Dave's Rocketry Page

(This page is still under construction.)

Early interest

While growing up, I was very interested in rockets (and all other kinds of flying devices). I read and re-read the encyclopedia articles about them. The space race between the USSR and USA also made rockets newsworthy at that time.

I tried to make tiny rockets with aluminum foil wrapped around one or more match heads, but they didn't do much more than jump a little bit. (Recently I found a YouTube video showing a match head rocket flying up to 60 feet!) I remember trying to ignite a small amount of ammonium nitrate fertilizer with a match -- but nothing happened. I probably didn't realize it needed to be ground into a very fine powder and mixed with fuel, and that it needed a very high temperature igniter. As a result, I was fortunate to escape the injuries some inquisitive young boys experienced.

When I saw the ads from Estes in Popular Science magazine, I sent Estes 25 cents for their model rocketry catalog -- but they returned it because they didn't sell to Canada. As far as I can tell now, model rocketry wasn't legal in Canada then, so local hobby stores probably didn't sell rocket kits or motors. (A few years ago I read that although model rocketry became legal in Canada in April 1966, it had very onerous restrictions placed on it that weren't lifted until the latter half of the 1970's.)

Once I started learning calculus in grade 11 and 12 math, I started to use it to calculate how high and fast a rocket would fly with a certain launch mass and propellant of a certain specific impulse. But I don't think I knew how to calculate air drag, so probably just ignored its effects.

Interest rekindled

In October 1996 my wife and I went to Walt Disney World in Florida for our honeymoon. We took a one day side trip to the Kennedy Space Center. We went on a G-force ride, saw displays of historic rockets (I was disappointed that the Saturn V was absent for refurbishing), and saw Space Shuttle Columbia sitting on Pad 39B (but didn't get close to it).

At my 30 year high school reunion in 1999 one or two of the "girls" from my class asked if I had built any rockets, as they remembered me designing them in grades 11-12! This re-planted the seed of interest in building (model) rockets, although I didn't do anything about it for a while. My wife and I went to see the movie October Sky based on the book Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, and she later gave me a copy of the book and a copy of the movie on VHS tape as a Christmas present.

One day in 2000, while watching TV, I stumbled upon a program on The Learning Channel called "Extreme Machines", which that day featured the episode "Rocketeers" (season 4, episode 2). It mentioned the Tripoli Rocket Association (TRA), and showed some of their high power rocket launches, many of which failed spectacularly! They also talked about the X-Prize. This program was probably the real trigger that re-ignited (pun intended) my interest in rockets, as these were not just little toy rockets, but impressive machines, yet built by hobbyists, not corporations or governments.

I started searching the Internet for rocket related information, printed some out, took notes on other stuff, downloaded some files. One was a copy of the book How to Design, Build and Test Small Liquid-Fuel Rocket Engines. I ordered the Rockets of the World poster from Omega and hung it in my cubicle at work. Searching the Internet for a local model rocketry club, I found that the BC Rocket Club (BCRC) had an upcoming high power launch.

Start of my rocketry hobby

I attended the BCRC's (and my very first ever) rocket launch near Pemberton BC on November 18, 2001.

The very next day I started designing a model rocket, and also started designing a tiny recording accelerometer for it. I asked for a model rocket kit and launch set for Christmas, ordered model rocket building supplies from Apogee Components, and bought the How to Make Amateur Rockets book/video/software package from CP Technologies (they were still selling to Canada at the time). I met someone who had a copy of an old book, Rocket Manual for Amateurs by Capt. Bertrand R. Brinley, so borrowed it.

By June 9, 2002 I had finished building two small rockets, and attended a BCRC launch, where I finally flew model rockets for the first time in my life.

In February 2003 I discovered the very low power MS5534A barometer module (air pressure sensor) that had a digital interface. I started designing a tiny barometric recording altimeter that would fit into the 13mm tubes my tiny rockets used, since no altimeter on the market at that time was small enough. The prototype first flew on June 29, 2003 at the Rock Lake launch in southern Alberta.




Building and flying model rockets ......

Electronics for model rockets, such as barometric altimeters, etc. ......


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Last revised 2020-Dec-05 11:13 PST.
Copyright 2020 by David C. Wiens.

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