Friday, February 6, 2015

Rocket Fever

So, I'm under the weather. Thought it might be flu, but perhaps just a bad cold or something. In any case, I've spent hours in bed since Wednesday, when I woke up with a fever, chills and aches.. I thought I wouldn't be able to get any rocket building done in this condition. I don't like to build when I'm excessively tired - it makes me sloppy.

But I had time on my hands, so I chipped away at a couple of projects.

The Trident A cluster rocket is nearly done.

The Trident A has a cluster of three motors, with exposed motor tubes, for awesomeness.

This was the very first rocket I designed, a few months ago. Building it was much easier than I'd thought it would be, and I'm sorry to say that I really didn't take any pictures of the process. I thought this would be a rocket I could easily mess up, but it hasn't been bad at all.

Masking and painting, thought... That might be tough. This might call for an airbrush. Here's the color scheme I'm thinking of:

The airframe is white, the motor tubes inside that are red, and the fins - with tabs - are black. I'm not
sure how I'm going to get these colors where they need to be and nowhere else!
I wanted to start building yet another Cosmic Explorer with an E motor mount after losing my previous one, but I realized I didn't have enough centering rings. I'd buy them from, but in order to justify the shipping, I like to buy a bunch of stuff at once.

I also received some Quest Q2G2 initiators in the mail!

For n00bs, let me explain the significance of these.

Q2G2's are igniters for black powder motors, just like the ones that come with your Estes motors. But they're made differently. For one thing, they're insulated, so they won't short out at the launch pad. More importantly, they are low-current igniters, which means they take less electric current to get them to fire. In fact, an Estes launch controller can't be used with them, because they'd fire as soon as you put in the safety key. Why would you want that?

Because the Q2G2 requires less current to fire, they light up almost instantaneously, which is very important when launching a cluster rocket - you want all the motors to ignite simultaneously, or the rocket will take off with only some of its motors firing.

But most significant of all is that these have been off the market for months! Possibly since I first got into rocketry, possibly longer.

All I know is that I seemed to have just missed the boat on these, and just when I really started getting excited by the idea of cluster rockets. To date, I've only done one cluster launch - my Quest Magnum Sport Loader, launched with Estes igniters. That was fine - it's only a two-motor rocket. But reliable ignition is the biggest issue with clusters, and the more motors you have, the more igniters, the trickier it gets. I'm so glad I have these!

BTW: I got these from, a site to bookmark. They specialize in high power motors, so if you're new, you won't need them for a little while. But you'd be surprised how quickly people go from Skill Level 1 Estes kits to high power rocketry.

I accessed it by going first to The Rocketry Show is a podcast you should check out - whether you're a beginner or not - run by a couple of guys from Ohio. It's still pretty new, but promises to cover a lot of aspects of hobby rocketry - from low power model rockets to high power. If, like me, you're both a podcast junkie and obsessed with rockets, it's the perfect combo.

Anyway, if you get your motors through, part of your purchase will help support The Rocketry Show.

I also got some more rockets in the mail today. I know - I have way too many. But my parents had given me a $50 gift card to Estes for my birthday. I'd just bought a ton of Estes rockets. I really wasn't sure what I'd use it on.

Then, Estes had a repeat of its holiday sale. Since I'd lost the Cosmic Explorer, I got another one of those (I need backups, guys!), plus a long two-stage rocket called the Air Commander. I'd turned my nose up at that one during the holidays, for whatever reason. I decided this time to just get it.

I had to spend $49.99 for free shipping. I nearly bought the 4-rocket PSII bundle again, just so I'd have plenty of them to potentially screw up building or lose in flight, but I went a different route. I got one that was not on sale - really, I wanted the free shipping. I ended up getting something I'd had my eye on for a while - the Nike Smoke, a 1:5.5 scale model of a NASA sounding rocket.

It's a nice-sized rocket with a nose cone that's nearly the length of the airframe.

I also picked up a replacement parachute for Der Red Max. That chute has taken quite a beating.

Since the Nike Smoke has plastic fins which are pre-beveled, it should take me a lot less time to build. I cannot stop myself from shaping the fins at least a little to improve aerodynamics, and I can't keep myself from filling the wood grain on wooden fins. This makes my builds take more time than they might.

I was about set to start building the Nike Smoke right away, when I noticed that one of the plastic fins was deformed.

The lower corner of this fin is round. It's supposed to be pointed. This is a molding error.
I emailed Estes to find out what to do about this, but it was late on a Friday. So I assume I won't hear anything until Monday. Bummer. I'd like to start this rocket. But I guess I'll have to wait.

Well, hopefully I'll feel better soon. My fever seems to be gone. And I've got to go back to work. Plus I'm directing a show at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, so that's going to take up some time and energy.


  1. Take care of yourself first Daniel. The last thing you need to do is get reinfected because of your obligations. You won't be any good to anyone if you end up in the hospital with pneumonia. My dad always used to say, "take two aspirins and go to bed with somebody". Seriously, get some rest and get well soon! T

    1. Thanks, Ted. I'm feeling much better. Mostly a mild but annoying cough at this point, and a slightly sore throat. Slightly stuffy nose. At least I haven't lost my sense of taste!