(Frequently Asked Questions)
Part 4: Born Again Rocketeers
Posted: April 14, 1997
Last modified: April 14, 1997
4.1 What the heck is a 'Born Again Rocketeer'?
A Born Again Rocketeer (BAR) is a person who started out in model
rocketry in their 'younger' days, dropped out of the hobby for some
number of years, and then came to their senses and got back into it.
BARs are noted for re-entering the hobby with extreme enthusiasm and
much deeper pockets than they had during their first encounter with
the hobby. The editor of this FAQ is a BAR (and proud of it :-).
Paul Wolaver <email@example.com> wrote this BAR observation:
Be prepared for the BAR phenomenon. Open your wallet. Write off your
weekends. Set aside a room in your house to build rockets.
An informal survey of 49 Born-Again Rocketeers on r.m.r. yielded the
- average number of years away from the hobby - 18.6
- Why did you get back into rocketry?
The answers varied greatly, but these three were at the top:
1. Involvement with children (33%)
2. 'discovered' rec.models.rockets (12%)
3. wanted to get into HPR after seeing how much the hobby has
- current 'mode' of flying rockets
1. model rocketry (49%)
2. high power (20%)
3. high power 'lite' (10%)
- what did you fly first?
Seems like everyone did something different. Estes kits were the
overwhelming majority, with the Big Bertha, Alpha, Alpha III, and
Phoenix all being mentioned more than once or twice.
- what were your old favorites, way back when?
Again, everyone liked something different, and everyone had more
than one single favorite kit. Estes kits figured prominently in
the memories of the surveyed. The Big Bertha, Mars Lander, and
Orbital Transport kits were most popular. A few folks were Centuri
fans, with the Orion kit getting the most votes (2). A few
eschewed the kit scene completely, and someone recalled fond
memories of building ZnS rockets.
4.2 I have been out of model rockets for many (i.e. <nn>+) years now.
What been happening in the hobby over the past couple of decades?
What's new? What's gone?
4.2.1 Who's Left, Who's Not & Who's New
To sum it up...
Rocket Development Corporation
Space Age Industries
MPC rocket kits
'S' Series (short) 18mm motors
Competition Model Rockets
Still here: National Association of Rocketry (NAR)
New: High Power Rocketry, with *BIG* rockets
Tripoli Rocketry Association
MANY new companies
Composite rocket motors are commonplace
Reloadable solid rocket motors
Hybrid rocket motors
Phenolic and fiberglass rocket components
Electronic altimeters, flight computers,....
Much improved rocketry simulation software
And a whole lot more.....
Basically, it's all pretty much the same, or totally different,
depending on your interests. Estes is still Estes. Most of their kits
are still the same materials, etc. The trend for the last 10 years has
been for Estes to sell simpler and simpler kits. There are lots of
plastic nose cones and fin units (already around when you were active
before). There are now kits with pre-slotted body tubes and plastic
fins (as in the Estes E2X series). Lots of good stuff for beginners
and kids. Estes now makes engines in the 1/2A - D range, all black
powder. Estes has some Large Model Rocket offerings ready, as well.
Read below for details.
Flight Systems (FSI), another motor and kit manufacturer that got its
start in the late 60's, was reported in 1995 to have ceased its
model rocketry operations. They have restarted production in 1996, and plan
on being up to full production by 1997.
Centuri, sadly, 'went away' in 1980. Daemon Industries bought both Estes
and Centuri in the 1970's. They operated both companies as independent
units for several years. Finally, Centuri was dissolved and its products
absorbed into Estes. Every now and then an old Centuri kit surfaces
under the Estes banner. An interesting piece of trivia is that the tax
and incorporation laws were more favorable in Arizona (home of Centuri)
than Colorado (home of Estes). So, Damon, on paper, had Centuri acquire
Estes, even though it was Centuri's operations that were eventually shut
down. Damon sold off Estes to a group of investors in the early 90's.
