The Launch Pad - Nike Ajax MIM-3A {Kit}

Contributed by Larry Zeilmann

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Manufacturer: The Launch Pad

Nike Ajax Model

The Nike Ajax is a personal favorite of mine, and I have wanted to build this kit since I first became aware of it’s existence. Unfortunately, It appears to be a rarely available kit that commands a healthy price if you are fortunate enough to come across one. Prices can range from high 30’s to retail of $53.99 and beyond on E-Bay. The manufacturer claims that his kit’s are not for the beginning modeler, and require a moderate level of experience. I would have to concur with his appraisal, and add that in the Nike Ajax case perseverance leads to success.

However, Being a bit of a construction rebel, I am never happy with a “Plain Jane” construction process. The Actual Nike Ajax flew as a staged missile, and I wanted mine to mimic the actual vehicle as close as possible. Therefore, mine will be a staging project with a three motor booster and a single motor sustainer. The sustainer ignition will be accomplished with a PerfectFlite Mini Timer, and all chute deployments will be accomplished by motor ejection.

Finally, I would have to add that one should not expect to be able to contact the manufacturer for any assistance on this or any Launch Pad kit. Conversation amongst various rocketry communities and retailers often begin with; “Is The Launch Pad still in business?” Several attempts to contact the manufacturer concerning construction questions always resulted in no response.


Construction:
Packaging is typical Launch Pad: soft plastic bag. I have no complaints. All parts were present and in good shape.

A part inventory is not included so I will try to provide my best recollection of what is included. Plus parts needed for my staging modification.

Manufacturer included parts are:

Nike Ajax Lower Stage
  • 1 PNC60 nose cone
  • 1 BT80 Booster Tube ~ 19”
  • 1 BT80 Reinforcement Tube Coupler ~ 2”
  • 2 BT60 Sustainer Tubes, 12.5” and 13.5”
  • 1 BT60 Tube Couplers
  • 1 BT50 Interstage Coupler Tube
  • 3 BT50 24mm Motor Tubes ~ 3”
  • 2 Centering Rings for 3x motor cluster
  • 3 Motor Clips
  • 1 sheet of 1/8” balsa for Booster Fins
  • 2 sheets of 3/32” balsa for Sustainer Fins
  • 1 small sheet of 1/16” Balsa
  • 1 Package of Ballast Modelers Clay (Mine was unusable, hard as a rock.)
  • 2 CR5080 Centering Rings
  • 4 CR5060 Centering Rings
  • 2 BT80 Exterior Decorative Rings
  • 2 BT60 Exterior Decorative Rings
  • 1 Cone Transition Card Stock
  • 1 Antenna Card Stock
  • 8 Lengthy Square Balsa Stock 3/16” Thick for Wiring Tunnels
  • 1 Lengthy Square Balsa Stock 1/8” Thick for Wiring Tunnels
  • 2 Mylar Parachutes with Elastic Shock Cords and Swivels. (assembly required)
  • 1 3/16” x 2” rod guide
Interstage coupler.
Interstage coupler
Staging Modification Parts:
  • 1 BT80 1/8” Balsa Vented Bulkhead
  • 2 BT60 Tube Couplers
  • 1 BT50 Motor Tube 12”
  • 1 Motor Clip
  • Timer and Wiring, On/Off Switch
  • 1 24” Nylon Chute
  • 1 30” Nylon Chute & addition Shock Cord
  • 2 Rail Buttons
I Found the Instructions adequate but did not appear to follow what I considered a logical order. Illustrations are few but sufficient. All the templates you need are included. Remember that the manufacturer states that this kit is for the true modeler.

