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Rockets, rockets, rockets: build, fly, recover, repair (well, hope not), fly again.


Space Modeling Information

We're working on compiling information on flyable scale models kits of the various human spaceflight vehicles. See this page for the information.

Construction Projects

Bed Knobs and a Broomstick

My friend Dan Schkolnik inspired me. He has a wood lathe, and is very accomplished in its use. He offered to turn a nose cone for me. Who am I to decline such an offer? I wanted something worthy of his efforts, a nose cone clearly unusual: not just your normal conic or parabolic or ogive, but something really different. about something that looks kinda like a bed knob? Sure, that would be cool! (In wood turning parlance, it's a ball, a bead, and a half-bead.)

How about the rocket to go with such a nose cone? I toyed with some ideas, and came up with maybe just the right thing. See the construction and flight photo album for the results, and the Rocketworks blog for info (link will take you to the relevant entries, by tag).

Estes Klingong Battle Cruiser

Newest project is the Estes Klingon Battle Cruiser. Unlike Estes's USS Enterprise kit, it doesn't need an "atmospheric penetration probe" (i.e., body tube sticking out the front, to get a stable CP-CG relationship). It looks like it should be a nice flyer, and reports from other builders confirm that. Stay tuned to the construction blog!

Apogee Saturn V

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 11, we're building the Apogee Saturn V. Over five feet tall and more than 5½ inches in diameter (or, if you prefer, over 1½ meters and over 14 cm), this is a big, detailed kit. I've no idea how long it'll take me to build this rocket, but we'll record progress along the way.

Saturn V launch


I completed the rocket, and first flights were on Sunday, July 19, at NASA's Ames Research Center, as part of LUNAR's participation in NASA's Moonfest 2009. Two simply beautiful flights, on a G80-4T (which delay is no longer available for that single-use motor) and a G64-4W reload (thanks to Paul for lending me the case and building up the motor for me!). Cliff helped with preparing the rocket for its first launch: always good to have another set of eyes and brain double-checking something like this, and it was my first flight on anything bigger than an F motor.

For more flight pictures, click on the thumbnail to the left; see also those starting on page 5 of the construction log album.

4TNC—4 Tubes and a Nose Cone

As a brief diversion (well, parallel effort, really) to the Saturn V project, I'm building an odd variant on the standby nFNC designs: 4 tubes and a nose cone. Design file (RockSim) is available here, and here's the design and simulation packet; construction pictures, etc. coming.


In the fall of 2008, I was inspired, out of the blue, to build what's become a rather challenging rocket, that I'm calling Krystal, in honor of one of LUNAR's members daughters, with whom I work the registration desk that day. I've no idea just why I was inspired to design and build something like this, but it's certainly been an enjoyable challenge.


Krystal is a two-stage rocket, with a few slightly (or very) interesting features.

  1. The boster is BT-80 with a 24mm motor mount; the sustainer is BT-60 with an 18mm motor mount.
  2. The booster is about 20cm long.
  3. Both stages have parachute recovery.

It's that last feature that's particularly interesting to me. Flying at Ames Reseaerch Center located at Moffett Federal Airfield, many of the rockets land on a hard concrete airport ramp. Concrete's not very forgiving, and I expected that tumble recovery (often used for low power boosters) would damage the booster quickly. Indeed, you can combine a little skill, luck, and Kentucky windage and get a landing in the grass between the ramp and runway 32L/14R, but that gets particularly difficult with a booster. The challenge, then, became designing a booster that would land gently.

The solution I'm using is to attach a pair of pods to the booster. Each pod will contain a parachute, and an auxilliary motor with a delay charge. The primary purpose of the aux motors will be to deploy the parachutes.

As to the length of the booster and the transition between the BT-80 and the BT-60, I drilled a slightly tapering hole through a balsa transition section to accommodate the change in diameter and motor size. There are four small holes drilled in the transition to allow pressure to vent during the blow-through and ignition sequence.

The plan is for Krystal's maden flight to be Saturday, January 17, 2009. The rocket's built and ready.

Krystal on the pad

Update: nominal flight. (In other words, everything worked just as it was supposed to!) To celebrate the success, here's the RockSim design file (I recommend you "Save As" instead of just clicking on the link).