The Estes 1971 Model Rocketry Catalog
pages for most rockets.
My latest pride and joy is an Estes Saturn V model. It was purchased at King RC in August 2005, and finally completed in September 2007. I have wanted one of these since childhood, but couldn't afford the cost back in the day (probably around $25), and then just didn't have time during the college and child-rearing days. Anyway, here she is in resplendent glory.
My model rocket interest began around 1970, when I was 12 years old. I'm not certain where I first saw an Estes rocket, but once I did, I
dove as deeply into model rocketing as my not-very-
deep pockets would allow. As with most endeavors, working on a shoestring budget meant compromising on a lot of things, like making early launching pads out of a straightened clothes hanger and literally holding two "D" cell flashlight batteries together and touching the cable to the igniters to the ends for a launch, but you do what you have to do. My hobbies provided the incentive needed to find paying jobs after school and during summer vacation, so that eventually I could purchase a for-real Estes launch pad complete with blast shield and adjustable launch angles.
From the beginning until around 1976, when I graduated from Southern Senior High School, in Maryland, I probably owned just about every rocket model that Estes sold except for the big Saturn V and the ones that used D-size motors. I don't think the D-size motors were even sold when I first started. My favorites were the multi-stage and clustered engine models.
Watching the stages separate was the coolest, but the possibility of a lost stage was always possible if an observer was not used (yup, lost a stage in the tall grass once). The Gyroc was also fun, and the Falcon rocket-glider was great. Once, I launched a Scout featherweight that used tumble recovery; the ejection charge would shoot the expended engine out the back and the model would tumble down unscathed. That was a good method in theory, but on the first flight, I watched the engine fall to the ground thinking it was the rocket, found the engine, but never found the rocket!
Along with the models, I nose cones, body tubes, parachutes and launch lugs to design and fly my own. All of the available Technical Reports were obtained and read many times over. The one that showed the hands with missing fingers convinced me to stick with factory-prepared engines and forego any thoughts of fabricating my own out of match heads or liquid flammables. To this date, I have five fingers on each hand and two functioning eyes (albeit dimmed from old age).
Unfortunately, my parents were not the picture taking types, so the only photos I have are a couple I managed to take with other people's cameras. If they are ever found, I'll scan them and post them here.
Since becoming a father, I have attempted to instill my love for rockets and all things that fly in my son, Philip, and daughter, Sally, but alas to no avail. Under threat of punishment, I did manage to get them to humor me and build a few rockets, as you can see in the photos here, but today, as college students, they have not interest whatsoever. Heavy sigh, as Mork would say. If you even know who Mork is, then chances are you're aging body like me.
When we lived in Colorado Springs (in the 1990s), I took the occasion to drive down to Penrose, CO, and see the fabled Estes plant. It was a Sunday, so we couldn't go in. I still remember one of the Technical Reports comparing the performance of a rocket at sea level versus at the top of Pikes Peak, but had no idea what Pikes Peak was at the time. While in Colorado Springs, I looked at its 14110 foot peak every day.
Some day I would like to delve back into the model rocketeer world again. The life-size models being built by many folks are inspiring and impressive, but sinking the kind of time and money required is beyond my ambitions. I do have some ideas, though, for a military application for maybe a D-size model that could be the basis for applying for a Small Business Incentive Research (SBIR) grant. I'd tell you what it is, or, being a rocketeer yourself (or else you wouldn't be reading this), you might try it before I get a chance.