Crackpot & Buzzkill take to the Sky!


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Finally launched the monster motor.

Rocket weighed over 150lbs on the pad. Apogee was at 14,375 ft, and landed about 1.5 miles from the launch site in a small forest. My eagle-eyed daughter saw the parachute caught at the top of the largest tree.

The name of the rocket is a shoutout to the hosts of a podcast called no agenda which can be found at . The show should be required listening for the rocketry community – especially after the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms tried to shut down the hobby.

98MM Fincan




I ordered an aluminum welded 98mm (99mm ID to fit over a 98mm motor) minimum diameter fincan from Frank De Brouwer at Rebel Space in the Netherlands earlier in the summer, and had almost forgotten about it. I have always been impressed with his builds (Miss Riley, Flying Dutchman) so I ordered it sight unseen. My success rate of buying things online without ever seeing them is about 50%, but this purchase has exceeded my expectations in every way. The workmanship is spectacular! Weld lines are perfect, with beveled edges on the fins, and what looks like a sight airfoil. He obviously used a fine grit polish, as the end result looks like a #4 architectural finish to me. Thank you Frank!

Fun day at Bong


DSC_5035Had a great time at Tripoli Wisconsin’s launch today at the Richard Bong State Park (Bong to us local’s) just over the boarder in Wisconsin. Tim “Wildman” Lehr grilled the entire crowd DSC_5088free lunch! Work has kept me from most of the launches this year, so this was my first time launching from our new spot in parking lot “E”. The spot isn’t bad, except it’s right next to the bathrooms which limits our ability to launch anything larger than a K motor. Hopefully with the announcement of LDRS coming to Bong next year we will once again be able to use our primary spot in the middle of the park. The weather was absolutely beautiful and perfect for flying. I participated in the annual Minie DSC_5150Magg DSC_5042DSC_5066 drag race, even though I didn’t even know it was scheduled! One of my daughter’s liked the look of the rocket, so we brought it along. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick the landing Open-mouthed smile. Parachute didn’t deploy,  so I had to scrape the remains of the rocket off the side of the road. Also launched my scratch built NikeDSC_5093 Smoke. Perfect Launch, but it went so high it landed in the back half of the park which is all swamp and lake. We never did find it Sad smile. Kids had a blast launching from the low power pads. Tried several new rockets, including a few gliders with mixed results. One big lesson… don’t put an ammonium perchlorate based motor into a light glider. We spent quite a while picking up the shredded pieces across the flight line. My good buddy Aaron brought two of his boys up to watch as well. Always fun to see new kids get excited about the hobby.



winter builds and acquisitions



I can’t believe it’s been almost 6 months since my last update. I guess life has been getting in thesaturn 5 way. I certainly haven’t given up on rockets – if anything, my other hobbies have been suffering at the expense of rocketry. Spent the winter building, and rebuilding several rockets. A 98mm carbon fiber minimum diameter rocket (Like my old Tachyon here), a Ultimate Wildman (a platform to test some video hardware), and a Saturn V.  The Saturn V is about 1/35th scale – as you can see in the photo, it’s significantly larger then my Redstone at almost 11 feet tall.  What makes this Saturn V interesting is many of the parts on the rocket were built using my 3d printer. I’m currently working on the 3d model for the Launch Escape Tower. You can download my model from thingiverse page here. Just a word of warning – while the model is finished, it’s not printing correctly. I may need to 20130530_125517add a raft, and some supports to ensure the build works. The 3d printer itself is an absolute blast. I can’t tell you how much of my free time I’ve wasted. I recently acquired a nextengine 3d laser scanner which essentially allows me to laser scan any object, then print it on my printer. I’ve become my own bespoke reverse engineering manufacturing plant in my basement. You can see some of the 3d scan’s I’ve done on my thingiverse page linked above.



I can basically print an entire rocket ready to launch. This particular rocket is so light and strong (ABS plastic, extruded with a 15% fiill) it doesn’t need a parachute, or even a streamer.

Full Scale Harpoon Launch


Finally launched the Harpoon!

Flawless launch at Midwest Power 10. Only real issue is I lost the fairing that covered my Go Pro camera, but that was actually by design. I was really worried the fairing would collapse and I would loose any good video. I had read about making an Adruino motion sensing switch on a blog at the University of Illinois Engineering website (my Alma Mater) a few years back and thought it would make an interesting solution to my issue. I built a few prototypes, and eventually settled on a design that would blow the fairing off the rocket if a photosensor detected returning  laser radiation over a specific threshold. In the video below, you can see the fairing collapse right at 1:55), the Go Pro picking up the laser dot, then shortly afterward, the fairing is blown off the rocket by a small BP charge. Watching the landing from the ground,  I was also a bit worried at the end that the rocket would land on a local farmhouse. Luckily, it missed by a few hundred feet.


Full scale Harpoon Launch


The Harpoon has a very unique booster. I can reconfigure the rocket as necessary to fit any configuration of Motor’s I want within a 7.5” tube. Here’s a few photo’s to try and show how it works.

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I’ll I have to do is make a new thrust plate, and centering rings to fly a completely different motor configuration. 100% of the motor thrust is transitioned to the bottom of the rocket, where it should be.




Next year The Harpoon will fly on  one large 150MM center motor, and several smaller air starts for effect. In the meantime, most of my winter building will be on a super-secret new project……

Another Saucer bites the dust


     Due to my schedule, and the fact my local rocket club doesn’t fly experimental motors, I only get to launch EX motors once a year, and Midwest Power in Princeton Illinois. EX motors are just that – typically a rocket propellant you whip up yourself in your garage, or basement. The big advantage of manufacturing your own motors is you can control a lot more variables. Want the flames to be red? add Strontium Nitrate. Need to speed up the burn rate of the propellant? Add Iron Oxide. Need an even thrust level through the entire burn? Try a Finocyl core geometry. You get the idea.

For the last few years, I’ve been trying to push the limit on making a slow-burning propellant. This is much more difficult than changing up the chemical composition because the longer the propellant burns, the more exposure the motor hardware, nozzle, and liner will have to the heat and pressure. Worse, the core geometries with the longest burn characteristics (endburner & moonburners) tend to keep the heat and pressure focused on a particular part of the case for an extended period of time. Once a formula is stable enough to flight test, I typically try them first in an oddroc saucer. They are very light – easy to lift of the pad, very stable – no fin alignment issues, and don’t fly very high – easy to recover just in case…..

In 2011, my longburn test ended in disaster. The propellant burn was so low, the rocket never got off the pad and eventually burned through the motor case, destroying the saucer, rocket motor, and the pad it was sitting on. All of this was caught on video at Midwest power 9 for your enjoyment



Needless to say, I spent a year with the nickname “firestarter” by everyone that witnessed this first attempt.


     A year

later,  with dozens of changes and testing of the propellant formula, I returned to Midwest power in the hopes of a successful launch.  The good news is the launch was successful – the saucer zoomed off the pad. The bad news is my nickname may now be permanent… After a successful flight, the rocket caught fire on decent and started a small  field fire. Once again, I was left with a destroyed rocket and motor. Of course, my daughter caught the whole flight on her iphone while I was clicking away on the still camera. At least I have another year for research!


Saucer and 75mm EX motor ready for launch



launch sequence



And the recovery……



This is all I got back, some burnt carbon fiber and a ruined rocket motor