|Since I was eleven, I've been building and flying model rockets. These are
small rockets, made of paper, wood, and plastic that are propelled by pre-manufactured
rocket motors. They are multi-use (at least I intend to get more than one flight from
them!) and for that purpose they are fitted with a recovery device of some sort to allow
them to fall back to the ground without breaking themselves or anything else!
rockets were limited by law to under one pound total weight and were limited as to power.
In the 80's, however, changing regulations and technologies made larger rockets
available, along with larger and more complex rocket motors. These developments greatly
increased adult participation in the hobby. Yet, for the most part, the high power rockets
are still built the same way that the smaller rockets are built.
||The MegaAlpha is a 5.5 to 1 scale up of the classic beginner's
kit, the Alpha from Estes. It was built in 1991 from LOC 5.5" tubing and parts. The
fins are a sandwich of model airplane plywood between balsa planks, wrapped in 2oz.
fiberglass, to achieve light weight, durability, and scale thickness (about 1/2").
liftoff the model weighs only seven pounds. It flies to an altitude of approximately
1500ft using an Aerotech I211 reload motor (that's about 50 pounds of thrust over two
seconds) and is recovered under a five foot canopy parachute.
I built the airframe, Dave Gawlik painted it with automobile paints, and Romie Lucas
made the scaled-up decals.
On its last flight in March of 1992, it managed to land 30 feet up in a tree a half
mile away. Dave Gawlik shimmied up the tree and retrieved the model, but it sustained some
paint damage on the way down. During the years of storage it has developed more minor
problems with its finish (paint shrinkage, mainly), so it doesn't look quite as good as it
Above: Me and the
MegaAlpha with Vern Estes,
founder of Estes Industries.
Right: The MegaAlpha takes off!
|Here are sources of information about the hobby: