Rec.Models.Rockets FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions)

Part 14: Amateur Rocketry

Posted: September 25, 1997

Last modified: September 25, 1997

14.1 DISCLAIMER: The following information does not constitute an endorsement of amateur rocketry in any way, shape, or form by the editor(s) of this FAQ, or the general readership of rec.models.rockets. Due to the number of requests for information on this form of rocketry, the following information is provided. Pursue at your own risk.
14.2 How do I make my own rocket motors? NOTICE: Many among the readership have an interest in the subject, and discussion threads about amateur rocketry activities always appear. Even though the name of the newsgroup, rec.models.rockets, suggests that the newsgroup is for model rockets only, this is not entirely true. High power rocketry is a favorite topic among r.m.r. denizens. And similarly, amateur rocketry is also discussed, albeit in a limited way. However, questions like: "What should I mix together so that I can make my own rocket motors?" are STRONGLY DISCOURAGED. Discussion about rocket motor design and fabrication is beyond the scope of rec.models.rockets. Most of the participants of rec.models.rockets buy commercially available model and high power rocket motors for use in their rockets. Few have the expertise to instruct you on the intricacies of rocket motor design and construction, and most likely will not instruct you on rec.models.rockets. Rocket motor construction is a non-trivial task. It is a task that goes much beyond merely having a propellant formula with which to use. You need to know much more than you might initially suspect, and even then you might make a mistake and get seriously injured or even killed. Even knowledgable professionals have been known to have accidents. If you are having difficulty obtaining commercially manufactured rocket motors, and think that you can simply make your own, please think about it more, and please give these warnings some serious consideration. Inquire as to the availability of commercially manufactured motors. Check out the list of manufacturers in Part 2 of the FAQ. From ( "I suppose that an article on cheap model rocketry would not be complete without at least some comment on the sorts of advertisements that read "build your own rocket engines for only pennies apiece." While I personally am not the sort of person who would categorically condemn those people interested in making their own rocket motors, I do feel that model rocket motors are one of the places where you do get your money's worth. While it may be possible to build your own motors using only a few cents worth of chemicals, there is a lot left unsaid. Some of these unvoiced gotchas include: 1) In order to get to the pennies each price range, you have to buy your chemicals in large amounts, so your out-of-pocket expenses are high. 2) You have to make or buy various special tools for making the motors. 3) You'll need assorted amounts of safety equipment and test fixtures, beyond the actual construction tools. 4) You'll need a relatively large land area for your testing. 5) You'll probably be engaging in what the local police will consider illegal activities, both in making your motors, and in using them. It doesn't take much of a lawyer's time to cancel out your savings! 6) The finished "cheap" motors are unlikely to have delay or ejection charges, and will vary a great deal from motor to motor in performance. "I'm also interested in amateur pyrotechnics, and recently bought a copy of "The Best of American Fireworks News, Volume 2." There are a couple of excerpts in there that are particularly telling. One article mentions using commercial A8-3 rocket engines as a "quick and easy way" to make skyrockets. This is followed up by another comment that includes: "I have made rocket engines from scratch for years, but have just recently discovered that the time savings, reliability, and better performance of commercial engines make them a viable alternative." "These are discouraging remarks for the would-be motor maker, but the most important reason NOT to make your own motors is implied in item (5) above - "Model Rocketry" enjoys certain legal exemptions because it has shown itself to be an exceptionally safe hobby over the years. If you make your own motors, you are no longer protected under those exemptions - you are no longer participating in "Model Rocketry". If you happen to have or cause a major accident, the press won't be clued in to this distinction, so aside from the people who actually got hurt, the reputation of the hobby will be damaged, and we'll be another step closer to having model rocketry outlawed." Have you read Part 1 of the FAQ yet? Here are a few repeat items to consider: From Buzz McDermott ( "Finally, the editor of this document wishes to get on his soapbox for just one moment and add the term 'stupid rocketry' to cover all those who attempt to casually produce their own rocket fuel and/or motors without the benefit of very serious study, and implementation, of the processes involved and safety measures required. Especially note that this comment is NOT aimed at serious amateur rocketry organizations, college level research, etc. End of soapbox." In summary: The bottom line is that rec.models.rockets is primarily a newsgroup for discussing *consumer* rocketry (which covers model rocketry and high power rocketry). Some amateur issues are discussed, but these are not the primary focus of the group. Manufacturing your own rocket motors can be a very dangerous thing to do, unless done properly, and with extreme care. The odds are you will not make motors that are of any higher quality, total impulse, reliability, or cost less than pre-manufactured consumer rocket motors. It is the opinion of the editor(s) of this FAQ that you should NOT try to manufacture your own motors. If, however, you insist on partaking in amateur rocketry, then the editor(s) of this FAQ urge you to get in contact with an established amateur rocketry group for guidance and assistance.
