Learn to Build Rockets

Estes Designer’s Special and Make: Rockets

Today’s model rockets aren’t anything like the amateur rockets that we “old-timers” built back in the 1960s. How was I going to learn to make rockets today, and where would I get all of the parts needed? My solution was to buy a copy of “Make: Rockets” and an Estes “Designer’s Special” kit of assorted model rocket parts.

The book shows you how to make about a dozen model rockets, including rocket-gliders, using parts from the “Designer’s Special”. Everything is explained so it is easy to understand, and there are lots of photos. The construction techniques are basic, but solid. So far, I have built and flown two rockets from this book — the Hebe and the Ceres-B, both of which I have described in previous posts.

Currently, I am working on the two-stage Romulus (second from the left, on the book’s cover). The book says it will fly to about 1500 feet, but with my modifications to it OpenRocket (a free rocket analysis program) limits it to a more conservative altitude of just over 1000 feet. Ok by me, maybe I won’t have to walk as far to recover it.

What modifications, you ask? In this book, the author glues the fins directly to the body tube. This method is outdated, since it dates way, way back to when the book was published in 2014. Rocket kits today attach the fins through slits in the body tube, so part of the fin glues directly to the motor mount inside. The Estes Crossfire and Rocketarium VK-7 both did it this way. I am doing this on the second stage (sustainer) of the rocket. Larger rockets, such as the AeroTech Mega-Initiator, suggest gluing the fins directly to the motor mount, then slitting the body tube up from the bottom so that you can just lower it down on top of the motor mount/fin assembly. I am doing this on the first stage (booster) of the Romulus, so that I will have some experience with this method in case somebody gives me a Mega-Initiator for my birthday in a few months.

There are a lot of interesting designs in this book, and I still have a lot of parts left over, but once the Romulus is finished my immediate plan is to experiment with some electronic payloads and attach a miniature video cam to the larger rockets, at least until my birthday.

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