Beginning amateur rocketeer seeks beginning
March 8, 2010 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me get my amateur rocket science on.

I'm looking for recommendations on books and other resources to check out. This post the other day was great timing but on most rocketry websites I've looked at the list of recommended resources seemed to be pretty extensive and as a total newbie I'm not sure where to start. Is there anything that you'd specifically recommend that was useful when you were first starting out?
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Estes rocket kits were a nice start; pretty small potatoes compared to the guys who are very serious in the sport, but they give you a nice package that will help you understand the basics before you start cobbling together your own rockets from scratch.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2010

Yes, +1 for just grabbinb an Estes kit and going for it. Make sure you pick up an engine, some igniters and a launch platform.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:11 AM on March 8, 2010

Best answer: Obviously, there's no substitute for building and flying a lot of rockets. Start with Estes's skill level 1 rockets and work up. When you get bored with that, move into mid-power (F & G class motors) rockets with kits from Aerotech or Binder Design. (Mid power is where the most fun is, but you gotta master low power first.)

Find your local club, attend their meetings and launches and get on their email discussion group.

As for reading material, download the 16 page PDF Model Rocket Technical Manual. If you master that and want more, get Stine's Handbook of Model Rocketry.

Familiarize yourself with the Model Rocket Safety Code. (Rocketry is safe if done right.)

When you're ready to play with the big boys, hook up with Tripoli Rocketry Association.
posted by neuron at 9:46 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with the start with Estes calls. Get your feet wet with a dozen or few dozen Estes launches before moving up. I don't think you necessarily need to start with their level 1. That is more about model building skill as rocketry. On the other hand your first few launches should be of rockets that you can afford to lose emotionally. You wouldn't want to spend hour upon hour building an intricate rocket that then crashes or sails away into a tree on its maiden voyage. Definitely join a club as you move past the Estes stuff, both for the camaraderie and for the easy access to information.
posted by caddis at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2010

Heh, part of what I enjoyed about model rocketry in my youth was recovering rockets that landed in difficult to reach spots.

That and blowing things up with the ejection charge. :)
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:33 PM on March 8, 2010

neuron: get Stine's Handbook of Model Rocketry.
Wow, that's still around? I had that book when I was a little kid, must be about 40 years ago. Yes, this is the book about model rocketry.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:03 PM on March 8, 2010

Oh.. P.S.

caddis: ..your first few launches should be of rockets that you can afford to lose emotionally.

I will tell you about my very last model rocket launch. When I was about 14 years old, I spent weeks building a very detailed Estes kit of a Bomarc missile. It was a complicated boost-glider, my specialty. Boost-gliders launch vertically as a rocket, then the booster component ejects, and the wings reconfigure into a glider that should gently circle the launch pad, ideally landing just a few yards from the pad. And this was the best job I'd ever done on any rocket I'd ever built, it was beautiful. It was so beautiful I didn't even want to launch it and risk losing it, so I hung it on strings from my bedroom ceiling, where I admired it for months. But I knew eventually I had to let it fly.
So I decided one calm, windless day, it was time for a flight. Alas, there was one dopey, clumsy little kid in the neighborhood who somehow always saw me setting up for a launch and was always there pestering me, I never wanted him around, I thought he was a safety hazard. And as I set up the Bomarc on the pad, there he was. He always wanted to chase the rockets and be the first to grab it when it landed, and he was clumsy as all hell and had damaged more than one of my rockets. So I told him in no uncertain terms, he would absolutely NOT chase this rocket, it would come back on its own, and he would remain fixed in his spot until the rocket landed.
OK, I set up a smaller than usual engine for a low altitude test flight. It went up about 200 feet, the boost section ejected, its parachute popped, and it gently landed right next to the pad. The main glider section started the most beautiful circles around the pad, I had gotten the ailerons just perfect. And then the stupid kid starts chasing the rocket! He chased and chased around in circles for about a minute, stupidly wearing himself out with the running, since the glider was on a perfect path to land right back in front of me. Here it comes, it's about to land right at my feet, I hardly had to move. And it gently lands in the grass right in front of me, a perfect flight. I reach down to pick up my prized rocket, and here comes stupid kid barreling my way at full speed, he can't stop, and he STOMPS DOWN right on top of my beautiful rocket, shattering it, right as my hand was 2 inches away from picking it up. Oh I was so pissed. I was so pissed, I never built another rocket, ever.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:36 PM on March 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer:
posted by Pressed Rat at 4:30 PM on March 8, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.

(Alternate links to Model Rocket Safety Code and pdf because of post glitch -- thanks neuron.)
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 12:45 PM on March 13, 2010

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