Estes - Black Diamond {Kit}

Contributed by John Thomas

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

Estes Black Diamond

The Black Diamond is a renamed Estes Viking rocket that is packaged along with the "Launchables" (1452) Starter set. The set also includes an E2X (easy to build) rocket called the Astron Outlaw, so that beginners can learn the basics before building the Black Diamond.

The Black Diamond offers multiple fin configurations by providing five fins cut with dies on cardstock. They can be attached using any of the four sides as the root edge and can also be faced upwards or downwards to provide any look that the builder might want.

Parts list:

  • 1 Body Tube BT-20
  • 1 Nose Cone PNC-20
  • 1 Launch Lug (1/8" dia., 2 3/8" length)
  • 1 Nose Cone Insert
  • 1 Shock Cord (1/8" x 12")
  • 1 Engine Block
  • 1 Streamer

The instructions in typical Estes fashion, are easy to follow and come well illustrated. The assembly order seems to finally have been corrected by Estes, stating that the rocket should be painted before the streamer and shock cord are attached. Older Estes instructions reverse this order, which makes no sense since oftentimes nose cones are painted different colors than the body. They even include pictures of several fin configurations to give you an idea.

The assembly caused me no problems. The build was simple enough. This is a great choice for Estes to include in a Starter Set. My only complaint would be the cardstock fins. Estes recommends sanding them to get rid of the little tabs that hold them onto the cardstock sheet, but I have found in the past that this causes the edges of the fins to "spread out" wider than the rest of the fin due to the layered paper that is used in their construction. Sanding them proved to be difficult (as they are not balsa wood), so in the end I ignored the tabs on the fins and moved on.

The finishing of this rocket is simple. Spray a coat of primer or two, sand between coats, and paint the rocket with whatever color spray paint you choose. I would suggest the primer, as spraying it on and sanding it helps to fill in the tube spirals. Stickers are included, I painted it black and used the "BLACK DIAMOND" decal. The fin decals (red outlines of diamonds) look great as well, but I could not put them on because they are so flimsy that they broke when peeling off of the sheet. There are many ways to paint this rocket, and it came out great for me.

Construction Rating: 4 out of 5

Recommended engines: 1/2A6-2, A8-3, A8-5, B4-4, B6-4, B6-6, C6-5, C6-7

Preparation: Insert the 2-3 sheets of wadding. Fold the streamer in half and roll it, put it inside the tube and replace the nose cone. The engines need to be friction fit into the body tube, which is the major downside of this rocket. With four or five fins right on the back of the rocket, it is easy to break a fin trying to remove the friction fit engine, so don't put it in too tight. You may also want to choose a fin configuration in which the fins face upward as to avoid breaking them off when removing the tight engine.

1st flight: I first sent the rocket up on an A8-3 to make sure it was capable of flight. The rocket flew very straight, then the streamer ejected close to apogee. Even with a low powered engine, this rocket soars. I fly on small fields, so A8-3s and similar lower powered engines have proved perfect for this rocket. The streamer worked flawlessly and there was no damage to the rocket after recovery.

2nd flight: I sent the rocket up again on a B4-4. This flight was significantly higher and still went fairly straight. Ejection timing was good, as the rocket was still moving upward but was beginning to slow down. The rocket landed unharmed, but I had trouble removing the friction fit engine and ended up breaking off a few fins. No big deal. I glued them back on and touched up the paint and the rocket was fine.

3rd flight: Another B4-4 flight. Flight was again straight and impressively high. The streamer got a little burned and melted onto itself, causing it to not unfold. The light weight of the rocket prevented any damage as it fell.

The shock cord mount is very unimpressive. Estes has you cut out a piece of paper from the directions and glue the shock cord inside it as you fold it up then glue this into the body tube. The cord is about the length of the rocket and seems to be adequate for such a small rocket. The streamer is a good size and easy to fit inside of the rocket. The light weight of this rocket makes it hard to damage, although the fins break off easily while transporting and removing the friction fit engines.

Flight Rating: 4 out of 5

This is a great rocket to include in the starter set. Also included are a launch pad, launch controller, the Astron Outlaw (E2X) kit (which is easier to build so build it first) and a couple of engines to get started on. I bought this because I needed a new launch pad and it was much cheaper than buying a launch pad and controller separately.

