SCORE has a GREAT set up for launching model rockets. Estes Industries makes a line of model rocket kits to build and fly, and is the place where most budding rocketeers start. The kits are made with plastic nose cones, paper body tubes and balsa wood fins, and are easy to assemble. Model rockets, as defined by the National Association of Rocketry, are powered with motors made with black powder as the propellant and are available in “impulse ranges” from A to E. Children and adults, beginners and experts alike build and launch this level of model rocket, experiencing the thrill of punching a hole in the sky, achieving several hundred feet in altitude and seeing them float back to the launch area under parachute or streamer recovery.
While launching with us, in addition to the model rocket pads, there are several larger launch pads set up in the distance. From these pads high power rockets are launched.
When a high power rocket is launched, they display bigger flame and a mighty roar as they reach several thousand feet in altitude. It is truly a spectacular experience seeing this level of rocket launch and eventually recover.
Mid Power rockets, launched with motors in the F and G impulse range, are a great pathway to high power. The building techniques are the same as a high power rocket. Instead of Elmer’s glue used in a model rocket, epoxy glue is used instead for a much stronger bond. Instead of mounting the fins on the outside of the body tube, fins are inserted into the body tube through slots and attached to both the body tube and the motor mount (which is more than likely 29mm in diameter, but 38mm diameter motor mount is perhaps a more versatile place to start). Mid and High power rockets experience much greater stresses in flight, requiring a much more substantial, bullet-proof build.
Here’s a link to mid power rockets available at Apogee Components https://www.apogeerockets.com/Rocket-Kits/Mid-power-Rockets
Mid and high power rocket motors use a different propellant made of ammonium percolate instead of black powder. Anyone can launch a mid power rocket. A high power rocket is launched with motors in the H through O impulse range. In order to launch rockets with this level of motor, a certification process is required.
Your first step is to certify level one, which allows you to launch rockets in the H and I impulse range. Essentially, under the watchful eye of our Trained Safety Officer (TSO) Jason Chamberlin, you will launch and successfully recover, without damage, a rocket launched with an H impulse motor. When you are ready to make a certification attempt, contacting the club beforehand will make sure everything is good to go for your attempt.
In order to certify level one, and when you’re ready to go, you will be able to purchase an H impulse motor for your attempt. Unfortunately, shipping these motors requires an additional “hazmat fee,” usually in the neighborhood of an additional $40 to $50 added to the cost of the motor, which makes things ridiculously expensive. I suggest ordering this motor from Apogee Components, and in the check out process, choose “local pickup,” and head to their shop in Colorado Springs to do so. While you’re there, say hi to the gang, then go out back to drool on all the cool kits and parts they have for sale. Guaranteed you’ll end up with another kit!
There’s a 29mm diameter motor list on the website. https://www.apogeerockets.com/Rocket_Motors/29mm_Motors I suggest starting small, like an H135W. Smaller motors will enhance your probability for success. All you need to do is qualify. After that, go gangbusters!
Here’s a link to the aforementioned motor https://www.apogeerockets.com/Rocket_Motors/AeroTech_Motors/29mm_Motors_Single_Use/Aerotech_29mm_Motor_H135W-14A_High_Power
There are others in this 29mm diameter size. Make sure you pick a single use, DMS motor rather than one designated as reloadable. We aren’t using reloadable casings yet.
Where do I Start?
Tim VanMilligan, owner of Apogee Components, frequents our launches, launching and photographing his prototype and available rocket kits. His daughters come to launch and help with his efforts to promote his business.
Tim’s website, apogeerockets.com, not only sells everything you need, but he has a HUGE resource library on his website on how to do rocketry. I suggest starting at his site and explore the information to improve your probability for success on level 1 certification.
Here’s a couple links:
High Power Rocketry https://www.apogeerockets.com/High-Power-Rocketry-Certification
Level One Rocket Kits
Please familiarize yourself with the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and their level 1 certification process. NAR, along with the high power rocket association, Tripoli, sets up all the guidelines, approves the motors and provides insurance for clubs like ours.
NAR High Power Certifications https://www.nar.org/high-power-rocketry-certifications/
While you’re there, check out the rocketry safety code. Even though this is a fun, exciting hobby, it is vital you launch in a safe manner https://www.nar.org/safety-information/high-power-rocket-safety-code/
Here’s Tripoli’s take on level 1 certification https://tripoli.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=795696&module_id=468544
Make sure and grab the high power certification applications while you’re at NAR or Tripoli. You will need them filled out and ready to go the day of your attempt. Also, in order to certify high power, you will need to be a paying member of one of these organizations.
I would be remiss to not add a few other mid and high power sources for rocket kits
Here’s a video on where you can buy kits
Where to Buy Model Rockets
The Rocket N00b
Of vital importance is building your kit to withstand the stresses of high power motors. The following are suggested videos to watch in order to understand what this means and to build your rocket for certification success.
Tim VanMilligan, Apogee Components
Introduction to High Power Level 1 Certification
Certify Level One
Level One Certification Tips for High Power Rocketry
Level One Certification Build
Level One Build Series.
Building Your First High Power Rocket – 1: Motor Mount Assembly
2: Shock Cord and Motor Mount Installation
3: Sanding and Attaching Fins
4: Rail Buttons and Retainer
5: Fin Fillets
6: Building and Installing the Altimeter Bay, Part 1
7: Altimeter Bay Part 2 and Rivets
8: Applying Primer
9: Sanding and Primer Coats
10: Launch Preparation
This one is a bit more advanced, with the inclusion of an electronics bay for dual deployment. We aren’t there yet, but his building techniques are invaluable:
Anatomy of a High Power Rocket
You can build one of your own design, but this is not recommended. I suggest a kit ready to go. You will, however, discover lots of design principles using the open source rocket design program, Open Rocket, openrocket.org
Inverted Pursuits Laboratory
Open Rocket tutorial – Designing a Level 1 Rocket
When your rocket is 2000’ in the air and deploys the ‘chute, it is susceptible to upper level winds which might make your rocket drift, sometimes quite a distance. Delaying the deployment of the parachute until the rocket is closer to the ground will keep drift distance to a minimum. The company, Jolly Logic, makes a device to do this. You can buy one from their website. Here’s a link to purchase one at Apogee https://www.apogeerockets.com/Electronics-Payloads/Dual-Deployment/Chute-Release
You won’t need one of these for level 1 certification, but they make recovery a much less distant walk, especially on breezy days. Consider picking one of these up after you certify.
Jolly Logic Chute Release
If you want a better understanding of rocket dynamics and rocket motor impulse ranges, NASA has a highly recommended video. I recommend memorizing this information if you go for level 2:
Basics of High Power Rocketry
John Coker is a wealth of rocketry info. Here’s his take on how to pick motors for your rocket:
He, along with a couple rocket pals, created the website, ThrustCurve, https://www.thrustcurve.org/ This site helps you plan your launch to use a specific motor for your rocket for a desired altitude. It also helps you prevent the mistake of launching an underpowered rocket, which makes things go erratic. All the motor info is here, and you can create an account, enter in your rocket’s info, and start matching motors.
Whew! There’s a ton of info here! Please don’t be overwhelmed. Build your rocket and come launch it!
FYI, I did not certify in my first attempt. I learned a lot from the experience, however, and used this experience to build a better rocket. My first attempt was decades ago and YouTube was not a thing yet. Fast forward a couple decades, and I watched these videos. After absorbing this info, I built my level 1 rocket and nailed it!
You will, too.
See you out there!