This X-Prize scale rocket showed good potential and an intriguing stealthy boost glider design, but save your money though, as it's a real clunker for flight.
Parts list includes:
The instructions are fairly clear with plenty of good illustrations. It's rated as a skill level 2 kit although I would have put it closer to a 3.
You begin with the construction of the pop pod. Nose weight is added in the form of 4 heavy steel washers on the forward end. On the aft end, there's a motor hook, block, and a wire assembly that serves to lock the elevators in place for flight.
The fuselage tube is simple, basically serving as a conduit to hold the pop pod. It gets a bulkhead on the forward end and is eventually mounted to the balsa wing assembly.
For a largely plastic body, this kit has a lot of balsa, adding both weight and complexity to the construction. There is a pair of matching wing halves, top and bottom vertical stabilizers, and a pair of elevators (one fixed, one floating). I goofed and didn't catch that the lower stabilizers are not symmetrical--there's a definite left and right--and I got them backwards initially. They have to be right or else the elevators and wire retention hook won't line up correctly.
The plastic fuselage halves are then bonded to the balsa frame. I couldn't get mine to line up very well and it took some trimming and a lot of gap filling before I was finally done. The instructions call for using a silicone adhesive. I used contact cement, which was just as effective but not as clean and easy to work with.
Finally, there is a display plug that has three nozzles. It's a nice visual touch.
Finishing on this kit is a bit of a pain. There's the matter of fairly ugly seams between the fuselage halves and there is plenty of exposed balsa grain. I applied a couple of light coats of primer, then sanded down to at least cover the worst of the grain. After that, I went with a tan finish paint, followed by a trim of gray, per the standard paint scheme. Masking off the gray is challenging, given the contours of the fuselage. Finally, there are a smattering of peel 'n' stick decals for trim.
Construction Rating: 4 out of 5
At nearly 9 ounces, I think the recommended D12-3 is overly optimistic. The Estes catalog claims altitudes of 250 feet. I think this rocket would benefit greatly from substituting higher thrust composite Es.
The flight profile is intended to have elevators locked in opposing positions during boost, giving it a roll to help stability. At apogee, the ejection charge forces the inner pop pod out, which falls under chute recovery. By removing the heavy pod, the glider is now light enough to fly and the floating elevator can spring into a lift-generating position. At least, that's the theory.
My flight lifted off fine although very slowly. It gently climbed with a slight roll. About halfway through the climb, it arced over and started a nose dive, crash landing under thrust. The pod deployed with a great deal of force, still on the ground. The impact cracked both fuselage halves, one section of balsa wing, and generally rendered this rocket to be retired from future service. A very disappointing performance.
The only feeble pro I can offer up is that a few of the kids at the launch thought the wreck was cool.
The cons are obvious: lousy flight, underpowered for the weight.
Flight Rating: 1 out of 5
There are very few rockets I've ever built that I felt were complete wastes of my time and money. This was definitely one of them. It might make a nice display model but not a good flyer.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5