Dave's Rocketry Page

(This page is still under construction.)

Early interest

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. 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 made into a fine powder and mixed with fuel, and that it needed a very high temperature igniter. (As a result, I escaped the injuries some inquisitive young boys experienced.)

In Popular Science I saw the ads from Estes, so sent them 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 model rocketry became legal in April 1966, but with very onerous restrictions 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 Florida for our honeymoon, to Walt Disney World. We took a one day side trip to the Kennedy Space Center to see the Space Shuttle launch pads, displays of historic rockets (but the Saturn V was absent for refurbishing), went on a G-force ride, etc. A Space Shuttle was at one of the pads, but we didn't get close to it.

At my 30 year high school reunion 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. Later that year my wife and I went to see the movie October Sky based on the book Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, and she gave me a copy of the book.

One day in 2000 while watching TV I stumbled upon a program on The Learning Channel called "Extreme Machines", which that day featured the "Rocketeers". This showed high power rocket launches (many of which failed spectacularly!), as well as the X-Prize. They mentioned the Tripoli Rocket Association. This program was probably the real trigger that re-ignited 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 computer club, I found that the BC Rocket Club (BCRC) had an upcoming high power launch.

Start of my rocketry hobby

On November 18, 2001 I attended their (and my very first ever) rocket launch. The next day I started planning to not only build rockets, but to design and build a tiny recording accelerometer for them. I asked for a model rocket kit for Christmas, ordered parts 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).

On 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 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. 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-Oct-17 22:32 PDT.
Copyright 2020 by David C. Wiens.

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