This is a very nice 1:6 scale model of the Nike-Apache sounding rocket suitable for E motors up through small HPR motors. It's a hefty and strong kit capable of surviving almost anything you throw at. This was my L1 cert rocket.
The parts list:
It's a lot of components and a very good price--I got mine from Apogee for about 60 bucks. The components are high quality and fit in well. However, there are four recommendations I'd like to make. First, buy a chute protector. A 9" Kevlar® sheet, available from Madcow or Apogee for about 10 bucks, is far easier than using lots of wadding or risking the nice chute. Second, get a 1/4" Kevlar® shock cord and use the elastic to hold up your pants, as I was told. Third, epoxy clay makes this a lot easier to assemble. Finally, if you want versatility or you're planning on flying it with HPR motors, then buy a pair of rail buttons and epoxy them on. A buck is definitely worth the option of using a rail. I plan to add this soon.
The instructions are very high quality. The B&W line drawings are not quite Estes quality but are easily up to the task. This is a large skill level 4 rocket; builders should have experience both in building scale models and mid-power rockets. I am about a skill level 3+ builder (I can take anything Estes can throw at me) and have built a handful of mid-power rockets, and this still tested my skills at every turn. It's perhaps the first kit I've ever built that I do not think could be built by a dedicated newbie and requires previous rocketry experience.
The assembly sequence is fairly logical and conventional. It starts with the motor mount and Nike fin can, then progresses noseward with the transition, Apache fin can, and finally the nose section. The one tricky bit is the aft centering ring. The instructions say to slip it on without glue, epoxy in the retention rod, and then remove the ring. This allows you to make internal fillets for strength and scale purposes, but it means that it's difficult to create fillets on both sides of the aft centering ring. I chose to glue both centering rings to the motor tube at the same time and put very strong epoxy clay fillets on the joints and settle for external fillets on the fins. I intended this from the outset to handle HPR motors, mostly the Aerotech 29/180-240 system which I already own, so I figured that extra strength in the motor mount was worth more than a little extra strength in already strong fins.
I built it pretty much stock with a few minor modifications. Building was well covered in the other reviews, so I'll focus on my personal experiences.
I've seen comments about the balsa nose cone shattering, so I soaked it in three layers of wood glue and so far it's survived a ceiling fan, my ceiling, 2 doorframes, a sod farm at 300fps, and a landing where the entire forward section was supported by the very tip of the nose cone. It's got a few small dents, but nothing more.
I put the described 1/8" knife edge on the Apache fins, which took almost an hour total, but I declined to put a knife-edge on the Nike fins to make it absolutely scale.
The 29mm motor mount tube provided is nice and thick walled, but only 7" long, so if you're planning to use longer 29mm cases I'd recommend you get a longer tube. Also, some SU motors with paper labels may be rather tight in the tube.
The kit requires cutting 8 fin slots; 4 of which are approximately 3" long and 4 approximately 4" long. While these should not be particularly difficult for an experienced builder used to working with thick wall tubes, I struggled a bit with cutting them with a hobby knife. I eventually settled for using the cutter wheel of a Dremel tool, which worked very well.
The transition was initially a very loose fit. This ended up being a problem later (see flight details). I did my usual balsa coating sequence of adding three layers of wood glue smeared on. This smoothed it excellently for painting and protected it from the ejection charge with no filler and minimal sanding.
The kit requires you to mist two cardstock wraps to soften them, then wrap them around the body tubes, and dry overnight. The Nike wrap went on very well and posed no problem with cutting the fin slots. The Apache wrap was a bit harder due to the smaller tube. They're made of paper and don't sand smooth very well. I would recommend a coat of wood glue or CA before you sand and prime.
The kit requires fillets on all 8 fins plus the launch lugs. I recommend epoxy clay cause it's so easy. Did I mention I love this stuff?
In order to insert the antennae, you must drill 4 small holes in the Apache tube and thread the antennae wires through. This is a pretty difficult task and requires good lighting and lots of coordination. The antennae get bent easily and necessitate extra care. If you aren't intending this as a perfect scale model, it might be a smart decision not to attach them.
The instructions do not call for a vent hole, but putting a 1/8" vent hole just below the transition would be a very good idea to keep the pressure even. On HPR motors, this thing can move pretty fast and the pressure difference could theoretically cause an early ejection.
The Apache section has a 5oz lead weight that gets epoxied into it for stability. Make sure to get it nice and solid as you do not want it rattling around and making your nice rocket thrash all over the sky.
The instructions call for the large transition to be glued to the Apache section near the end of construction. However, since it is painted white like the Nike section below it, I masked and painted it with the Nike and glued it on later.
One final thought: due to the retention rod the rocket will not stand up on its own and the antennae and nose cone mean you've got to be careful. I recommend having a cradle to put it on or else building a large stand to hold it upright.
