Or...how to keep the Model Rocketry hobby interesting.
1. Pick up the skills and learn to use the technology: We started with this:
That's the Estes "Shuttle Express" starter kit. We're still using the launch pad and Estes Electron Beam Launch Controller that came with it, but the rocket itself is probably obstructing someone's rain gutters now. Strong winds can be a caution. Then we continued on with other "ABC" class rockets like these:
That last one? The Cosmic Cobra. Let us never speak of it again...
Anyways, on to the next step. All these models thus far were pre-assembled or "E2X" - a special class of kit for rocketeers starting out.
2. Start learning to build our own:
That is a loadstar II. Something I forgot to mention...all of the previous models shown were LOST. For example; the original Loadstar had a good run, but now it's up a tree somewhere near Crescent Park School's ball field. High winds and poor launch rail alignment can be a caution.
3. Build bigger and better:
That's Colin with the first level one "D" class rocket we built - The Stormcaster. The little green one is the last ready made we bought and the only one we didn't lose - an Estes Skytraxx. Like the Loadstar II, the Skytraxx has a clear upper section below the nose cone for payloads. Colin wanted a model he could build on his own and so we added the Blue Ninja to the collection.
Seeing a pattern here? This is as far as we've got yet.
4. Do interesting things with the rockets that push the envelope:
We want to try a Sunset Launch. This requires putting lights on (or IN) the rocket. We actually have two models with payload sections (see above) and BOTH have now been flight tested - in normal daylight conditions - with a cluster of light flashers on board. Next step is to launch them IN THE DARK.
Well, not actually in the dark - that's against C.A.R. rules. I'm talking about a launch under low-light conditions. The lights should ensure we're able to find the models again, even under low light. The Skytraxx will be first up, followed by the Loadstar II if we're feeling really adventurous.
Another "interesting" project? A multi engine cluster!
We've got one of these:
The engine mount will accomodate ONE D-class engine. It will reach only 200' on that engine as it is a very HEAVY model. Not terribly rugged either. One of the popular modifications of this model is to cram 4 C-class engines in a cluster around the D-class. Like this:
That's a photo of Randy DeArman's multi-engine and multi-stage Saturn V build. That is WAY more trouble than I want to go thru...but I wouldn't mind building a 5 engine cluster into ours. Make it a "higher flyer"!
5. Aside from the bigger and better stage - we also have to gain some experience with higher power rocketry:
That's an Estes STM-012. It's an "E" class rocket. Stands a little over 5' tall. We've got one of these under construction at the moment. We'll have to find a new field to launch it...none of our usual haunts has enough open space to ensure a safe recovery.
6. The ultimate: the Scissor Wing Transport.
When I was but a young, eager, novice rocketeer...this was the ultimate.
By far the most complex model Estes ever offered as part of their regular line, it is sadly no longer available. However, some enterprising enthusiasts have made the plans for this model available online. One of the more popular projects among serious rocket nuts is to take the plans for the original model - an ABC class - and double all the dimensions! Thus turning it into a D or even E class model. What I am wondering is if an E class engine could provide enough thrust that you could loft the "upsized" version with a small battery, Xcver and servo on board. Instead of just having it glide back to earth, what if you could steer that sucker?
7 ...AND BEYOND!!!
Where will our love affair with rockets end? I don't know. Colin is 15, and has started being REAL interested in Girls and Dating and the like. His days as a eager-eyed rocketeer may be coming to a close.
But as for me?
Sometime before I retire, I'd like to graduate to real high-powered rocketry. In the meantime, I think I'll read Dan Pollino's book: "I still have all my fingers - how to build a big sugar rocket on a budget without losing a limb". It's available on Amazon, check it out!