14.3 My primary interest is in amateur rocketry. Where can I find information about amateur rocketry? Aside from going to college and earning an aerospace engineering degree, there are organizations dedicated to the serious pursuit of research and development in the field of amateur rocketry. The editor suggests contacting one of the organizations listed below. These suggestions are not endorsements, and the author of Part 14 of the FAQ is personally unfamiliar with these organizations. Mojave Rocket and Technical Society WWW: Pacific Rocket Society Well-established amateur 1825 North Oxnard Blvd., Suite 24 rocketry association. Oxnard, CA 93030 Established in 1946. email: WWW: Reaction Research Society Well-established amateur P.O. Box 90306 rocketry association. World Way Postal Center Los Angeles, CA 90009 WWW:
14.4 Amateur rocketry on the Internet REC.MODELS.ROCKETS In case you haven't read any other part of the FAQ yet, amateur rocketry on the Internet IS NOT rec.models.rockets. Read Parts 1 and 14 of this FAQ. REC.PYROTECHNICS Questions related to rocket motor propellant formulation, rocket motor construction, etc. should be posted on rec.pyrotechnics. Discussion threads about these subjects always appear there. AMROCNET MAILING LIST The AmRocNet mailing list is for the discussion of all aspects of "amateur rocket and motor construction". This includes discussions relating to amateur rocket designs, making motors, safety, laws, events, experiences, news, reviews, commentary and other items which could be described as of general interest to amateur rocket people. To join the AmRocNet mailing list send the following Email: -----<begin sample Email to listproc>----- To: <> Subject: . subscribe amrocnet Your Real Name -----<end sample Email to listproc>----- WORLD WIDE WEB From Tim Patterson ( I have recently created a new rocketry web page. It has info and links regarding High Power solids, amateur liquids and other interesting stuff. Check it out at: How to Design, Build and Test Small Liquid-Fuel Rocket Engines is a small (66 pages) booklet published by ROCKETLAB in 1967. As such, it is somewhat dated, but is nonetheless interesting. You can read it at: Tom Peregrin's Pyrotechnic Web page Tom routinely contributes to rec.models.rockets whenever pyrotechnic issues arise. Greg Gallacci's Pyrotechnic Journal Blue Sky a website devoted to composite rocket motor making Tom Dimok's Pyrotechnic Web Page loads of links, information, and advice
14.5 Manufacturers, suppliers, publishers, and consultants The following addresses do not constitute an endorsement of amateur rocketry in any way, shape, or form by the editor(s) of this FAQ, or the general readership of rec.models.rockets. Due to the number of requests for information on this form of rocketry the following addresses are provided as potential sources for more information. Pursue at your own risk. Aerocon Information on hybrid rockets P.O. Box 432 parachutes, books, liquid motors, Los Gatos, CA 95031 and more... (408) 450-0704 Catalog - $2.00 Commonwealth Displays, Inc. Chemicals for rocket engine 12649 Dix production Southgate, MI 48195 Catalog: $3 (313) 282-1055 email: WWW: CP Technologies Data on making your own rocket 4010A South Poplar, Suite 23 motors Casper, WY 82601 Catalog: free (307) 265-8755 email: Digatek black powder and composite Suite 200 propellant formulas and motor 2723 West Butler Drive making information Phoenix, AZ 85051 Catalog - FREE Firefox Enterprises Pyrotechnic supplies, amateur P.O. Box 5366 rocketry supplies. Pocatello, ID 83202 (208) 237-1976 Catalog $3.00 Gas Dynamics Lab publishes a book on rocket motor P.O. Box 465 design Watkinsville, GA 30677 Journal of Pyrotechnics technical journal on pyrotechnics 1775 Blair Road published twice yearly Whitewater, CO 81527 (970) 245-0692 Prodyne, Inc. Solid rocket motor fuel grains, P.O. Box 10826 chemicals, processing Ogden, UT 84412-2806 equipment. Catalog: $2.00 Propulsion Systems, Inc. Books, software, chemicals, and Amateur Rocketry Division hardware for composite P.O.Box 130077 propellant motor design and Edmond, OK 73013 fabrication. (405) 478-5806 Catalog - $3.00 Rogers Aeroscience PC software for rocket flight P.O. Box 10065 prediction includes drag modeling Lancaster CA 93584-0065 thru the hypersonic regime; (818) 349-4825 * free info * email: Rosenfield Consulting Services Consulting service for fuel 1955 South Palm Street, Suite 15 formulations, gov't approval Las Vegas, NV 89104 processes, etc. (702) 641-9478 (voice) (702) 641-1883 (fax) FREE brochure and price list email: 73624.224@CompuServe.COM RPS Rocket motor kits, tooling, 207 Lewis Drive and info on making rocket Richmond, KY 40475 motors Catalog: $2.00 Skylighter, Inc. Pyrotechnic supplies PO Box 480-W chemicals, books, equipment, Round Hill, VA 20142-0480 supplies, etc. (540) 554-4543 (540) 554-2849 (Fax) Catalog - $3.00 (USA) (Email) (see website) Systems Solaire Plans for an amateur rocket 4414 Notre Dame motor which utilizes Chomeday, Laval, Quebec gasoline as the fuel source. CANADA H7W-1T6 Teleflite Corporation Information and supplies for 11620 Kitching Street making your own rocket motors Moreno Valley, CA 92387-9978 Catalog: $2.00 David G. Sleeter (
Copyright (c) 1996 Wolfram von Kiparski, editor. Refer to Part 00 for the full copyright notice.