The Black Diamond is a great build for a beginner or experienced rocketeer looking for a small, fun rocket to fly. It flies straight and very high even on low powered engines, so don't expect to find it if you launch it on a C6-7. I would advise sticking to the lower power motors. The minor problems such as friction fitting engines are overcome with practice. (I now use very minimal amounts of masking tape to secure the engine.) I remedied the fins breaking by using a different type of glue (Cyano Acrylate, or CA, commonly sold as Super Glue) and by scoring the body tube and bottoms of the fins with a hobby knife before gluing them.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews



B.S.T. (October 18, 2008)
I really didn't like the card stock fins at first because mounting them securely seemed to be impossible. Then I came across an idea... I took a really sharp knife and I scraped the mounting side of these fins until they freyed out 3-4 times larger than normal. After this they mounted easily and finished product they are RIGID and very sturdy. Good news for a father of 2 boisterous kids (6,8)... First launch (A8-3) I had used 2 sheets of wadding, and it was too much. The top didn't pop off and it darted into the ground. Beautiful flight, scary landing. 2nd Launch 1 sheet of wadding A8-3 was perfect. 3rd Flight the same result... Perfect. 4th and 5th Flight we used the larger B6-4... This rocket flew to an incredible height and the wind carried to the limit of our field. What a great day shooting this wonderful Rocket. Everyone should start with this rocket!! Having shot many of Estes Rockets I have never been as impressed with a simple cheap and easy thrill as this.
Rich DeAngelis (December 8, 2010)

My Black Diamond kit was part of a lot of rocket parts I got on Ebay. The other rocket in the kit was pretty much destroyed. The B.D. looked complete, simple and kind of "cute". I never heard of cardboard fins before, so I was skeptical, figuring I would destroy them before the rocket was even completed. Rather than sand the fin edges, I just sliced the little dimples off the edges using a sharp X-acto knife.  Worked fine. I glued them into place in an arrangement close to the body tube but with the larger sides outward so it looks sort-of like a upside-down battle axe.  I used all 5 fins - because I never had a rocket with 5 fins - different!  I wasn't concerned with drag performance because this is such a small rocket yet it can fit a C motor, maybe that extra fin will keep it from getting lost. Of course I painted it gloss black, what other color for a rocket named Black Diamond? I'm counting on the streamer to make it visible. One recomendation: If you are planning on using the fin stickers or some other design scheme, move the launch lug to a position between the fins instead of up against a fin side. It interferes with the fin sticker with my arrangement.  My design tweaking included a metalic red colored ring just above the fins, and three more diamond stickers on the 'back-side', oposite the 'Black Diamond' sticker. I gave the model countless number of coats of gloss black, and three coats of clearcoat.  By the time I finished the fins were undamaged and seemed to gain considerable hardness from the primer and paint.  I was hoping the clearcoat would help hold the stickers on, but they started to peel after a day, so I had to pull the edges back, glue them on, and clearcoat it again.  My model failed the string-test with a C engine, until I added about 6 grams of weight in the nosecone. (A large bolt glued in just under the base.) It may not have needed it, but I know it will probably fly higher with the faster coasting phase of the flight.  I'll find out when I fly it with an Altimeter-One...if the wind ever dies down!

Rich DeAngelis (May 31, 2011)

Part 2: The Flight Test

This Black Diamond is a gem! It took off like a rocket (literally), it accelerated quickly and reached a very high altitude on the modest A8-3 engine.  I'll try it with a B6-4, but it's not likely I'll attempt using a C engine - I can't imagine ever visually locating it with it's small black stature and relatively small streamer.  I imagine this will be a fun rocket I'll fly many times, since it seems to go fast as a bullet.

Rich DeAngelis (July 13, 2012)

In the past year I have flown this Black Diamond many times. It proved to be a rocket that flies well - particularly in windy weather - I can count on it to go up fast without much weathercocking due to it's light weight and incredible speed.  It also comes down without a lot of drift due to it's streamer.  After its first flight I added a 4-1/2" payload tube to it and carry an Altimeter. It only added 12 grams to the rocket.

The plastic streamer kept twisting and sticking to the shock cord, so it was replaced with a shiny, red, Mylar streamer, four feet long.  That makes it much easier to see when I launch it to extreme heights.  I also had to extend the shock cord to about 2 feet because I kept getting damage from the nosecone/payload snapping back.

With the A8-3 motor I average 170 feet apogee. With the B6-4 motor I averaged 506 feet! And using the C6-7 motor it has hit an incredible average of 1160 feet! That still is not higher than my old Estes Sprint, but it just disappears at that altitude so I really need the red Mylar streamer.  I also recorded a max speed of 217 mph using the C6-7 motor, and a peak G-force of almost 23 G's.  With the larger streamer it still comes down pretty fast - about 20 mph, so it is on the ground in less than a minute and hasn't drifted too fa (yet!).

This is a good go-to rocket in windy weather. I have not had any problems with the cardboard fins, except for a little ding and fraying of one of the corners.  A dab of CA glue soaked into the tip and a tight clamp between wax paper and now it's as good as new.  The only problem I had with this model is getting a good flying picture of it because it goes so fast!  About the only recommendation I have is to move the launch lug not only away from the fin root, but move it up closer to the CG of the model, or split it into two parts.  With the lug way towards the back of the model it tends to allow the nose of the rocket to lean/bounce to one side or another while lifting off from the launch rod.  I can see this with slo-mo video of the launch, and it looks like it slows the model down some.

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