We’ve added Model Rockets to the store – they are a flying toy and also many of the groups that we work with for other products use Model Rockets for educational purposes.

Since I hadn’t been near a model rocket since 2nd or 3rd grade (a long time ago!) I decided to take one out of stock, assemble it and fly it.  I picked a Estes 1491 Taser Launch Set as the launch sets include the rocket kit, launch pad and launch controller and offer great savings over buying those items separately. Even with the launch set you will still need to purchase AA batteries (for the launch controller), appropriate Estes Engines for the rocket (one per flight) and Estes Recovery Wadding  to keep the parachute from burning up in side the rocket during flight.

The Taser Model Rocket kit is from Estes’ e2x (easy to assemble) line and was really easy to assemble and no painting was required. The directions were clear and the only thing I did differently was use CA Glue to speed assembly time. The directions called for plastic glue and white glue – these would work fine but need longer than the CA to dry.

One of the plastic fins had to be filed slightly before it would fit into its slot properly and I had a little problem getting the fin decals positioned properly.  All in all assembly took about an hour – using plastic glue and white glue would add several hours of drying time to the process.

I also spent a few minutes putting together the included launch pad – a big step up from the straightened coat hanger and wood block that I remember using as a kid. You can even angle the launch rod from vertical to compensate for wind conditions at the launch site. You need a to add a loop of masking tape to the launch rod about two inches from the blast deflector – this holds the rocket a few inches off the blast deflector to make it easier to attach the wire leads from the controller to the ignitor. After that I put fresh batteries in the launch controller and tested it to make sure it was ready to do its thing.

At the launch site I installed an engine, ignitor, ignitor plug, installed the recovery wadding, packed the parachute, placed the rocket on the launch rod, attached the wire leads from the controller to the ignitor and gave the assembled kids a lecture on rocket safety:

  • Stay back at least 15 feet during launch.
  • Never aim rocket at anyone and always launch vertically or within 30 degrees of vertical.
  • Use blast deflector (included) under rocket when launching.
  • Make sure launch area is of sufficient size and well clear of any power lines
  • If the rocket doesn’t launch wait 60 seconds before approaching rocket to trouble shoot.
  • Keep cap (included) on launch rod when rocket is not ready to launch.
  • Keep safety button for controller in pocket until ready to launch (this avoids kids pressing buttons before everything is ready to go.

Once the lecture and negotiations on who would press the launch button were complete we did the countdown, my son pressed the launch button, there was a slight pause and the rocket launched. It climbed to about 500 feet (guessing), reached apogeee (peak of flight) the engine popped, the parachute deployed and the rocket floated slowly back to Earth. It landed in the road (not a busy road) about 200 feet from where it was launched.

It took about 5 minutes for it to be ready for its next flight. Used engine was removed and discarded, new engine was installed, new recovery wadding was installed, parachute was repacked, ignitor and ignitor plug was installed and back on the launch pad. To avoid landing in the road again I angled the launch rod slightly more into the wind. The second launch worked the same as the first (except my Son’s friend pushed the launch button) and the rocket landed about 100 feet away from the launch pad.

After two flights the rocket showed no wear and looked ready to fly many more times. The blast deflector on the launch pad was scorched, underscoring the importance of using it and being safe with the rockets.

All in all it was a lot of fun and I was impressed with how smoothly everything worked.