Lower stage and stuffer.
Looking into the Interstage Coupler. Sustainer Motor Mount and Baffle is on it’s left.
In previous reviews many complaints were made concerning the quality of Balsa stock. I don’t agree with these allegations. Follow the instructions, is probably the biggest “Gotcha” when it comes to working with the balsa. I followed the recommendations by coating my fins with thin CA, followed up by thick CA. With minimal effort I ended up with a very sturdy fin, no grain marks in the paint finish. While you are working with CA, cover that card stock transition to strengthen it. Fin alignment is important. A little patience, care to detail, and fin alignment tool will accomplish this task successfully.

Making and sanding the wiring tunnels is a tedious task. I decided the best approach was to cement the tunnel ends together and sand them as a assembled unit. That way the 45 degree chamfered edge is uniform.

Finishing:
I finished my rocket with three coats of Blitz primer. This sealed remaining wood grains and tube spirals. I then followed the booster up with three coats of Krylon Satin Green, the interstage received three coats of Gloss Gray, and sustainer received three coats of Gloss White. No taping was required since I painted each section as a separate unit. Since mine was staged this is easy to do. If you choose not to stage, I think you could still paint in this method by holding off on gluing the interstage in place ’till after the painting is finished.

No Decals are included in any Launch Pad Kit that I am aware of. This did not impose any problem. For the less ambitious assembly, one can make the minimum decal markings with relatively inexpensive press-on adhesive lettering. This is actually mentioned in the instructions. Since I was after realism I visited Jim Ball’s Scale Data web site and downloaded the drawings illustrating the actual markings. I then purchased some water-slide ink-jet decal paper and printed my own decals. For those interested in the actual markings I used, see Jim Ball’s Scale data web site.

Construction Rating: 4 out of 5

Flight/Recovery:

Lift-off with a cluster of three E9s.
Moments after liftoff on a three motor cluster of Estes E9-4 motors.
Recommended motors are three Estes D12-5’s. My staged version flew on three Estes E9-4’s in the booster and one Estes D12-5 in the sustainer.

Preparation of the stock kit requires wadding in the sustainer to protect your Mylar chutes. Since my staged version incorporated a baffle in the sustainer, I only required wadding in the booster (see pictures).

I used the included Estes style motor clips and then wrapped one winding of masking tape around the motor and clip for security.

Moments after staging.
Moments after staging is completed. Booster is the other light smoke trail to left of sustainer's smoke trail.
Mine flew beautifully. Staging was perfect on a rather windy day some very slight weather-veining occurred off the eight foot rod.

I thought with all that lumber hanging off the sustainer and booster something would certainly break off. I believe the Mylar supplied chutes barely meet the recovery demands of such a big rocket with so much fin area. Since I recovered in stages with big Nylon chutes, everything came back pristine.

Flight Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:
Overall, this rocket is pricey, (sorry Launch Pad). I don’t believe the parts should command a $53.99 retail price. However, this is probably my favorite kit to date. I also believe that it is a fairly easy kit to scratch build. In the survival durability area, I can’t stress enough the importance to follow the instructions on applying CA to the fin material. The payoffs are big when you have that much lumber hanging from such a tall rocket.

Ratings:
A Strong 4+  
I like this kit and would give it a 5 except for three areas I believe it cries for change in. First, this kit needs to be staged! Second, at this price a decal package should be included. Finally, Manufacturer support of some sort would be nice.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

PerfectFlite Mini Timer Assembly and six cell, AAA, NiMH battery pack. Complete assembly is mounted in the nose cone area and serves as ballast. Thus no further ballast is needed.

[NAR][Sport Rocketry]

The following excerpt is from "Sport Rocketry". The intention is to allow guests to get a basic feeling about a kit. We strongly suggest that you get a copy of the referenced Sport Rocketry and read the entire article. Inside you will find many helpful hints in construction as well as other useful information. For more information, use the two links above.


