Rec.Models.Rockets FAQ
(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 <> 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. Buy epoxy. An informal survey of 49 Born-Again Rocketeers on r.m.r. yielded the following information: - 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 changed. (8%) - 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... Gone: Centuri/Energet Rocket Development Corporation Space Age Industries MPC rocket kits Coaster 'S' Series (short) 18mm motors Competition Model Rockets AVI motors Camroc/Cineroc Still here: National Association of Rocketry (NAR) Estes Flight Systems 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 range. 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 total impulse. 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. 4.2.3 Competition 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 rocketry only. 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 this FAQ. 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 rocketry electronics. 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 great loss. 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 oldie.
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: Other sources: Doug Holverson scanned the paper shrouds of: Centuri Vulcan Centuri X-24 Bug You can find them on his web site: Estes Mars Lander plans online: Richard Pitzeruse <> 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 <> wrote: OK! I uploaded it to Sunsite... The file is called ekdir.txt (for Estes Kit Directory)... Jim Zalewski's site: Jim <> 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 <> 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 <> 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.