ROCKET MAIL PROGRAM LAUNCHES ENTIRE COLLECTION OF 1936 CANADIAN ROCKET-FLIGHT STAMPS: Fifth launch planned for spring 2014
(Above left) The Astrobee D IV high-powered rockets inaugural test flight took place on November 6th, 2012, and flew twelve covers on board. The upper stage as well as the integral side boosters were inert. (Center) One of twelve mail covers to fly inside the second stage of the new and improved Astrobee D IV (D) rocket scheduled to launch in the spring of 2014. (right) A variety of Gerhard Zucker postage stamps from 1936 (photo courtesy Gemada Stamps).
Wilfred Ashley McIsaac
A high-powered rocket mail program that began back in October of 2011 from an airfield in eastern Ontario is preparing its fifth and final rocket launch for the late spring. Wilfred Ashley McIsaac, the rocketeer behind the flights, has already launched and successfully recovered the entire collection of Gerhard Zucker 1936 ‘First Canadian Rocket-Flight’ postage stamps in his four previous flights dating back to 2011.
A variety of launch vehicles and payloads have also been flown in the program including; the ARCAS scale rocket. the Astrobee D scale rocket, and McIsaac’s modified versions the Astrobee D III, and the Astrobee D (IV) series of rockets. The latter being the 2 ½ stage Astrobee D IV (D) now preparing to fly in late March.
Payloads consisted of; mail, flight cameras, science experiments, on board computers, and even a signed petition to ‘Help Save The Canadian Air & Space Museum’ located in Downsview Park, Toronto. The Astrobee D flight on May 11th, 2012, launched the ‘Astrologger 54’ electronics package which housed two on board flight computers, shock resistant liner, and even a cooling system that circulated the air around the module before venting it back outside. The mail was in a separate compartment above the electronics bay.
Of the Four flights already launched and including the one planned for the spring, forty-three covers have or will be flown as well as forty-nine Gerhard Zucker 1936 Canadian Rocket-Flight postage stamps. Some of these Covers can still be purchased online at Gemada Stamps. A large portion of funds collected to date from Internet sales has been contributed to worthy causes such as The Arthritis Foundation while back in 2011 a small donation was made to ‘Help Save The Canadian Air & Space Museum’ on behalf of the program. McIsaac suffers from rheumatoid arthritis as well as a gimpy left ankle following two major reconstructive surgeries.
The final launch will fly twelve covers across an old World War II relief airfield located just outside the small town of Gananoque, Ontario, in The Thousand Islands. The Astrobee D IV (D) weighs three and a half pounds and stands five feet, seven inches tall with a 2.5 inch diameter. It is the only multiple stage rocket to fly in the program with the upper stage powered by a one of a kind outboard black powder motor adding 5.4 pounds of extra thrust to the rocket. The first stage and ½ or main booster of the Astrobee D IV (D) is controlled by a single sustainer composite motor along with two integral black powder side boosters programmed to ignite shortly after lift-off. The Three solid fuel motors powering the first stage are the rockets muscle and will combine for over forty pounds of thrust pushing the rocket to an approximate altitude of over 12oo feet.
Electronics Bay #1 (EB1) is the rockets main flight computer and the brains behind the flying machine. It will be secured inside the interior of the nose cone while the mail covers will be placed in a partition near the rear of the upper stage. A test flight of the 1 ½ stage Astrobee D IV mark 3 rocket on October 17th was a resounding success however a variety of modifications have been made to the launch vehicle following the flight, thus accounting for the new (D) designation.
A second flight computer designated Electronics Bay #2 (EB2) is situated inside a small compartment at the aft end of the main booster. Two on board miniature light weight cameras will also be along for the ride recording critical video of the twin side booster ignition in the first stage and the backup ejection charge inside the Recovery Systems Bay in the second stage that will help separate the two halfs at or near apogee.
Gerhard Zucker’s Canadian Rocket Flight Stamps take flight After 75 Years On The Ground
During the early 1930s a German engineer and businessman named Gerhard Zucker became involved in a series of ill-fated rocketmail launches across Europe including England before the Gestapo, under Adolf Hitler's orders, placed him under arrest and jailed Zucker indefinitely.
At the 1936 Third International Philatelic Exhibition in New York City, Zucker (who remained in custody in Germany) relied on a friend, Karl H. Hennig, Sr., to display his stamps, covers, and cachets in booth 77 at the Grand Central Palace on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The ‘Rocket-Flight’ postage flown years later in Wilfred Ashley McIsaac’s program was among the merchandise at the exhibit.
An interpreter working in the booth at the time later confirmed a launching rack as well as one of Zucker’s rockets were also on public display. The same person admitted Hennig had even attempted to purchase a permit to launch the rocket but simply ran out of time. In the end however the German refused to promote the collection through print or radio out of fear fear of Nazi reprisals and kept a low profile during his stay in the United States. Zucker’s dreams of launching rocket mail on North American soil were never realized while the Canadian Rocket-Flight stamps disappeared into obscurity for three quarters of a century.
No known rocket flights in Canada had ever been successfully flown and recovered using official Canadian rocket mail stamps on board until October 31st, 2011 when McIsaac launched the 1936 Gerhard Zucker ‘First Canadian Rocket-Flight’ postage stamps 75 years after they were created for the New York exhibit. The story has since garnered interest from around the international philatelic community with articles in Stamp Magazine, Canadian Stamp News, and The Canadian Aerophilatelist to name just a few.
The fifth and final launch of Wilfred Ashley McIsaac’s rocket mail program will take place some time in the spring at the Gananoque Airport in eastern Ontario. “The rocketport” as McIsaac calls it, has beenhome to his four previous rocket mail flights.
TheAir Mails Of Canada and Newfoundland, A Volume in the Sixth Edition of the American Air Mail Catalog, copyright 1996.
Canadian Rocketmail Summary 2011-2014, wilfred Ashley McIsaac
'My Own Private Rocket Program' Review, 2010-2013, wilfred Ashley McIsaac