By Ron Beard


Part 1 - Can we do it?

5 years into being a "BAR", the "L1 Cert Bug" has finaly hit me and I have decided that I MUST have that pin for my rocket hat!!  But what to do?  Purchase a kit?  Clone an established design?  Ensure success by traveling the well defined path of those who have certified Level 1 before me??  NAH!!  Why be normal??  Instead, how bout a deep dive into our parts bin?  Let's salvage parts from crashed (retired) rocket hulks!  Let's comb Craigslist for free junk we can use!!  Let's haunt Ebay for every sweet deal on crucial components we can find!!  Let's try to build the cheapest, safest, FUNest L1 capable bird we can, then fly it on an "H" motor to a ridiculous altitude and recover that bad boy so we can go out and do it again and again!!  Who's with me?!?   WAAAAAGGGHHHH!!!!!  (leaps up and bursts through wall ala The Kool-Aid Kid)

 The rules will be simple: 

     1.  The rocket must be safe!  In other words, even though we are making design and construction desicions based on availability and cost vs. the optimum -"in a perfect world"- parameters, there will be no compromises in the construction techniques used. 

     2.  The rocket must survive repeated launching and recovery on at least a 29mm "H" motor.  (Most of us would consider this the smallest "real" L1 high-power motor) 

     3.  The rocket should have some sweet bells and whistles too.  How bout an acoustic locator?  Altimeter?  On-board video?

     4.  Last and most important!!  At no point in the design, construction, finishing or flying of our beast may we give THE WIFE a reason to look at us and say "You spent, "HOW MUCH", on that?!?!

So there you have it.  It is January now and I hope to have this beast completed and ready to go by April 1st.  I am writing this teaser as a challenge to myself to get this project "off the ground" as well as an experimental excercise in frugality of design. 

More to come soon!!



OK, we have assembled some parts and made a few purchases and it looks like we can begin.  


What we bought:

 - We found a super deal at an online hobby shop for 6-15" BT-60s for $5.00!  (Yes Virginia, these are the low-power, thin wall type but we will be remedying that later!)

 - A Dr. Rockets RMS 29/180 motor with an H128 reload already installed for $40!  (Thank you to the L3 veteran who, after suffering through my lengthy project description, said "hey, I might have something for that!".  JOIN A ROCKET CLUB!)

 - A 29mm motor tube from the same online hobby super center for $1.60.  More than we need (34 inches long!) so it will be used for at least 2 other projects in the future.

 - A 30 foot length of 400lb. braided kevlar.  OK, here's where it gets weird.  Did you know that the same lines we use for flame-proof shock cords are also used by spear fishermen as a water proof retrieval line for spearfishing?  Me either!  $6 online.

 - 121 ft of 1/4 inch dia braided tubular nylon bungee/shock cord - $12!!  We ordered 50ft from a guy on ebay and instead of chopping off the required length, he just sent the rest of the spool - At least a 5 year supply!


What we salvaged:

 - A sweet "Sears-Haak" style long plastic nose cone.  This will be the 4th rocket that this nose cone has lived on.  At some point I epoxied 28 grams of lead shot into the tip but this is fine and the shape is just way cool. - $0.00

 - Multiple chunks of BT-60 tubing from wrecked rockets, left over project bits, a tube fin kit I never assembled etc.  These will be sliced and used to stiffen the inside of the new BT-60s we bought online.  $0.00

 - 4 1/8 inch balsa fins of unknown origin.  Found them in the bottom of my parts box.  There's 4 of 'em and they're about the right size.  We're gonna turn these low-power tail feathers into exotic, laminated, 500 MPH plus, bad-ass stabilizers!  Yes . . . really.

 - 2 rainbow colored nylon kite-streamers and a small 15in orange nylon chute.  Left over from past low power projects.  We are going to try to combine these parts into a recopvery system that will slow the rocket just enough to allow it to survive impact while at the same time being visible at 4000 feet and (hopefully) allowing the rocket to land in a horizontal attitude to the ground. More on this later too.

 - Various and sundry bits of balsa, cardboard and construction paper, epoxies, wood glues, CA glue, masking tape and the rest of the basic shop tools that you should already have on hand when undertaking a project of this type.


Next step - parts prep!  We are going to have to bring many of these parts up to strength in order to survive the demands of High-power flight - but on the cheap!






GAAAAAAHHHHH!!!  As often happens on this mortal coil, fate and bad luck have intervened to end this project for now.  While moving/ consolidating all things rocket related to a new basement workshop, one of my "helpers" tripped on the staris while holding the box containing (among other things) the partially completed rocket.  The body tube and 2 fins are a total loss despite the stiffening job (50 lbs of 4 year-old vs. cardboard and balsa wood = Victory for the 4 year-old!).

It's all good though, Look for a review of my 4 inch dia. mailing tube, tube fin, 38mm powered L1 and L2 cert. rocket coming soon!!