CAR Level 3

This time, it was the Lethbridge Rocketry Association that was ready to hold their first high-power rocketry launch of the year, in Rock Lake, Alberta. My Aerotech Mega-Initiator, the same rocket I used for my L1 and L2, was ready for my L3 attempt. Although it seemed like most of Alberta was burning to the ground, in fact everything south and east of Edmonton was fine and the LRA obtained a fire permit without any problem. We were ready for another adventure, and this time we didn’t need to wear our long-johns!

Chris and Crimson
Chris and Crimson (my rocket on left)

Rock Lake is actually the exact same place as Sullivan Lake. We stayed in Taber, as before. The launch day was perfect. My rocket was the second to launch, although there was some confusion with the launch control wiring. We thought they were launching Darcy’s rocket, but it was mine that took off! You will hear Darcy talking, since he was recording this video.

L3 Flight (Courtesy of Darcy)

Anyway, my rocket flew on an Aerotech 54mm DMS J250W to about 3646-ft and had a perfect recovery, so I earned my L3. Darcy’s rocket also had a perfect flight, to earn him his L1.

The best thing about being in the first group to fly, is that we had the rest of the day to meet everybody else and see what they were doing. There were a wide variety of projects, and I now have a better idea of what it will take when I go after that L4 in 2024!

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CAR Level 2

Looks good so far!

Calgary Rocketry was ready to hold their first high-power rocketry launch of the year, in Hanna, Alberta. I was ready with my Aerotech Mega-Initiator, the same rocket I used for my L1. At the last minute, a “fire advisory” was issued for the area so the launch was switched to the backup at Sullivan Lake, east of Lethbridge. This meant a 3-day adventure instead of a mere 2-days.

My wife and I travelled to Taber, about 30-minutes north of Sullivan Lake. The next morning we arrived at the site, I registered, had my rocket inspected, and was given the second launch position of the day. Good, no time to sit around worrying about what might go wrong. Just do it and see if I got it right!

Going Up!

Once again this rocket flew on an Aerotech 29mm DMS I205W motor; this flight was perfect and earned me an L2 Certification. For those of you who wonder, there are currently 27 L1s, 24 L2s, 64 L3s, and 25 L4s certified in Canada by the Canadian Association of Rocketry.

Coming Down the Right Way!

I’m already planning my L3 attempt with this same rocket…

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CAR Level 1

It was mid-morning, with mostly clear skies and light winds in rural Viking, Alberta. The temperature was sitting at -27°C. Just what you might expect at an event called “Fire & Ice 2023”!


Members of the Edmonton Rocketry Club gathered to launch their high-power rockets. These rockets are classified according to the performance rating of the rocket motors used, and a person must be certified by the Canadian Association of Rocketry to fly these rockets. I was one of several ready to attempt the L1 certification.


It was a very busy and hectic event, and I didn’t have any time to take photos. I took my Aerotech Mega-Initiator, and my BT80-based rocket as backup. Both of these rockets have been described previously and were ready to fly, although not painted.

The Mega-Initiator flew perfectly on an “H” motor to an altitude of about 1269-ft, passing the L1 certification. I flew it a second time on an “I” motor to about 2007-ft, attempting my L2 certification. Although the flight was perfect, the airframe suffered some minor damage from “zippering” and was disqualified. By then, it was too late in the day to try again with the backup rocket. Both flights used Aerotech 29mm DMS motors.

I repaired the Mega-Initiator at home the next day. The weather finally warmed up enough for me to paint both rockets, and I look forward to my next L2 attempt!

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Rocketry Update

Although several rocket launches here in Alberta have been cancelled recently, I have continued to build new rockets. Why? There are a variety of advanced construction methods being used today and I want to learn them. Each rocket that I build is designed to include one new fabrication technique that I have not used previously. I hope that by doing it this way, only “one thing” can go wrong at a time.

What have I learned so far? The Estes Crossfire was my first modern model rocket. The instructions were very clear and the rocket was very well designed. It allowed me to build and fly a model rocket, forgiving any minor mistakes that I might have made. My goal was to recover a rocket by parachute, something that didn’t happen back in the “good old days” of amateur rocketry. The Crossfire was fired three times, with a perfect parachute recovery each time.

The Rocketarium VK-7 was next. A little larger, it used a cluster of two motors and also employed a baffle to help protect the parachute from the burning ejection gases. The instructions were not quite as specific as the Crossfire’s, but I built and flew the rocket without problems. Both of the motors ignited on time and the parachute recovery was perfect.

Both of the preceding rockets used “through the body” fin attachment, which gives greater strength. Now I wanted to see what happens when you glue the fins directly to the body tube. I built the Hebe, which flew three times. Because it was little more than a motor with fins, it attained higher acceleration and velocity figures than any rocket I’ll likely build in the near future. Happily, the fins did not get ripped off during flight or broken on landing.

So far, I had been using 18mm motors. I built the Ceres B to gain experience with a 24mm motor. The test flight was perfect, but the rocket drifted away on the wind and was not recovered. Lesson learned: if it is somewhat windy, try a smaller parachute.


Those are the only rocket I have flown to date, but I’ve been busy in the workshop. The Romulus is a 2-stage rocket that uses 18mm motors. I mentioned it before in “Learn to Build Rockets” and showed photos of the unusual fin assembly. It is ready to go.

Ceres B2

The Ceres B2 is similar to the Ceres B, but uses a 3D-printed fin can and baffle. It also is ready to go. I will be taking some smaller parachutes with me, just in case…

The Eris II also uses a 24mm motor, a 3D-printed fin can and baffle. It is a smaller-diameter rocket than the Ceres and VK-7, and should reach an altitude of about 1800 feet. Yup, it is ready to go as well.

Eris II

Lastly, I am building my first rocket to use a 29mm motor. I am using plywood centering rings and fins, instead of balsawood, and using epoxy glue instead of wood glue. The fins are attached to the motor mount in “fin-can” style just like the Romulus booster, and just like the recommended method for the Aerotech Mega-Initiator, which my wife gave me for my birthday. My original goal here was to learn how to glue up plywood parts with epoxy glue. I just finished attaching the fins, and should have the rocket ready to test by November, although I will try for October.

I am also happy to report that the ERC has assigned me a very experienced mentor from among their ranks, who will guide me along the path to high performance rocketry. He believes that the rocket I am now building will be suitable for my L1 Certification flight. HPR flights cannot be done in Calmar, so my first chance would be in February 2023 at the ERC’s annual Fire & Ice launch.

The Mega-Initiator is a 4″ diameter rocket that can take motors of 29mm, 38mm or 54 mm and requires lots of HPR know-how to built it right. That’s why I have been learning these skills on smaller rockets, and why I have been assigned a mentor. With a bit of luck, this rocket might be ready to fly at Fire & Ice, too, provided I don’t spill epoxy all over my feet and get bonded to the garage floor!

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3d-Printed Rocket Buzzer

Rocket Buzzer

At the last rocket launching I attended, several of my rockets greatly exceeded expectations and were likely swallowed up by the universe at large. Two things might have helped: a smaller parachute and/or a tracking device.

This tracking device is based on a design by Adam Nehr, published in the March/April 2022 issue of Sport Rocketry. Mr. Nehr’s excellent article is nine pages long, so you should probably read it for complete instructions on how to use this tracker.

My design does not require soldering or messing around with epoxy, nor do you need to buy and then modify the battery holder. The red part is 3d-printed in PLA and only takes about ten minutes on my Dremel 3D20.

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