(Sport Rocketry - Holiday 1996 - page 22 - by Tom Hand) 

[Picture]"Top notch computer generated instructions, laser cut discs, pre-cut tubing, engine clips, Mylar parachutes, fabric shock cord, fin templates, and first rate balsa combine to make a detailed, challenging, and rewarding kit." 
"Fin installation is critical on all model rockets, but this Ajax, having fifteen fins to install and align, requires extra patience and care." 
"My biggest problem was making the wiring tunnels." 
"The Ajax kit uses three 18 inch diameter metallized Mylar parachutes that are complete with color-coordinated shroud lines and snap and barrel swivels." 
"Using two D12-5's and one D12-0 in the booster and one D12-5 in the missile . . ." 
". . . the Missile/booster combination flew dead straight, and the staging, parachute ejection, and recovery were perfect." 
". . . it is great fun to build, the instructions are excellent, and the final product is well worth the time spent." 

The entire article gives the impression is that it is a nice scale model for the experienced, patient modeler.

* SPECIAL NOTE off of RMR from Chuck Barndt, President of The Launch Pad

Flights

Comments:

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R.W. (May 1, 2000)
I found the product to be substandard. The excuses the manufacture gives for the thin balsa, are just that, excuses. There seems to be A LOT of nose weight needed in the model. The clay that comes with the model will fill up 1/2 the nose cone. I think a little better design and construction are called for on a $55 dollar model.
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J.S. (May 1, 2000)
This is in my opinion the finest "model rocket" kit on the market today. For those of us who remember the time when there were actually kits that challenged your building skills, the Ajax is a breath of fresh air compared to the [stuff] Estes puts out now. I would stick with the original motor configuration since these kits do NOT lend themselves to much modification. They need to be built to stock in order to maintain stability. Also the components used are top quality and not cheap. It's worth every penny.
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J.C. (October 1, 2000)
Kit comes with 2 chutes and is one stage. First flight with D12-5s had good lift off but only 1 chute opened. Instructions aren't clear on what is a good way to pack both chutes so that they both open. It is a little hard to fold up two big chutes and fit them in the small body tube. Mine got damaged, the missile section got loose from the booster section. There is a lot of weight up front and it hinges on the booster/missile join so be sure to use extra glue there. I used CA on the fins and didn't get any warping. The rocket flew straight even though there were light winds.
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K.J.T. (October 31, 2001)
I've built and flown TLP's Nike Ajax and must say I disagree with some of the comments regarding this kit. Build it as the instructions direct you to and it's a stable, reliable kit that attracts a LOT of attention at the field. My Nike Ajax has flown three times; the first two times, only two of the motors lit. Yet both flights were perfectly straight, with a successful recovery. The third flight, all three motors lit, causing the rocket to leap off of the pad. If you're not willing to invest hours in a rocket, this kit is NOT for you. It's a challenging build, especially shaping the conduits that run the length of the upper stage. If you want a great looking kit that will challenge you and fly extremely well, consider this one.
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R.F.W. (May 19, 2003)
My first cluster rocket, and first from TLP. I love "scale" kits and this is a good looking rocket, but not for the novice. I upgraded the bottom fins to light plywood because the balsa was warped badly in the kit. I too had problems with the wiring tunnels, so I decided to leave them off. Plenty of fins anyway. Instructions were good. Love the mylar chutes. First flight got off with only 2 motors burning (broken igniter on 3rd). Turned a bit down range but was recovered fine. 2nd flight was perfect. All 3 motors and ejection at about 1000 feet with 5 second delay. Upon recovery I discovered the bottom body tube just above the fins was badly damaged from too much internal heat. Also the bottom of the body tube was burned badly too. In my opinion, the body tube material used is very poor quality. 2 flights and its toast. Big disappointment! I like the looks of this kit so I will probably try to recreate it with stronger material, maybe even upscaled a bit to fly on F or G motors.
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H.D.C (April 29, 2006)
First off, have to say I enjoyed the kit, but have to agree on the lack of quality compared to cost. Have built a couple of mids and now several high power rockets. For the cost can get into a much more higher quality product. Fins material is almost useless, tubes are not much better. This is a 25 dollar kit sold for much higher.

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