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Model Rocketry
Saturn V

I am no longer active in this hobby for the foreseeable future. 
I will no longer maintain or update the website, but I will leave it accessible to the web for as long as possible (years).

 

Saturn V

My Collection
HP-01
Test Equipment
Model Rocketry

Bryan's Old Computers

 

My second oldest hobby

Pictured at right is me with three of my model rockets: The Estes Starship Vega (center), the Patriot (right), and a rocket of my own design on the left -- I never gave names to any rockets of my own design, they didn't last long enough for sentimentality! The photo date is probably late August of '71 (picture developed in Nov), and I had just turned ten. This is the only photo I have of any of my rockets from that time. Mom was not (and is not) a photographer. :)

The long story

The year was 1971, and I was just short of my tenth birthday. We had just moved to a new town, and I was friendless and bored. While browsing at a local drug store with my mother, I found something I had never seen before: a three pack of model "rocket" engines. The cost was $1.19, and I had a dollar. I begged mom for the difference, and the engines were mine. Mom was always good about stuff like that, in spite of having very little money!

When I opened the pack, I expected to find a fuse at the end of each engine like fireworks I had played with before, but instead there was just a hole. Somehow the pack I received was missing the igniters, and it didn't immediately occur to me the idea of electric ignition. If I had seen igniters, I would have figured out what to do fairly quickly, as electronics was my other hobby. 
 

me-n-rockets_002.jpg (2790841 bytes)
A boy and his rockets--me!
Same place in 2004

I tried unsuccessfully several times to light one off using fuses from firecrackers, but finally gave up. In frustration, I ended up setting one on edge in a fire. It took time, but it worked! The power it took off with was startling, and I knew right away I had found a new love. By the next day I had reasoned out the electric ignition idea. I used a small gage bare wire inside the engine, connected to a lamp cord, which was in turn plugged into a switched AC outlet. Throwing the switch set off the engine, and it flipped and flew around the yard. Coool. (Uh, by the way, don't try this at home kiddies--I am surprised to have lived through my childhood! --Very surprised.)

The next iteration was rocket powered bottle rockets. After a few shots, I had a dozen neighbor kids hanging around the house at all times. Even though I had been in the neighborhood less than a week, my house was rocket central, and I had a crew. By the end of the first week, and after about a dozen engines, we had our first successful straight rocket flight. It went about thirty feet in the air, crashed into the ground, and then blew fire out the top (there was no capsule, just an open end of the paper tube). This was the first time it had occurred to us the possibility of a parachute ejection charge built into the engine.

To make a long story even longer, by the end of that first month, we had rockets flying many hundreds of feet into the air, floating down for soft landings into the hands of any number of neighborhood kids. Every launch had at least twenty spectators, and usually more. The biggest challenge was the capsule--what to use? We tried everything, even small light bulbs (they worked really well, but usually broke upon landing). Eventually, we settled on the standard hand-made paper cone. The photo above shows my homemade model with paper nose cone.

Funny thing happened. After all our work re-inventing the wheel, the local drug store having sold maybe a hundred packages of rocket engines, decided to open a whole isle of rocketry related items, including kits! My first kit was the "Quasar". It was beautiful, everything I needed was in the box! It flew within an hour of purchase, and was lost within two! Every dime I earned from my yard care kid business went into rockets. I bought every kit the drugstore sold at one time or another, and I designed and built dozens of my own models. None were sacred, all were flown until they were lost or destroyed. It was one of the best summers of my life.

I still build and fly rockets occasionally, and more often than that, I try to get my kids interested in the hobby. Now and then, they will build and fly something with me, but never without me putting the idea in the air. They just never seem to catch the bug. I don't get it!! Oh well, computer games rule, I guess. :(

Be sure to check out the Saturn V link at the top of the page!

 


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Copyright 2008 Bryan's Old Computers
Last modified:
October 16, 2009