One-half point taken off for the loose transition and not having pre-cut fin slots, which would make construction rather easier.
Finishing was pretty easy. The body tubes were nice and smooth, and I didn't even bother to fill in the spirals. I put 3 coats of primer on the entire rocket, two thick coats and a thin one to fill in gaps. The primer was a nice gray and I didn't have any gray paint, so I just left the primer for the gray spots.
The stock paint scheme given was white for the Nike body, fins, and transition, gray Apache body and nose, silver on the Apache fin can and in two spots near the nose, and a ring of black on the small transition to the Apache fin can. I chose to go with the actual scale colors (according to Rockets of the World, 4th ed.) and painted the Nike fins red, but the rest of the paint scheme was the same.
Three layers of white, then three of red on the Nike fins left it looking very sharp, and the contrast between the silver and gray on the Apache body is very subtle and cool. I painted the tiny black ring by hand. Make sure not to get spray paint on the retainer rod.
There are three decals on two sheets, both large and colorful. These are sticky-type, not waterslide. There are two for opposite sides of the Nike and one for the Apache. When finished and with the coat of clear gloss I put on, it's absolutely awesome-looking.
Construction Rating: 4 out of 5
Motors recommended by the manufacturer are F40-4W, G33-7J, and G64-10W reloads and F50-6T, G40-7W, and G80-10T SU motors. (I assume this is the new G80.) I bought my kit from Apogee, and they recommend everything from an E18-4W reload up through the G80 with mostly short to medium delays. It's fairly forgiving so a delay time that's a second or three of will not be a big deal, especially if you use a Kevlar® shock cord.
I would personally recommend pretty much any 29mm motor that fits so long as you build it with epoxy and use a Kevlar® cord.
I built this for my L1 certification, and unfortunately I did not have a chance to flight test it on an F before my cert flight. In retrospect, this was a very bad idea.
The smallest H reload I could find at NERRF was an H165R-M from Hangar 11. I loaded it up, and packed the chute inside the chute protector. The RSO approved the flight and I got the paperwork filled out.
The motor ignited quickly and it roared off the pad on the bright red flame. At burnout, it all fell apart. It seems that since the transition was loose, and possibly because I neglected to put in a vent hole, the heavy lead weight pulled the forward (Apache) section off the draggy lower (Nike) section at burnout, at approximately 600ft AGL and 600fps. The chute, packed to unroll fast as the medium delay simmed out as somewhat long, opened, but did not snap despite the huge forces. Instead, the shock cord snapped right at the parachute knot, and the chute, chute protector, Nike section, and Apache section rained down in 4 separate pieces.
The parachute was unharmed--a very high-quality chute, for sure--and the chute protector was nearby. I next found the Nike section, which was remarkably unharmed. It seems the large fins allowed in to glide down on its side, landing it (relatively) softly in the sod. Finally I found the Apache section. The fins and transition had made it perfectly stable, and the nose was buried 15 inches deep in the sod. I could not physically pull it out, and Bob from Hangar 11 was nice enough to lend me a shovel. The main body of the Apache came out easily. The nose cone required a bit of digging.
With a bit of encouragement from several of the CATO members, I got to work. I scraped dirt off the nose cone, and Al Gloer helped me put epoxy on to glue it back on. He also provided a Kevlar® shock cord to replace the failed elastic. I used a pair of dental shears to drill a small vent hole and put lots of masking tape to shim the transition to a tight fit. After getting my case cleaned by Carson's Motor Cleaning and assembling a new reload, again an H165R-M, I tried again.
This time, it held together at burnout and ejected about 2 seconds past at around 1700 feet. It descended fairly slowly and hit nose cone first, which amazingly did not break it. There was no damage, and I am now Junior Level 1 certified!
The shock cord provided is 11' of 3/16" elastic. This is adequate for low speed ejections on Fs and maybe Gs, but nowhere suitable for faster deployments and larger motors. It is well worth the money to get 5 or 10 feet of tubular nylon or Kevlar®. The shock cord mount is solid--steel wire attached to the motor mount with a small quicklink for easy separation of the two parts. The forward end of the shock cord is anchored solidly into the balsa transition with a plastic screw and metal screw eye.
The chute provided is a 28" red ripstop nylon chute. It's top-of-the-line, bright, visible color, very sturdy, and circle-shaped with 8 shroud lines. It's a bit overkill as descent is very slow, on the order of 12 to 15 fps, and a 24" chute would be better for smaller fields and windy days.
One point taken off for the loose transition causing premature separation if not prevented, and for the weak shock cord.
Flight Rating: 4 out of 5
I absolutely love this rocket. It's strong, good-looking, and not too expensive (I got mine for $60 from Apogee). Plus, as my certification rocket, it'll always be special.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5