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During the “space race” era of the 1950s and 60s, interest in rockets grew rapidly. Young amateur scientists eagerly built their own homemade rockets, using metallic airframes and a dangerous mix of propellants. Accidents and injuries were inevitable. Model rocketry answered the call for a safe, fun, and educational alternative to such risky experimentation.
Today, you can purchase model rocket kits and supplies from brands like Estes rockets right here from Tower Hobbies. The variety is astounding. Simple starter model rocket kits — highly recommended for newcomers to the hobby — often can be ready to launch as quickly as 30 minutes after you buy them. Model rocketry has also developed into a sport which allows hobbyists to compete with each other in spot landing contests and design events. And the safety of model rocketry is carefully guarded by the National Association of Rocketry. This independent organization of hobbyists sets the safety standards for the hobby — standards which rocketry manufacturers voluntarily support.
Unlike those model rockets pieced together by early amateurs, today’s model rocket kits are constructed of very safe materials, such as cardboard, plastic and balsa wood. They’re fueled by rocket engines. These engines can be used only once and are manufactured to strict safety specifications. The hobbyist NEVER needs to mix, pack, or work with explosives or propellants. Engine sizes range from “1/4A,” the least powerful, to “G” — which offers enough thrust to lift a six-foot rocket AND a hefty payload! Check out our selection of Estes rocket engines in a variety of sizes.
Though each model rocket engine lasts for just one flight, the rockets themselves may be flown over and over again. You simply replace the used engine with a fresh one. Model rockets typically carry a parachute, streamer, or other recovery device that returns them to Earth gently for repeated flights.
If you’ve never launched a model rocket before, choose a model rocket kit or starter set. These usually include your rocket, parachute, reusable launch pad and electronic launch controller, rocket engines with igniters, and recovery wadding. With a starter set, the only additional purchases you’re likely to need for your first rocket flights are glue and batteries.
Engines and wadding can be used only once, but your rocket can be flown repeatedly. Each model rocket kit includes a list of recommended engines to guide you when buying additional engines. At Tower Hobbies, we carry a selection of Estes rockets, engines, and wadding to meet your needs.
When launched, a model rocket accelerates to speeds of several hundred miles per hour. It can fly from several hundred feet to more than 1,000 feet high. Therefore, you need a clear, unobstructed site to launch your models.
Ask the staff at your local hobby shop or park department if your area has an official model rocket flying field. If not, look for a location that’s free from trees, power lines, dry brush and grass, traffic and buildings. How large should your flying site be? That varies, depending on the size of engine you use. Refer to the National Association of Rocketry’s launch site dimensions chart for recommended launch site dimensions. A football field may work, but always obtain permission before using any area as a flying site.
When is the best time to launch your rocket? Early morning or early evening are usually best, because there’s little wind. Do not launch your model rocket if the wind speed exceeds 10 mph.
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