Mixsonian Morrs and Barbara Larry

Rocket Man, Part 2

The Estes rockets were fun but they were small and little more than toys, I wanted something more.  Now I did notice that Estes warned about making your own rocket engines, but of course they would, I thought, they wanted you to buy their engines. Then again there was John Slade Mixson (see #252) who was eleven years old in 1958 when he was killed by an explosion of a home-made rocket he and his brother had made.

Making Your Own Rocket Engines

Rocket ManualBut that didn’t deter me. Looking in the Popular Science I found an ad for the “Rocket Manual for Amateurs” book which the ad said provided full details on how to build your own rockets and rocket engines.  Ok, it sounded good so ordered the book. The book arrived and I found it to be a serious book on amateur rockets with chapters on the science of rockets, rocket engine design, rocket propellants, instrumentation, launching and tracking.  There was a whole appendix with complex mathematical formulars I couldn’t understand with my eighth grade math. The book mentioned liquid fuel rockets, but the main focus was on solid fuel rockets which was fine with me, I really just wanted to build a bigger version of an Estes rocket.

Basic Rocket Design

Chapter 1, Safety and Scientific Method, I skimmed over safety getting to the scientific method, ok the book was serious scientific method with a whole appendix of rocket formulas,   Rocket FormulasChapter 1, Safety and Scientific Method, skimmed over the safety info    I wanted to build rockets not be a rocket scientist….errr, well maybe I did want to be a rocket scientist, but right now I wanted to get to the good stuff.  Chapter 2, Basic Rocket Design, now that’s better, design for a two foot high rocket sound about right, Nozzelmetal pipe with fins, a nose cone, nozzle made from pipe couplings, all things I could get down at my local rocket supply company, Glock’s Hardware.   The nozzle I made from two pipe fittings filled and shaped on the inside using Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty.    Chapter 3, Rocket Propellants, the stuff that makes the rocket go, the dangerous stuff.  From Popular Science I knew the U.S. space program all used liquid fuel rockets and that they were large and complex, so I decided on the simpler solid fuel rocket.  Several exotic solid fuels were listed but the last one I recognized, zinc-sulfur, the same as used in the Estes rocket engines.  No problem, I put in a request to Dad and by the end of the week he brought me home a bottle of powered zinc and a bottle of sulfur.   I then mixed the zinc and sulfur into the appropriate ratios and did a test lighting it on fire, well sort of, all it did is smolder giving off a noxious sulfur smell. I tried all sorts of zinc to sulfur ratios, but none ever worked and after a few weeks I gave up and moved on to my next project.

Most of the Estes rockets I built I later blew up using them to make fireworks.  I packed the payload with different colored flash chemicals I mixed up along with a few firecrackers with a cherry bomb for a nose cone and off they would go, shooting up, a quick flash and a boom. I still have a few Estes rockets, two I built as a kid but never have flown, the space shuttle I built before the space shuttle program ended in 2011.


Updated: 09-13-2022