and the rockets of our fellow club members. My son Kyle and I also joined NAR (Natl Assoc. of Rocketry) in 2001.

I'm writing this web page with a specific audience in mind. I got the idea for this page after I taught a unit on Model Rocketry as part of a week of outdoor education for my son's elementary school. In 2003, we had our fourth such launch of about 20 rockets (built by the students) and several demo flights. I hope to refer people to this site who have expressed an interest in rocketry or have asked me about the hobby. I have also done a little bit of mentoring for Boy scouts and cub scouts who have expressed interest in Rocketry.

I hope this site will answer questions and generate a deeper interest in the hobby. I assume that the visitor has little or no previous knowledge about Rocketry. If you come to this site looking for the answer to a particular question, and can't find the answer here or through some of the links provided, please drop me an e-mail. I'll do my best to answer your question and may update the site to answer it for others in the future. I am also very interested in hearing feedback on how to make this page more useful to the newcommers.

Overview

Sport Rocketry vs. Model Rocketry

The term 'Sport Rocketry' really encompasses all of the Amateur Rocketry hobby. Within Amateur Rocketry there are several levels or classes of rockets that hobbyists build and/or fly. These classes are separated according to the size of the motor used to fly the rocket. Model Rocketry is the entry level, using the smallest motors. Motors are classified using letters, with each letter being about double the thrust of the one before it. Model rockets fly on motors sized D class and smaller. Mid-power Rocketry is the next step up and these rockets fly on motors rated E through G. High-power rockets use motors of H class and higher (up to letter O). In order to purchase these High-power motors, the hobbyist must go through a certification process. There are three levels of high-power certification available.

Much of the rocket kit data found below was found on Essence's Model Rocketry Reviews. This is an awesome site with loads of really valuable information about everything to do with Rocketry. Another very useful site is Rocketry On-line. Their INFOcentral pages are some of the best referance collections available on the web regarding Rocketry topics. I have a collection of links to other web based resources included below.

There is an additional page that I've written where I intend to go into some more detail on several topics. The first topic on that page explains the different levels in Sport Rocketry.


Our own rocket fleet

Launch of my WartHog rocket, on a G40-7W I call this "our fleet" because these are the rockets owned and flown by my son Kyle and I. We started in this hobby together. Our first rockets were built and flown together. Only the latest additions to the fleet have been individual works.

I've broken up the following listing by what I'm calling "class". Basically, the rocket motors come in different sizes based on the diameter of the motor case. I've listed these sizes below as measured in millimeters (mm). Each rocket has a motor tube which will hold a variety of motors of matching diameter.

The rockets are listed from smallest to largest. Kyle and I have not yet attempted to expand into High-power rockets. We have not flown in competitions. We are simply in this for the enjoyment of the sport.

Model Rockets - 18mm - using 1/2 A through C class motors

Model Rockets - 24mm - using D through E class motors

Mid-power Rockets - 29mm - using F through G class motors


Our Ground Support Equipment

Ground support is what we call the equipment used to launch the rockets. It all stays "on the ground" and does not go flying like the rocket itself does. This includes items like the launch pads, launch controllers, radios, and such.

Launch Pads

Right now, Kyle and I are using a very basic launch pad but we know we need to upgrade before too long. The pad is made by Estes and designed for their E class rockets. It is more sturdy than their standard PortaPad that came with our first RTF model rockets.

Back when I was a youth, my "store bought" launch pad came with a ceramic dome that was used as a deflector with a metal plate under it. My first launch on this E-PortaPad was plenty stable. However, the metal plate got so hot that there was scorch marks on the plastic pad frame below the plate. The plate is much too thin in my opinion.

I'm looking for a good deal on a pad more appropriate for our mid-power rockets. Luckily, I have fellow rocket club members who are kindly willing to let me launch using their pads. If you have a suggestion, please drop me an e-mail.

BTW, I did find an article which offered suggestions for putting together a very inexpensive initial set-up. The author (Ted Mahler) is a volunteer teacher for a 4th grade, school sponsered, rocket class. You can find Ted's article "Ultra Low Cost Individualized Rocket Ground Support Equipment for Classroom Use. on the NAR Website.

Launch Controller

The Estes "Electron Beam" launch controller that came with our RTF model rockets is fine for simple and small rockets. The only problem is that after a short while, the batteries get loose in the controller. The only cure is to get a very small phillips screw driver and open it up to bend the battery tabs back out for a firmer connection. It's rather a pain. In addition, this simple controller does not have enough power (voltage or current capacity) for mid-power rocket ignighters.

Another club member had an Estes "Command Control" launch controller. You must press two buttons together in order to launch. The controller has 30 feet of heavier gauge wires and a spool that holds the wire. This controller uses two rechargable 7.2v NiCad hobby batteries. These are the same batteries that are used with RC models. It has plenty of power for everything up to High Power rockets. I got a deal on one of these controllers at a local Hobby Lobby store. I'm very happy with this controller.

FRS Radios

When our local club formed, we talked about using FRS radios to enhance communications at our launch site. You can pick these up at many stores and there is no license required. They are much better than basic walkie-talkies. We've choosen a primary and alternate frequencies and a privacy tone for each frequency. I believe these radios really enhance not only the safety on the range head but the experiance at our launch site. They are especially handy when searching for rockets which have drifted some distance from the range head.


Rocketry Online Banner Essence's Model Rocketry Reviews Banner

Misc. Links

Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC)

This is a contest sponsered by AIA and NAR. I have found several web site with information related to the contest and thought these links might be useful.

Internet Resources

Local Shops

On-line Shopping

Note that these are listed alphabetically. There is no other significance to the order of the listing.


My "wish list" of Rocket kits and accessories

You may be asking yourself, why post a wish list? If you enjoy window shopping nearly as much as I do, you already understand. No, I'm not asking anyone to go out and buy me anything. I have not handed out this URL to family members so they can get ideas for birthday presents or Christmas gifts. I add things here to assist in smart shopping. After all, money for hobbies is rather limited and one must shop wisely.

You have probably seen by now how much I appreciate sites like EMRR where I can read reviews, written by people like me. These reviews allow me to vicariously "try before you buy". I hear about the hidden treasures as well as learn from difficulties that others have endured. The Internet is a wonderful community of knowledge and by posting links here, I can tap that knowledge (as can you) to make wise purchases and well thought out decisions.

If you have input on any of the following, please let me know. I would appreciate the chance to learn from your experiances, as I hope you are able to pick up something from mine. If you want to point me to a source that I can link to, I may choose to add that to this listing.

Ground Support

Rocket Kits

Based on the EMRR reviews, I would consider the following kits. These are listed "somewhat" in order of my preferance.



Like everything on the Internet, this page is being updated all the time. I'll ask your patience if you find portions of the page to be incomplete or out of date. I hope to add photos of some or our rockets soon. Constructive comments are always appreciated. Please send your comments via e-mail.

The URL for this page is http://home.fnal.gov/~kschu/hobbies/rocketry.html

© Copyright 2002-2004 by Ken Schumacher
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Last modified: Mon Jan 15 10:23:25 CST 2007