Model Rockets: a blast from the past

One of my favorite hobbies when I was a kid was launching model rockets. I had a whole fleet of them, ranging from the four-inch Mosquito to the six-foot Mean Machine. In my teen years when I discovered the personal computer, I even wrote a database program to keep track of rocket flights. I advertised the software in a rocketry magazine and sold exactly three copies, if my memory serves me right.

Unfortunately, during my teenage years I lost interest in the rockets and in my early twenties I sold everything: rockets, launch pad, controllers, and parts. I even parted with a half-built three-engine cluster rocket. Sometime later I got married and started a family. Now, a few years later, I have three young boys in my family who would love to have all those rockets. This summer, I decided it was time to get back into the hobby.

As it turns out, the world of model rockets has changed bit since my childhood. First, there seem to be more companies making and selling model rockets. Back then it was mostly just Estes, but now there are many others. Secondly, there are some cool things you can do with rockets nowadays that were either impossible or expensive before. For example, launching one with a on-board video camera.

To get back into model rockets, the first thing I purchased was an Astra III Starter Set. This is from a company called Quest, and it contains everything that you need to get started. Unlike most of the similarly priced kits from Estes, this one even comes with a pack of engines. The launch equipment in this kit is very similar to what you’d get from Estes. Both the launch controller and the launch pad look almost identical. I did find that the launch pad was better-built than the Estes pad I used to have. Instead of the very rigid plastic, the Quest launch pad uses plastic that flexes slightly. This makes it easier to get the legs in and out, and the thing is almost indestructible.

The second thing I purchased was a key-chain spy cam. These things don’t give the highest quality video, but they are very cheap and light. Because of those qualities, they are commonly used for in-flight video on model rockets.

The videos below show the construction process, plus two flights from the on-board camera. I also recorded some instructional videos showing you how to use the camera (the manual is horrible), how to make your own recovery wadding, and how to design a stable rocket. Enjoy!