Now for 'who is new'. First, in model rocketry there is a new kid
on the block: Quest. This is Bill Stine, some ex-Centuri people
and others. They are a direct competitor to Estes. They have a line
of kits and engines (A-C). Good quality. Less expensive than Estes.
There are many other smaller companies making and selling model rocket
kits. See Part 02 of the FAQ for addresses. Custom Rockets is another
company with rocket kits similar to those offered by Estes and Quest.
Custom offers quality paper tube/balsa finned kits in the A-D power
Aerotech, LOC/Precision, Rocket R&D, Public Missiles, and North Coast
Rocketry are some new names in the business. These companies cater to
both larger model rocket and high power rocket markets. Estes bought
manufacturing rights to all NCR products in 1995. Estes has announced
a line of F/G rockets (based on NCR designs) to be released in the first
quarter of 1996. Estes may also release a small line of F and G composite
motors in 1996. A newer outfit, Rocket R&D, bought out THOY and another
smaller HPR manufacturer, Cluster R.
Aerotech manufactures both single-use and reloadable composite rocket
motors ranging from C to M total impulse classes. They also offer a few
kits designed for E to G engines.
A couple of outfits make kits using newer technology materials, including
phenolics, fiberglass, and composites. These include Public Missiles (PML),
Rocketman and Dynacom. Be prepared to pay more dollars for the more
advanced materials. A $60-75, 4" diameter, heavy paper tube based kit,
such as manufactured by LOC, might cost $100-125 in a phenolic based
kit, such as produced by PML. A Dynacom fiberglass kit of the same
size might cost closer to $350.
If you were into rocketry in the early 1980's then you probably remember
AAA Model Aviation Fuels. They're still here, with a line of HPR and
Large Model Rocket kits.
If you were into competing you might have been familiar with Competition
Model Rockets (CMR). They are now defunct but there are constant rumors
of a rebirth 'sometime in the near future'. Other companies have stepped
in to fill the space left by the exit of CMR. See the section
'Competition' for some names and addresses. Two notable new companies are
Apogee Components and Qualified Competition Rockets. Apogee was started by
long-time rocketeer Ed LaCroix. QCR was started by another long-time
rocketeer, Kenneth Brown. Ed has now joined the Aerotech team and
dropped most of his product line. A new company, Eclipse Components, is
picking up most of the Apogee Components line, except for motors. Apogee
will still be selling those. Pratt Hobbies has indicated that it will
pick up some of the old CMR product line, and has already made the CMR egg
capsules available again.
A lot of the 'neat' Estes kits of the 60's and 70's are no longer
available. However, Estes is bringing them back (one by one) in so-
called, 'limited run collector series'. The original 'Mars Snooper' and
'Maxi Honest John' kits have been re-issued, so far, along with the
Star Trek and Star Wars kits. More releases are supposed to be
forthcoming. WARNING: Be prepared to pay a much higher
price for these re-released kits. Remember that inflation has led to
some items having much higher prices now than in the mid 60's and 70's. No
doubt Estes will take advantage of the demand for the re-released kits,
as well, and charge an additional premium.
4.2.2 Changes in Motor Technology
The big changes have come in motors. Expendable composite fuel motors
are now available in B-G range for model rockets. These motors
use ammonium perchlorate for oxidizer and rubber as the fuel, similar to
the rocket boosters on the space shuttle, allowing them to pack two to
three times the power in the same space as a black powder motor. The B
motors from Apogee are the same size as Estes mini-motors (13x45mm).
The C motors (also from Apogee) are 18x50mm, while the D motors are the
same size as Estes A-C motors (18x70mm). The D is a full D (rated at 20
Newton-seconds versus the Estes 24x70mm D of about 17 N-s). E motors range
in size from 18x70mm to 29x124mm. All of the motors give Estes kits an
incredible ride, if the models hold together. These kits require stronger
construction methods and materials than typical model rockets. Put an
Aerotech D21 or E25 in your old Big Bertha at your own risk!! You're
likely to end up with a model with no fins (i.e., a complete 'shred').
