Estes Nova Payloader

Estes - Nova Payloader {Kit} (1960) [2001-2004]

Contributed by Jon Revelle

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Manufacturer: Estes

Rocket Pic Brief:
A great level 1 3FNC with a clear payload tube & a rather aggressive looking fin design. It can be quickly assembled & finished in only a couple of days. It is also very easy to get it to look just like the picture on the packaging.

I picked this rocket up at a local crafts store. Regular price was ~$15 which seemed awfully high for a rocket with this simple a design but I happened to stumble upon the store when they had all of their rocketry stuff for 50% off.

Once I got it home & opened the packaging, all parts were intact & present however there was a slight compression along the length of the BT-50 tube so that it was ovalized that I was unable to initially see through the packaging. However, after installing the motor mount & gently rolling the tube on my workspace, it rounded back out. Plastic model cement is required to attach both nosecone inserts (one for the NC & the other for the clear plastic payload section). The fins are each constructed of 2 pieces of balsa. Estes graciously provides a template for assembling the fins & wax paper is recommended so that the fins can dry flat. The template is also nice for beginner rocketeers to properly glue the pieces together without error. Overall there were no surprises in assembly & I was able to build it quickly & completely in one evening.


  • Used Elmer's Fill 'n' Finish (thinned with water) to seal fins before attaching to main BT.
  • Swapped out the thin & always too short elastic shock cord for 4ft of 1/4in elastic.
  • Cut a 1.5in spill hole in the 12in chute & attached it to a snap swivel (to minimize drift & aid in removal, respectively).


  • Aggressive design & attractive clear plastic payload gimmick.
  • Typical easy-to-follow Estes instructions.
  • Well cut balsa (for an Estes kit).
  • Main BT has minimal if any spirals.

Assembles quickly (I bought it on a Wednesday night & had it completed in time for a Saturday morning flight).


  • Short shock cord...but you knew that.

The default paint scheme is red BT & fins with white NC. There are self-adhesive decals that you have to cut out yourself. I prefer the decals that are already cut out over these. I chose not to paint the NC since it was already white. I'd already sealed the fins so it was one coat of primer, a little sanding, & then Krylon red to finish. The spirals in the BT were so minimal that I didn't bother to fill them in since priming & finish coats easily filled them in.


  • Only one color of paint & the included decals are all that is required to get it to looking like what's shown on the packaging.


  • None.

Construction Rating: 4 out of 5

In case I ever wanted to use the payload section in the future, I chose to not glue the NC onto the payload section. The parts have a snug fit but for cheap insurance, I wrapped a piece of clear tape around the NC & payload to ensure the NC doesn't go anywhere unexpectedly. At least for the first flight, I chose not to have anything in the payload section. It's first flight was on a B6-4. This would be a good choice even for a small field but I'd be willing to bet you could get some serious altitude on a C6-5.


  • Long BT leaves plenty of room for prepping chute.
  • Wide fins provide a straight, stable flight.
  • Enough noseweight/length for safe flights on a C6-5 without a payload.


  • None.

Rocket was still gaining altitude but close to apogess when the ejection charge popped. A B6-6 might be a slightly better choice.

WHEN LAUNCHING WITHOUT A PAYLOAD ON A WINDY DAY, would recommend cutting a small (1in to 1.5in) spill hole and/or reefing the chute. Might even consider using a streamer for those C6-5 flights. Only use an unmodified chute for those launches where there is a payload.


  • Rocket comes down nice on the provided chute.


  • None.

Flight Rating: 4 out of 5

A quick build for the experienced & a decent challenge (namely gluing the 2 piece fins together) for the beginner. I'd recommend this kit as a second or third kit for someone just getting into the hobby but probably only if you can pick it up at a discounted price (I think there are better rockets available for the same or less price).


  • Very easy to get it looking just like the picture on the packaging.


  • Can be expensive if purchased at full retail price.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews
  • Estes Nova Payloader By Jon Revelle

    Brief: Single staged 3FNC Payload rocket with nice fin design. This kit has been recently discontinued by Estes. The Nova Payloader was originally introduced in 1986 as a Skill Level 2 (and in my opinion, it should stay a Skill Level 2 because of the fins). It was then discontinued the first time, 10 years later at the end of 1996. It remained absent for a few years until sometime ...

  • Estes Nova Payloader By Doyle Tatum

    Notes: I built this model for club contest and left it unpainted (I used magic markers instead) for that reason. I followed the instructions except for the following comments and suggestions: Step 1. Added Kevlar Cord to engine mount, that reaches to the top of the body tube. Step 2. No Change. Step 3. Used five-minute epoxy to connect fin pieces. When dry, I filled cracks with ...


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