Intro for my first blog:

I cast aside my dinosaur toys and made my first rocket (age 7) way back in 1959 after seeing pictures of the new X-15 and a TV series called Men Into Space. In 1961, after watching Alan Shepard’s space flight, I tried making my first liquid fueled rocket using black lacquer paint. As I was pressurizing the fuel tank the bulkhead blew off…in my mom’s kitchen! If you’ve seen the movie October Sky that I highly recommend, you’ll get an idea of what it was like with my dad and my early rocketry experiments. So after 57 years of doing experimental rocketry off and on, I’m going to start my first blog of my rocketry related work helping students and others and having fun…

As a ‘semi-retired’ science teacher, I will post everything, even the failures. I’ve posted a lot of videos and have had a few people make very crude remarks about some of them but I still post when things go wrong. I have MANY videos of other people’s failures that they have asked me not to post…I guess that makes them good if no one knows their failures.

This weekend at the FAR site ( Friends of Amateur Rocketry ) I attempted to launch a 100mm sugar propellant rocket that I cobbled together last Friday with things salvaged from previous motor tests and flights…some of the epoxy for the fins and nose cone tip had still not fully cured from Friday night so the aluminum tip I had machined could not be used.


From left to right: avionics and parachute bay, nozzle, two KNSB sugar propellant grains with 1″ cores, the 100mm aluminum motor case and bulkhead, the phenolic liner, avionics bay, airframe with aluminum fins and nose cone on the right…yes, that is Flat Stanley supervising.

Eric Beckner, a regular at FAR and long time friend, helped me assemble the motor and rocket; he’s been helping for so many years I could just give everything to him and he’d have it all together in no time…he usually does experimental APCP propellant rockets. I showed him how to make sugar propellant earlier in the year and what was the first motor he made? A 100mm six grain full ‘M’ impulse motor that we successfully fired at FAR.


Eric test fitting things, he has been a great help assembling the rocket.

Rick Maschek with ‘Phoenix 3’

Carrying the ‘Phoenix 3′ out to the 20’ launch rail.

It was to be dual deploy but the sections of fiberglass tube I cut from a destroyed rocket were not long enough so we went with apogee only deployment. I had some misgivings about that since ground winds were in excess of 20mph as indicated by the fully extended wind sock at the site.


That’s Eric raising the rail. When I finished the nozzle Friday night I had one last thing to machine before getting a couple of hours sleep and that was to cut the snap ring groove depth deeper in the motor case. Live and learn, I was tired and forgot to do that.


Shortly after motor ignition the motor began pressurizing and the rocket started moving up the rail


the motor came up to full pressure and the snap ring gave way blowing out the nozzle,


followed by the two burning sugar grains out of the motor.


The initial firing gave the rocket just enough momentum to fully clear the rail


then reaching apogee as the wind blows it over


and then falling back in to a burning ring of fire.


All of the rocket was recovered and is being rebuilt as the ‘Phoenix 4’

There waere plenty of other things to see and do at the FAR site last Saturday.


the Post Graduate Naval Academy students were testing their active stabilization rockets, the avionics and electro-mechanical  controls seen here getting packaged up and


ready for launch (my sugar rocket is also ready on the far rail in the left background). They launched two similar rockets on Saturday.

USC Rocket Lab came out with two rocket teams, a solid APCP team and a GOX-Kero team.


The solid team static tested a 6″ ‘P/Q’ impulse composite carbon fiber case APCP motor,


that suffered a burn through near the end of the long burn motor


that necessitated some of FAR’s firefighting equipment.


The USC GOX-Kerosene liquid motor team’s water jacketed combustion chamber and GSE…


the motor initially burned very fuel rich


and then proceeded to burn perfectly.


Last but not least were Boy Scouts from troop 2222 that camped out for a rocketry class taught by John Newman and of course LUNCH in the FAR quonset hut


and then getting down to business rocket launching


on some of the many FAR model rocket pads.


Big or small, a great bunch of kids!