Another new trend is 'reloadable' motor technology. With reloadables
you have a metal motor casing that you manually reload with solid fuel
pellets, delay and ejection charge for each flight. The casing is
reusable. Reloadable motors are available in everything from 18x70 mm
(with B - E power), 24mm, (with D - F power), 29mm, 38mm, and much
larger. Again, you can get all the way up to 40,000+ Newton-seconds of
The latest technology to hit the High Power rocket scene is the hybrid
rocket motor. Hybrid motors use components from both liquid and solid
ful rocket motors. Two companies have currently certified hybrid motors
with Tripoli, Aerotech and Hypertek. The advantage of hybrid motors is
that they use totally inert fuel grains, such as a cast polymer plastic
or compressed paper pulp, which do not have any DOT or ATF restrictions.
With both motors, nitrous oxide is used for the oxidizer.
One notable difference between the time I left the hobby (late 1970s) and
today is that competition rocketry is not as popular as it once was. It
used to be that one would see 30 or more people at an NAR regional, but
today it sometimes seems like you are lucky if you get enough people to show
up. Because I got back in to the hobby to fly competition, I am concerned
about the apparent loss of interest in competition rocketry.
Still, competition is NOT dead, no way. Yearly NARAMs are still held,
and are well-attended. About half of the NAR sections still host meets,
or have members that fly competition. The rest fly sport and/or high power
4.2.4 High Power Rocketry
Now there is also HIGH power rocketry (HPR). These are rockets with
motors up to type O (with greater than 40,000 Newton seconds of impulse).
There has been a lot of discussion about high power recently. You have to
be a member of either the NAR or Tripoli to fly rockets with H motors or
above. To fly with H or above both organizations require that you be
'certified' by safely demonstrating a successful flight with a high power
model in the presence of one or more 'qualified' members of the
organization. There is now a HPR safety code as well as the original
model rocketry safety code. There are expendable and reloadable
(discussed below) HPR motors available. They are increasingly
expensive as the power goes up ($13 for a G up to hundreds of dollars
for a really big (O) motor). High power rockets start where model
rockets leave off (i.e., > 1500 grams). High power models weighing
more than 50 pounds are not uncommon. The record weight for a high
power flight is over 1000 pounds.
Oh, yes, HPR requires a duly authorized, signed-in-blood (in triplicate,
etc.) FAA waiver for each day you wish to fly. It is ILLEGAL to fly
high power rockets without a proper waiver. See Part 10 of this FAQ for
more information on FAA waivers.
Depending on the type of motors you buy, use, and store, as well as where
and how you buy them, you might need some additional, FEDERAL, permits
for high power rocketry. More on this below, and a lot more in Part 1 of
4.2.5 Electronics Advancements
Advances in electronics technology have created many opportunities for
new ideas in consumer rocketry. Electronic ignition of upper stages of
multi-staged rockets is now common. Several altimeters more recording
maximum altitude are available. Electronic deployment of recovery
devices, as well as deployment based on altitude, is now practical.
The FAQ section on High Power Rocketry has more to say about this. See
Part 2 of this FAQ for addresses of some companies selling
4.2.6 Regulations, Regulations, Regulations
There is some good news and some bad news concerning rules and
regulations relating to consumer rocketry. On the positive side, you
can now buy up to G power motors in most states. Also, some states, such
as New Jersey, have recently relaxed restrictions on model rockets.
There is a menacing down side as well, though. California still has some
of the most restrictive regulations in the country. The ATF and DOT have
both become quite interested in high power rocketry and have begun
enforcing shipping and explosives regulations. Read the current
regulatory summary in Part 1 of this FAQ.
4.3 Are my old rocket kits worth anything today?
With all of the BARs coming back into rocketry, many wanting to rebuild
some of their favorite kits from their youths, models rockets have
become 'collectable'. In fact, the demand for some classic kits has
gotten quite high. The explosive growth of the internet has helped
fuel several recent 'class kit' auctions. Model rocket kits from the
late 60's and early 70's can still be found, but be prepared to pay
quite a premium. It isn't unusual to see what was a $5 kit from the early
70's going for $50 or more in an auction. Remember the 1/70 scale Estes
Estes Saturn 1B? It cost $11 in 1970, $15 in 1977. If you bought one
today at a model rocket auction, it is doubtful that $200 would get it.
