Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 Rocketry To-Do List

I always fail to follow through on New Year's resolutions, as do most people.

But a couple rocketry blogs I read regularly - Rich over at RichsRockets and Chris Michielssen of Model Rocket Building - have each posted a kind of Rocketry Goals or New Year's Resolution list for 2015. I've been meaning to do this as well.

2015 is already over a week old, but tomorrow's my birthday, which seems as appropriate a time as any to post this. So here's my to-do list for the upcoming year.

1. Get back into building!

I haven't been working on a rocket for over a week now. I finished up three rockets in time for our New Year's Eve launch last week, and since then, I've taken a bit of a break.

I just did a count, and I only have 17 kits to build:

Back row: Estes MIRV, Hornet, Monarch, Reflector, Red River Rocketry Blue Shift, Dr. Zooch Saturn V, Estes Cosmic Explorer (X3).
Front Row: Estes Partizon (X2), Leviathan (X2), Quest Aerospace Big Dog, Estes Argent, Ventris (X2)
I say "only," because some folks on the NAR Facebook group have many, many more kits than this (the holidays seem to bring a big rocket harvest for a lot of people), and I want to assure my girlfriend that I'm not being unreasonable. The only thing holding me back from starting a new one today is my indecision as to where to start. I'd like to start on the bigger rockets in the front row above, but before I do, I have some questions to ask and some decisions to make about their construction, and how I'm going to launch them.

The nose cone for the Estes Leviathan, a mid power rocket. It's taller than the entire Hi Flier.
2. Stock up on motors during the winter months

I've gotten a few good coupons lately, and it's better to spread the cost of motors - easily the most costly thing in rocketry - over a longer period and more paychecks. While I can't launch, I can get ready for launches in the future. And I need to start looking into composite reloads for my new 29mm hardware.

3. Work on this blog

When I started this thing, it was called "A Rocketeer's Journey."

Ugh... Not even I would read that, and I'm pretty obsessed. I deleted that after a day, and came up with The Rocket N00b. It was a means of putting what I'm doing out there, but the blog quickly became a blatant attempt for me to get my friends, who I thought would be the only ones ever reading this, to join me in building and launching rockets - "See, guys? This is really fun and interesting, and not that hard!"

Well, that's not happening, but I realized that maybe someone out there is just getting started out, and wants a fellow beginner's perspective. There are a lot of rocketry resources out there, and it's not like the web needs another rocket blog, but maybe someone will find it helpful to see what the initial mistakes and discoveries another rocketeer has made, and will gain some value.

So, while it's too cold to launch or paint, I need to get some of those important posts up, and organize things so that a n00b can easily find them.

Also, I'll continue to show off stuff I'm doing, and hopefully attract some helpful comments from more advanced rocketeers.

Speaking of finding other people with whom to launch...

4. Join or start a club

There's no local NAR section or Tripoli prefecture near me, so I guess it's up to me - if I can find other rocketeers locally. There's a chance my girlfriend and I will be moving next year - and believe me, I've looked at clubs in the areas we might end up - so if that happens, I'll join the club where we land.

5. Join the NAR

If I want to join or start a club, this is necessary. I've been thinking about it for months, even before I considered anything to do with a club. Just seems like a good idea, especially if I end up teaching that rocketry camp for kids next summer.

6. Find a bigger flying field

Perhaps I should say "Find a more suitable flying field." We launch in a large park outside of town. The currently-unused field is pretty big - over 1000 feet in either dimension, which is big enough to fly up to G class motors, according to the NAR. The problem is that there's a long, narrow pond on one side.

If you ignore the pond and don't mind landing in the parking lot, this flying field is well over 1000 feet in either dimension. Problem is, you sometimes can't ignore the pond - there are monsters there that like the taste of rockets.
Until our last launch on December 31, we'd never landed in the pond. Then we landed there three times. My Der Red Max was the first - Chad ran after it, like a golden retriever, and saw it land upright on the thin sheet of ice coating the pond.

When I caught up to him, it had blown over, and there it lay, twenty feet out of reach resting atop a 1 millimeter shell of ice. "I don't know what to do - I can see it, but I can't get it!"

Fortunately, the wind kicked up, caught the parachute, and blew the rocket across to the other side. We retrieved it, and I moved the launch pad a hundred feet or more further from the pond to launch the Big Bertha - which promptly did exactly the same thing.

I started to think we had a perfect recovery system - we just claim we were aiming for the pond in the first place, and we'd have had great success. We even thought of launching all our rockets and just walking to the other side of the pond to collect them at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, the third rocket that landed on the pond was Chad's, so of course the parachute didn't open. His Crossfire ISX lost a fin, and with no parachute to blow the rocket across the ice, there it lay.

A beautiful death for Chad's rocket...

After driving around, I found his Apogee Aspire nearly half a mile away. It had lost its nose cone, a fin snapped off on landing, and the streamer was ripped to shreds, but I can fix that stuff.

Still, it was lucky to clear those trees...

We were surprised to see it again at all...

From launch (red X) to landing (white X) is about half a mile. It was quite a fortuitous recovery - a tiny patch of land between the huge wooded area and the road. This rocket really should have ended up in a tree.
7. Start doing my homework in preparation for a high power Level 1 certification

A while back, I told people I was going to go for HPR certification in spring or summer. Well, perhaps I'll do it in summer or fall, but I think spring is too ambitious. I've still yet to build my first mid power rocket, and I think I'll find that plenty satisfying for now, and building mid power rockets will help me develop the build skills for something larger and stronger. Plus, the higher the impulse class, the more the motors cost, so MPR might be the way to go for some time.

Still, I have books to read and a rocket to select, and I can surf the web for a while collecting knowledge before I throw my hat into the high power ring.

8. Design and build my "Donors Rockets"

In October, I raised money for the Bloomington Playwrights Project, promising to design and build rockets for my donors. I raised nearly $500, so I've got some rockets to build! I plan to get these done by mid-spring.

I think most of this stuff is doable in the upcoming year. My goals will surely change as I gain experience, or something captures my attention and interest. But I think it's good to have an idea where you'd like to go, even if you end up changing course.

I'll be 41, by the way...

Like my Facebook page for blog updates. 


  1. The way you are going, I predict that you will be Level 2 by the Fourth of July 2015! And Happy Birthday kid! I'll turn 70 next week, assuming I survive this year's version of the flu. Oh to be 41 again!

  2. Problem with spreading out motor purchases, once you get up to large enough motors, is you have to pay a per-shipment hazmat fee. Generally the same whether you're ordering one motor or twenty... although some vendors waive the fee for a large order, which makes it even more favorable to buy a lot at once.

    That Aspire landing looks to be a genuine miracle!

    It's great to have a club to launch with. I'm lucky enough to live near an established one.

    1. It was pretty amazing to find it, but I'd told Chad I thought we'd find it. He went looking at those other fields next to ours.

      When leaving the park, instead of turning right to go home, I turned left, and just scanned the area. Then we found it! Unbelievable...

      Right now I'll just be stocking up on BP motors and lower impulse composites. I don't want to spend a lot on hazmat at the moment, until I get the hang of this.

  3. By the way, I couldn't manage to post a comment with my Wordpress ID (richsrockets), it just kept going in circles. Finally tried my Google ID (Doctroid) and that worked.