Monday, March 28, 2011


It had to be while I was in mid school age that I became inerested in rockets. I first read a large book from the library on how to make your rocket.  It was comlicated and dangerous.  You used metal tubing and for the solid rocket types made a caremel candy mixture. Basic rocket chemicak(gun powder) mixed with caremel and gradually heated on a stove. When it was all melted, you poured it into the bottom part of the rocket-the "engine," then let it cool.  This typef mixtore does not explode unless you have a gap or crack in the middleof the fuel(it is now solid, Any cracks causing air  space causes the explosion.  It is the air pockets that make the rocket blow up.  Just like an m-80 firecracker has some gun powder inside and the rest is air-this air makes it goes boom. The book, "Amatuer Rocketry," was very complicated and the more I read the more dangeous I saw building one from scratch and mixing your own fuel-it could even ignite on the stove, this author's ideas and homemade rockets wee dangeous.  He talked of one leaving the launch pad and then trun vertical, going 300 miles/hour(about how fast Amanda drives) and igniting all the brush as it whized by.

Then I saw an ad for Estes Industries. They made engine and rocket tubes from laminated cardboar, balsa wood fins and nose cone and platic bag-like material or silk, for parachutes, so the rocket would float back to earth and a new engine inserted for another flight. The engines were no longer than a finger and were size aa,a,b,c, and,d-small power to greater power. the a-b-c-engines were about the width of a dime while the d, about a nickle.  A small soda sraw was glued to the side of the rocket(usually by a fin). The engine was insurted(tight fit) and above the engine was a wad of insulation material and the parachute-attached to the rocket and nose cone with a rubber band or shock cord,  The very end of the engine fuel had an explsive charge that blew the top of so the parachute would come out and the shock cord held the rocket body ad nos cone in place. Some rockets dodnot have parachutes, but had other means of gently falling back down. Any rocket with a parachute, even set off in a dessert, would find a tree or roof top to land on!
These small rockets, usually 6"-12"(some were 24" and had 3 engines in a cluster and some were 2 stage. Instead of a bang in the first, to release a parachute, it sent up burning sparks and lit the second stage.  To launch, the rocket's straw ran on a straigt wire-about as thinck as a metal coat hanger(many times we would cut a metal hanger, hammer it straigh and stick one end in a piece of wood. A piece of nicrome wire, diped in a minute amount of gun powder and looked like an inverted "V" was shove up the nozzle of the engine, with a small piece of kleenix wedged in to hold it in place, to the ends of the wire two flat teeth micro clips were attached and these had about 20' of wire on the othe end.  they went to a 4 "D" size batter pack, inside a case which had a safety switch and a push button to light the nicrome up, which then lit the engine.  Woosh! A cloud of smoke and within seconds, it was 700-1000' in the air.  Wr had designed intruments and math to measure the heigh and at least 3 spotters trying to follow the rocket since thet usualy went out of sight and then you tried to see the chute open. There was always a "rush" of adreniline," as the rocket ignited and took off.  And Estes was big on safety.  Most common injury: as a kid got his straw through the metal launch wire and then guide it to the botom, he would poke his eye or some where on the face with the wire.
Next: some fun and creative things to do with "rockets"-send a mouse up in one, a rocket pistol for people you didn't like and a right and left rocket bazooka, mounted underneath my 1964, 39 hp vw and set off with push buttons in the floor shifter handle(wired in series to the car battery.  As the girl I was dating around 1964 was taking a slow ride along the back roads of Pymatuning Lake(39 horse power could only go slow)-some smart a** in a muscle car with his girl would pass me up leaving us choking on the dust.  He had to be punished. And next, how I did in his trunk lid!

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