How about the Maxi Brute Pershing 1A, which sold for $17 in 1977?
That kit, in good condition, might bring over $150 today.
Old kits that are still in their unopened, original packaging, might be
worth something. Once you open the package, the value drops. Missing or
partially constructed pieces lower the value even further.
So, all you BARs with old kits up in the attic might want to think
twice before ripping open the boxes and finally building that
Orbital Transport you got on your 12th birthday.
Opinions about the collectibility of old kits varies on r.m.r. Some
frown on collecting kits, and feel the rocket should be built and flown
for maximum enjoyment. Some would consider building the old kit a
Others take a middle road, and "clone" the kit - produce a duplicate, and
keep the original. Still others create scaled-up versions of old kits
for HPR flying fun. Regardless of what you do with it, old kits can be a
lot of fun, and there is even a magazine devoted to collecting old kits
(see Part 2 of this FAQ under books and magazines).
Those interested in cloning an old kit should check out the PLANS
subdirectory of the r.m.r. sunsite archive.
Plans for old kits not in the archive are out there, usually for just the
asking. Post a request. Chances are someone has plans for that favorite
Where can I find plans of old kits?
Plans of old kits are available. The r.m.r. sunsite archive has a few
old kit plans, and hopefully, there will be more in the future.
Old kit plans available on the sunsite archive are:
Estes Avenger (2 stage model)
Estes Cherokee-D (first D motor kit for many)
Estes Cobra (3 engine cluster)
Estes Drifter (competition parachute duration model)
Estes Farside (big 3 stage model)
Estes Gyroc (gyro-recovery model)
Estes Mark (classic model, essentially the same as a Mark II)
Estes Nighthawk (canard boost glider)
Estes Pegasus (scale-up plans)
Estes Ranger (3 engine cluster version of a Big Bertha)
Estes Scout (classic, one of Estes first models)
Estes Sprite (ring tail, mini-model)
Estes Starlight (unique design)
Estes Trident (old timer favorite)
Estes X-Ray (classic payloader)
Centuri Payloader II (classic beginners kit)
To get to the r.m.r. plans archive, try:
Doug Holverson scanned the paper shrouds of:
Centuri X-24 Bug
You can find them on his web site:
Estes Mars Lander plans online:
Richard Pitzeruse <firstname.lastname@example.org> tells us:
OK folks, I FINALLY got the Mars Lander plans on my webpage.
They are scanned in at 300 dpi, 1 bit/pixel. They are saved as
tiff files (uncompressed) and then zipped into 2 different files.
Feed back is welcome and encouraged!
To get directly there, point your browser at...
List of every Estes kit ever made:
Tom McAtee <m219487@SL1001.mdc.com> wrote:
OK! I uploaded it to Sunsite...
The file is called ekdir.txt (for Estes Kit Directory)...
Jim Zalewski's site:
Jim <email@example.com> tells us:
I just added some plans to my webpage.
Check them out and let me know what you think.
Estes Andromeda plans online:
Lemeul E. Bryant <firstname.lastname@example.org> scanned the Andromeda decal sheet:
A scan of the Decal sheet for the Estes Andromeda is available at
It's not best scan in the world but it is better than nothing.
The decal sheet measures about 3 1/2 by 13 1/2 inches.
The colors are red and white with a yellow background.
Estes Bomarc (Citation Series) plans online:
Ed Bertschy <email@example.com> put plans for the Bomarc online:
Complete full size templates of the Citation BOMARC wings, fins,
pods, ramjets, and re-engineered spine will be posted on my site
in .dxf and .bmp format for downloading. These measurements and plans
were drawn up from xeroxes of all the original parts. A color scan of
the decal sheet will be posted as well. You will find them at:
Copyright (c) 1996 Wolfram von Kiparski, editor.
Refer to Part 00 for the full copyright notice.