Saturday, March 29, 2008

Post-Flight Debriefing

Pre-Launch Briefing, Launch, and Flight

Test Flight 2

Thomas Edison tried and failed almost two thousand times to create a working filament for his light bulb. When he was asked about it, Edison said, "I didn't fail. I discovered two thousand ways how NOT to make a light bulb.
I needed to only find one way to make it work."

My first test of a small but high-powered rocket was a failure.

I will post a video pretty soon about my second test flight of my home designed and built rocket which I did this morning.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Old Man Chimes in...

Zechariah's Pop (Dad) here...

To my great delight, I found online the 1970 Estes Model Rocket catalog. This is the very same catalog I eagerly ordered from as a ten and eleven year old boy using my paper route money. Some of the prices appear to have risen about ten-fold between then and now.

The first rocket I bought and built was the "V2". I was very worried about losing the rocket, so I put in a very weak engine. The rocket went up about 30 feet, then back down, and the parachute deployed a few seconds after the rocket hit the ground. My brother, several neighborhood boys, and my father laughed.

The next rocket I bought and launched was the "Astron Streak". I put in the strongest engine the rocket could take, a C6-7, and launched it. The rocket soared out of sight in a split second, and, as nearly as I could tell, did not come back down. I found it about a month later, in a neighbor's yard, rain-soaked and soggy.

The next rocket I built was a "Cherokee-D". I was very excited about this rocket, since it took the most powerful engine Estes swold back then. We lauched it in a huge schoolyard in Burnsville, Minnesota that was 2.5 square miles in area. There was virtually no ground-level wind.

Nevertheless, the rocket roared up about two thousand feet, where apparently there was a fair amount of wind. The parachute deployed, and the rocket drifted strongly laterally as it descended. We chased it about a mile and a half, and it disappeared into a grove of trees. It is probably still there, some 38 years later.

In the Fall of 1971 I had started spending my money on other things, such as baseball cards. Then in January of 1972 we moved from Minnesota to Virginia, and my interests diverged further.

I was, nonetheless "bitten by the model rocketry bug" way back in that summer of 1970, and the hobby re-emerged in my life in the early mid-1990's when I got some rockets for my four older children, launching them ona soccer field in Springfield, Virginia.

Then, z-rocketman came of age, and, well, here we are! :-)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I have just discovered that I am not the only rocketeer in the world who has had things go wrong with a launch!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


How can a boomerang be thrown from today into tomorrow returning from today into yesterday?

First correct response will win a DQ ice cream gift certificate redeemable after my next rocket launch, or any other time.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

First Flight: Home Designed and Home Built Rocket

I designed a rocket to be very small but that would take a very large and powerful engine. Also, instead of regular rocket fins, I installed small mini-engine sized tubes at the base of the rocket to serve as fins. I wondered how well this thing would fly.

Yesterday we went out to our favorite launch site, a nearby schoolyard, and conducted our first test flight.

We got set up, then came the countdown.

5-4-3-2-1 ! Liftoff!

The sleek, glossy black rocket came off the launch pad straight as an arrow, its D12-0 engine blasting away.

Within milliseconds, though, the rocket's straight-arrow flight turned into something that looked more like a wounded albatross trying to fly.

It went up about 40 feet before it turned completely on its side after a corkscrew ascent.

After that the engine ejected itself with a bang. The engine ejected because I designed this rocket for featherweight recovery, meaning it has no parachute or streamer device.

The rocket landed about 30 yards away, into a puddle with a splat.

We dried the rocket off, and now it's back to the drawing board for redesign. We need to figure out a way to make the rocket more stable and balanced.

We would like it to fly 4000 feet up next time, instead of 40.