Archive for January, 2010

Card Carrying Rocketeer

It’s official, I’m on the road to certification (see membership card below). Now have my prerequisite covered. I opted to pursue this through the Tripoli Rocketry Association. San Diego has a local chapter, which is great as I expect to have many questions during this process and beyond.

There are three levels of expertise certification. I’m starting at level 0, however that is soon to change. Tentative plans to launch in March to get level 1. Tripoli sent me a membership handbook, that gives me some guidance.

Since I am still learning the difference between my nose cone from my motor, I am spending time reading, reading, and reading a ton of resources. The main book I am gnawing my way through is Modern High-Power Rocketry 2 by Mark Canepa. His website is and he is very responsive to questions.

In order to successful achieve level 1, I have to demonstrate the ability to launch and successfully recover a rocket with a H or I motor. Not to mention to assembly and launch preparation. I am currently narrowing down which rocket kits I want to work with for this phase of the adventure. Stay tuned.


Go Kitty Go heads out for first flight

The Plaster Blaster event November 6-8th was the perfect place for Go Kitty Go to make its debut. G was attempting the “President’s Challenge” to reach or exceed 20,000 feet with his     EM-SEM-FITY rocket that weekend, and if time permitted would show me the ropes of how to launch mine. I should explain that Plaster Blaster is held in Plaster City (not an actual city but a drywall factory area) nearest El Centro, about two hours east of San Diego. This trek is out to open desert to a designated launch area, which at best is not windy and only mildly hot.

The entire set-up is pretty intricate. People bring their campers, RVs, ATVs, etc to camp out for the weekend. Since I am high maintenance I drive in that morning. After having slept in a van in Yosemite before freezing the next night at the campground, I can say that now my idea of roughing it is a 3 star hotel. The more devoted rocketeers have vans, tents and several tables for prepping their projects, all safely tucked behind the launch field. My rocket did not require much prep beyond packing the recovery chute and building the motor. This is a picture of my rocket in the prep area.

Out in the launch field were 30+ launch pads, with the high power ones the furthest out. I was only flying a G motor so technically I was supposed to use the pee-wee or the model rocket pads. That is like sitting at the kids table at Thanksgiving. The pee-wee area is where all the boy scouts and other kids fly their rockets. I asked to fly mine on the mid-range high-power pads. After filling out my flight card it was time to set the rocket up on the launch rail and connect the igniter to the pad.

Now that Go Kitty Go was in ready position, I had to wait my turn for launch. While waiting, I saw one rocket burst into flames on its launch pad, and another launch but the recovery chute failed to open so it crashed violently to the ground. I was growing concerned that Go Kitty Go was all looks and no akshun. Finally it was my turn. When Frank announced my launch, people lined up in the viewing area to watch. Okay so they were already there but it sounded good.

It was perfect conditions for launch (clear with no wind).

I did not realize that I had to push the launch button, so I was able to see it take off but not get pictures. I substituted another shot to give you an idea of what it looked like. My flame was greenish. The first attempt at launch the igniter failed, so we had to replace it to try again. One rocket guru Mark Canepa says that this least expensive part (igniter)  is one of the most important. Now I get it.

Go Kitty Go went up about 3,000 feet before the yellow parachute emerged. The descent took about 10 minutes compared to the 15 second launch. If you squint you can see the tiny dot of the yellow chute.

Luckily it only traveled out a few hundred yards, so was easy to recover. Other than some dirt smudges, it was in great condition. With some new propellant ready to go again. G’s rocket traveled just over 20,000 feet and went three miles out. Now that it quite a trek to recover.

I was so happy Go Kitty Go had a successful launch and flight. Thanks G for your patience and humoring my moments of stupidity. Now I am researching what’s next for my level 1 certification.

My First Rocket – Aerotech Arreaux with a G76 motor

Inspired to build my own rocket, I ordered a rocket kit and waited for its arrival.  G recommended that I start with an intermediate rocket kit the Aerotech Arreaux so that I could fly with a G76 motor. The most powerful motor I could fly without certification. I was most excited about the decorative part.  Admittedly I was a bit concerned about my ability to build the rocket properly. After all assembly instructions and me are not a good pairing. My IKEA desk with the door installed backwards is proof of that.          

This what the rocket was supposed to look like according to the instructions.          

Arreaux (image courtesy of Aerotech Rocketry)


 Of course I painted it hot pink and black. Giving it a Hello Kitty Astronaut theme with ‘Go Kitty Go!’ lettering. Pink is definitely better! I love Hello Kitty and why not pink!         


"Go Kitty Go" sporting Hello Kitty Astronaut theme with pink & black colors


Learnings from my assembly experience: 1) read the instructions throughly several times before glueing or cutting anything 2) do not attempt assembly while watching tv at the same time 3) keep debonder on-hand as it is much easier to glue fingers to parts and each other than thought 4) work in an area free from disruptions, having to chase cat with o-ring in his mouth although amusing now was not at the time 5) painting is hard, actually quite maddening to get a smooth, drip-free surface.        


Go Kitty Go making its flight debut


 A beauty shot of Go Kitty Go. Yes it looks good, but will it fly?     

Launch of Adventures in Rocketry blog, come along for the ride

Several sychronicities lead me to starting this blog (friend’s encouragement, my desire to document my rocketry adventures, more time) with the final push being a Marketing via New Media course assignment to blog. I’m taking a sabbatical from working to acquire new marketing skillz, recoup my body/mind/spirit and to pursue many of my neglected hobbies and some newfound ones.

One of those newfound hobbies is high power rocketry. Wow, that’s an unusual hobby you may be thinking. That is exactly what I remarked to my friend G when he showed me pictures of his rockets and shared details of the launches. G also has his own blog hawtakshun for his complex rocketry projects. His passion about the topic is what really turned me on to rocketry. After a few treks out to the dry lakebeds in the desert areas, and watching the scene, I was enamored. I had rocket envy and wanted to fly my own beast.

Take a look at this video of some launches. The roar of the blast-offs and the different flame colors are my favorite part of the experience. G has patiently explained to me what chemical produces what color flame, admittedly I am easily distracted by shiny and colorful objects, so I cannot recall all the details right now. I do know that barium produces a green flame. I’ll figure it out and post it later. Now that should keep ya reading.

video courtesy by hawtakshun