Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Liberty Bell 7 - Mercury Redstone - Finally Finished!

 After a long long time and one smashed capsule tower, I finished the Estes Mercury Redstone build. It was pretty frustrating at times, and I struggled, but I did it. If you don't look too close, it's not that bad!

I know where all the flaws are, and there are many. That capsule will probably pop off after the first landing. But for now, I like what I've got. And I have a few more of these kits, plus some extra capsules, so I can try again.

I think you need to build the hard rockets, so you can get better. I used to be one of those rocketeers who held on to those "special" kits because I didn't think my building skills were up to the task yet, and I wanted to "do it right on this one." But if you do that, you'll never build that Saturn, or Redstone, or whatever special "master-level" kit you're holding on to.

Do your best, and it'll probably turn out better than you think. Then the next one won't seem so daunting.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Exciting Stuff Coming from eRockets!

NARAM 62 is happening right now in Geneseo, NY. The National Association of Rocketry's Annual Meet is a days long competition event, and as at all NAR national events, there is a manufacturer's forum for rocket vendors to show of new and upcoming items. It's always exciting.

The NAR now has an active YouTube channel (CLICK HERE), and I'd encourage you to subscribe to it.

Just uploaded to the NAR channel is Randy Boadway of, sponsor of The Model Rocket Show and The Rocketry Show podcasts, showing some exciting new products.

The first is an upscale of the classic Cherokee D kit, a 29mm powered Semroc Pro Cherokee rocket (seen in the screen grab at the top of this post).

Also very exciting, a 3D printed sanding block which looks a lot like the now out of production Great Planes Hand Sander, a favorite tool of mine. This one is not made of aluminum like the Great Planes sander, but that shouldn't matter - with 3D printing, they can be made on demand, and you really should have a good sanding block like this one for model rocket building.

Check out the whole video here:

Visit if you want to pick up one of these cool products.

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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Some NAR Business Notes - Membership, Dues, Etc.

Today at Virtual NARCON, the National Association of Rocketry held an open Town Hall Meeting led by NAR president John Hochheimer, to discuss the State of the NAR.

Briefly, here are a few items of note.

Current NAR memberships are at about 7,450 total members. About half of these are high power certified.

Of course, over the course of the last year, memberships have decreased slightly, after a year of increases, due to the COVID crisis.

The NAR has been operating somewhat in the red the past few years, though it is important to note that they are not in debt. They still have a healthy amount of cash on hand. However, this trend can't continue inevitably.

Therefore, beginning March 1, annual dues for membership will increase. This is the first increase since 2003, and the increase is small.

For Senior members, dues will increase from $62 to $70 per year, and for Junior members, the price will go from $25 to $30 per year.

This increase is still less than inflation since the last increase in 2003.

One notable cost-saving measure is that the Member Guidebook will be released as an electronic only publication, as opposed to being a hard copy.

As requested by some members, Sport Rocketry Magazine will be available as an electronic-only option, but it is important to note that the paper version is not going away! (This caused a bit of confusion and concern from some meeting attendees who like getting the paper magazine.) So, you can get an electronic only version if you want to (like if you don't like clutter and don't need a stack of old rocketry magazines), but you can continue to receive your paper version if you wish.

The price increase is small, and the dues are still lower than what the NAR spends on member benefits per member, which is in the upper 80's. This small fee is totally worth it, in my opinion. I still imagine there will be occasional complaints in the online forums.

It's important to remember, things are not free. But this is pretty darn cheap.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Many Pictures, Few Words - My 2020 In Rocketry


The moment you realize you're not going to find the rocket you're looking for
The moment you realize you're not going to find the rocket you lost sight of over the tree line...

Start the post with an obvious fact you have to mention because it would be weird not to, despite the fact everyone already knows it.

2020 has been pretty rough for most of us. Even escaping through rocketry became a challenge for many, as public launches were put on hold for a few months.

Also, I have not felt like writing on this blog in some time. Like most people, I've been distracted.

But I have been building, and even flying. Here are some photographic highlights of the year so far, in no particular order. Just some stuff to look at. I'll drop in a few words, here and there.

Semroc Cherokee D

Semroc Bandit

FlisKits Tres (upper section)

Some new builds for 2020

First launch of the year

My friend David with a special scratch built rocket

I call these recovery shots "rocket boudoir photos."

Forget the bunny ears. Do this.

Lost and found in the woods

At a club launch in Acton, a small rocket disappeared over the tree line. When I headed for it, I came to a spot in the woods where the ground swiftly dropped away. It wasn't a cliff, but it was far too steep to walk down.

I had to find another way down behind the trees. I saw a father and son come out of a trailhead. They'd lost a rocket and had just given up the search, but they told me I could get access to the lower area via that trail. I decided to try it.

Going to look for a lost rocket - I have no idea what's on the other side

I didn't find my rocket - just lots of wildflowers, bees, streams, deep vegetation... and the rocket lost by the father and son I'd met going into the woods! They were happy to get it back.

In late summer, we finally got to go back to our larger field in Amesbury. Here we can fly low power model rockets, as well as some high power.

I took all of these pictures, but they're not all my rockets. I was trying to learn to shoot launch photos. I only got a few good liftoff shots.

North Coast Rocketry Laser Hawk

The Laser Hawk and Leviathan aren't mine, but this Nike Smoke is. I've flown it a lot the last few years. It's become a good rocket to end the day on.

I find if I try to photograph or video a launch of mine, I don't remember the experience of the launch itself. I just remember things from the perspective of the photos or video - and that's only if they turn out.

So I decided this summer not to try and shoot much, but just to watch and enjoy my own flights. Though, I did manage to get some good recovery shots as rockets were descending under parachute.

This year, after launches, I decided to take time to notice things around me. How things changed as the seasons progressed. A launch field has a lot more going on than rocketry. Don't forget to stop and photograph the dandelions.

This is the one picture that's out of order. This launch was mid summer...

But this is the same rocket, later in the season, at the larger field.

My Estes Cosmic Explorer is another favorite I turn to all the time.

A sign of the times - Halloween, and COVID

I like to use very long elastic shock cords. It minimizes damage.

This beautiful RC boost glider went up many times at this year's club launches. It went aloft on long burning E6 motors and stayed in the air for many minutes.

I decided on removable plastic rivets to retain the nose cone on the FlisKits Tres.

A witness mark helps me matchup the holes with the correct side.

A quick 3-motor cluster I designed and built in 2-3 days.

I like flying Berthas.

First flight of the D-Region Tomahawk

Not my rocket

Over a year late, conditions were finally right, and I felt comfortable launching my Estes Saturn V. I was nervous, because I'd seen some of these go unstable. I had added a bit of bracing to the motor mount, and worried this might have shifted the center of gravity aftward a bit.

So I added extra nose weight during building and hoped for the best. I asked to put this on the high power pad, further from spectators, just in case. I launched it on an AeroTech E30-4T motor.

I needn't have worried. It flew far better than I'd expected. I was told by a couple people it was the best model Saturn V flight they'd ever seen. It was arrow-straight upward. It was beautiful. I do wish I had photos or video of this flight.

A recently completed build

I have a level 1 high power rocketry certification, but almost never fly high power. In fact, the rocket below was the first high power rocket I'd flown since my certification flight in 2016.

I called this rocket Yellowjacket. It flew on an AeroTech H100 DMS motor. It was either going to be that, or an I175 - which made me too nervous.

This rocket weighs 1388 grams, or 3 pounds 1 ounce, so I wanted to be careful.

I did attempt to film this flight. Unfortunately, I did not manage to keep the rocket in frame. And the onboard camera I had strapped to the side stopped working before launch.

The flight seemed a bit wiggly, and veered off the pad in a way I didn't like very much. But some observers told me it was a good flight. I'll have to make another attempt next season.

* * *

I haven't been involved in rocketry as long as some folks. I've only been in the hobby for six years. But it's been a very important part of my life since I discovered this whole thing.

Despite this being such a difficult year, being unable to see friends and family, economic stress, worry, fears rational and irrational, and all the other things that have made 2020 a year many of us would have gladly skipped, still...

Rocketry, this silly pastime of ours, is one of the few things which have kept me afloat. I managed to get in some quality building time, and, surprisingly, nearly as much flying as a "normal" year. The weather was surprisingly good where I live for much of the summer and fall.

If it weren't for rocketry, I'd have felt a lot more lost this year. My hobby, and my family, have made 2020 a net positive for me.

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