When model rocket launches go wrong

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/06/17/when-model-rocket-launches-go.html


I don’t see why they have so many failed attempts.

I mean, it’s not…

Carry on.


When I was a kid in 6th or 7th grade we had to make and launch model rockets for science class. I chose this speedy little thing that was only three or four inches tall. However, everyone told me that in the past those rockets always went missing because they would fly off too far to be found. Not mine! I decided to tie string to mine so I could recover it. It went up 20 feet, the string got hung up in the grass and the rocket fly down into a group of kids, still burning its fuel.

Good times.


Well, he’s not flying regular old model rockets - it looks like he is developing a thrust vectoring system for model rockets.

Here’s his site.

It says his setup is good for up to 40 Newtons of total thrust, which is an E motor. But if you really want to see good launches (and occasional mishaps), I highly encourage you to seek out a high-power rocketry club - high power starts at H and goes up (ha!) from there. Each successive letter doubles the impulse, so H is 8x an E, or up to 320N.


This just mostly shows me where not to park my car.


This seems really, uncomfortably close to populated areas.


My last rocket was a science assignment in 8th grade. After numerous rocket builds and a couple of state fair grand champion ribbions I was over it and decided to build big and simple. 3 stage D motor beast. Just a tube with fins and big-ass motors. The fins were hot glued on (mistake #1) and the wood grain was parallel to the body of the rocket (mistake #2), there was no paint or finishing of any sort on the fins (mistake #3). These three things combined with a mass no where near commensurate with the power employed caused a rapid failure. Upon launch the fins either fell off due to the hot glue melting or sheared off due to the forces being in-line with the unreinforced wood grain. It was then straight into the sod (thankfully) as the motors burned off.


Some of the annotations are priceless; well worth a second viewing devoted to reading them! :rocket:


I’ll take this over amateur fireworks any day.




Are those apartments, offices, … ?

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If nothing else, they’re getting a lot of experience in writing failure analysis reports.


OK, I was wondering why it was this hard until I realized what they were trying to do. Then, the drone air launch part came up. Even with the Estes kid friendly rockets that would be hard to pull off.

Launching with multiple Go camera is pretty ambitious too. One of the ham radio club guys built a real-time radio relay video camera that would fit in a small rocket, but that was super light.

Most of those incidents are a friendly reminder to always keep the center of pressure below the center of gravity, although if he’s testing approaches to thrust vectoring that won’t always be the problem. This is way cool.


Not Oneboxing.


I’m sure they had some successes over the years, but I like the story of just seeing the progressive failures. “Small rocket didn’t work? I’ll add a bigger motor! When that fails I’ll a second stage, then more cameras! Those all crashed? I know, I’ll try launching it from a drone!”


Yeah, at first glance I just thought that these were poorly designed, with no real fins. But when I realized what he is trying to do… fins wouldn’t work, because the rocked is moving too slowly.

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Is this guy incapable of building rockets with fins? Is he unaware of the center of pressure/center of gravity thing?

One of my co-rocketeers from our rocket club in Southern California from the early 1970s is a well-known high power rocket (dare I say) kook who has angered rocketeers the world over. He seemed to be such a nice young kid at the time.

I haven’t flown a rocket since then. I loved the hobby, but dang it, I was never very GOOD at it.

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I played Also Sprach Zarathustra instead of Blue Danube. Seemed more fitting.


WHILE WE’RE HERE. Can someone recommend a starter project / kit for tweens who appreciate mostly-not-exploding rocket hijinks and want stuff to do outdoors? Are the Estes kits of my youth still the way to go?


Given most of these appear to have gimbal engines and guidance computers (!!!), I think they are raising the level of starting difficulty for fun and upvotes.