This is the Estes Oracle Digital Video rocket. It represents multiple firsts not only for Estes but for all of low power rocketry. This rocket uses 24mm D motors and contains a micro digital video camera in the nose cone powered by a single AAA battery. Also, the Oracle uses a quality nylon chute instead of a plastic Estes one.
The Oracle kit contains 2 body tubes. The first is already attached to the 4 plastic fins and motor mount and the second is where the shock cord is attached. The shock cord is rubber instead of the elastic material previously used by Estes. Also included in the package is the digital video nose cone. The camera is pre-installed and the lens faces outward with a shrouded mirror to reflect the image. That way, you get a perspective as if the camera was looking downward. The camera is fairly high quality and is complete with a beeper and LED timer to let you know when the camera starts after pushing the "start" button. Movies from the camera are downloaded into your PC via a USB interface cable that plugs into the nose.
Since the Oracle is an E2X kit, it requires virtually no assembly. All you have to do is glue the body tubes together and install the shock cord and parachute. The top body tube is joined to the bottom one with a plastic coupler already installed on the lower tube. As for the shock cord, it is a normal Estes paper mount.
No finishing is required for this rocket and good quality decals are pre-applied to the fins and nose cone. The body tubes are wrapped in a good looking red and silver covering with the name "ORACLE" printed down the length of the rocket.
Construction Rating: 5 out of 5
The recommended motors for this rocket are the Estes 24mm D12-3 and D12-5. I used the latter for my flights. To prepare this rocket, the D motor is inserted into the motor mount and locked in with a plastic motor retention ring, similar to other Estes RTF rockets. Then, the wadding and parachute is packed as you would with any other rocket. Launching this rocket is somewhat different than others. You must turn on the camera, then hit the start button about 15 seconds before launch. An audible beeper and flashing LED signify when the camera is activated and ready for launch. I flew my rocket at NERRF, the Northeast Regional Rocket Festival. It flew straight and stable to about 600 feet, exactly what Estes says. Then the rocket arched over and the parachute ejected. After a fairly soft landing with the nylon chute, the nose cone is plugged in to a PC and downloaded with the included the software. The video quality was better than I expected and covered the entire flight. I was only able to do 2 flights as my camera battery was running low after a long recovery walk. Plus, I was out of D12s!
The Oracle's flight recovery is very good. It uses a nylon chute and rubber shock cord for maximum strength of the recovery system. The only downside to the flight recovery is the landing is a bit fast, probably due to the heavier design for a 24mm rocket.
Flight Rating: 4 out of 5
This rocket is a great, quality kit. Here are some pros and cons about the design, construction, and flight characteristics.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5