18. July 2013 · Comments Off on The Vollmer Space Program is a GO! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,
Timmy built a small rocket that had a lot of problems during construction, but ended up launching successfully not once, but four times!

Timmy built a small rocket that had a lot of problems during construction, but ended up launching successfully not once, but four times! Twice it nosed right into the ground, but Timmy got it to launch again.

Jacob is very proud of his "Far Side" rocket.

Jacob is very proud of his “Far Side” rocket.

Earlier this week, I was hauling the boys on errand after errand all over Colorado Springs. One of the errands was a short stop at Hobby Lobby to “dry mount” one of Timmy’s Atlanta Braves posters.

While waiting for the work to be done (about 15 minutes) I took the kids to the model crafts aisle. I thought they would look at the airplane kits, but they instead wandered over to the model rockets.

The boys had assembled and launched rockets before, at Cub Scout camp in spring 2011. But they were tiny rockets and needed a LOT of parental involvement. You can watch those launches here and here.

I told them they could each pick out a rocket kit. But then I realized we needed more stuff for the rockets to actually launch.

While standing in Hobby Lobby, I did a quick Google search for model rocket tips for beginners. This GeekDad blog post from 2009 came up: GeekDad Basics: How to Launch a Model Rocket. I quickly read the post while the boys were arguing over which rockets they’d want.

Okay…it seems that we not only need the rocket kits, but we’d also need…

  • Engines
  • A launch pad
  • A launch controller — a means to ignite the engines
  • “Recovery wadding” — a filler that goes into the rocket to protect the parachute from the heat of the engine

I found a kit that includes a launch controller, launch pad and two rocket kits. With my Hobby Lobby coupon the kit was only $15. Then it was another $15 worth of engines and a $5 small package of wadding*.

*Regarding the wadding. After I opened the package of “wadding”, I realized it was like rough toilet paper. I’d recommend one of those single rolls of Scott tissue at $0.95 per roll, and that will last hundreds of launches.

So…this afternoon the boys assembled the rockets while I set up the launcher and launch controller. Dave suggested the boys could paint the rockets, so we picked up some spray paint at Walmart today. We painted the parts first, which I don’t recommend.

Timmy’s rocket was very difficult to put together because we had painted the nose cone and fins first. We should have waited.

Jacob did a great job assembling his rocket on his own. Timmy needed some help, especially with the plastic cement.

Timmy's rocket before launch.

Timmy’s rocket before launch.

We headed out to one of our three neighborhood parks this evening to launch the rockets.


Here are videos of the boys’ launches.




Timmy’s rocket’s first two launches didn’t properly eject the nose cone such that a neon streamer would fly out. This caused the rocket to come straight down into the ground. I’m sure it was because of the excess paint on the nose cone that caused it to fit very tightly into the cardboard tube. I’m glad there wasn’t anyone standing in its way as it came down.

This happened not once, but twice!

This happened not once, but twice! Don’t fear, we were able to straighten it out and it flew again.

The boys really enjoyed chasing the rockets down, too. Yay for exercise!

Can you see the rocket? The parachute is just below the blue sign with yellow letters.

Can you see the rocket? The orange and white parachute is below the blue sign with yellow letters.

The boys — all three of them — had a wonderful evening enjoying physics at its finest. They are already discussing how to make rockets bigger and make them fly higher. We might need to invest in another launchpad/controller pair so the boys can launch simultaneously, but that might wait for a birthday or another holiday.

With craft store 40-50% off coupons, it’s not hard to keep this hobby inexpensive. But keep in mind each launch costs an average of $2.