Established August 1998... updated 03 Feb 2012

My First High Power Rocket


I started in Model Rocketry in the summer of 1973, towards the end of the "golden age" of rocketry. My first rocket was an Estes Alpha III, and my second was the Estes X-Ray. My activities in Model Rocketry were at an agressive rate from the summer of 1973 until about the end of 1974. After that time, my interest in rocketry was somewhat less... not that I was disinterested in rockets, I had other interests coming on line (astronomy and stereo systems). My rocketry activities did continue at some level through and including the 1980's and 1990's, but in a number of those years rocket launches took place only once or twice per year. In late 1998 I became interested in High Power Rocketry and certified Level 1 shortly thereafter.

I consider myself an "intermediate" rocket flyer. I fly mostly sport flights, I am not really into competition. Most of the flights I make are with single use motors, although I do have a decent set of 29mm and 38mm hardware. I have not yet used electronics but hope to do so someday. I will probably not certify to Level 2 due to the cost of motors and the lack of large fields (locally) for flying such rockets. So, overall I am a "casual" flyer, I like to do things at my own pace. I am a member of CATO:

Visit the CATO Rocketry Site!

Click the image to visit the CATO Rocketry Site!

The pride of my fleet, the Ultimate 98 on an H180W motor.

My Collection: Past and Present

Below is a description of rockets I have had over the years. All rockets are Estes unless otherwise noted.

Visit the coolest Hobby store
Click here to visit

Rocket Photos: Past and Present

Here are some photos of my collection. My favorite ones are the vintage photos, taken when I was a kid during the golden age of rocketry. I had a lot more photos from back when but unfortunately many of them were lost over the years.

A 1974 vintage photo of me with my collection at that time. Lots of vintage kits in there! Some of them from left to right: Cobra, Midget, Sprite, Big Bertha, Birdie, Starblazer, Drifter, Nighthawk, Alpha III, Scout, Midget, Mercury Redstone, Mark II, Mosquito, X-ray, Gemini Titan, Streak, Saros, Farside, Sky Hook, Scrambler, Little Joe II, Demon, Sandhawk, Strablazer (new version).

Another view of my vintage collection Some of these I still have today! Note the shelf in the back on the wall, it is loaded with bottles of dope, sanding sealer, paint, etc.

A late 1970's image of an original Estes Farside being launched. At right is a classic Estes Saros taking off.

Here is an original Estes Patriot rocket being lauched from my backyard in the late 1970's. At right is a night launch of a (shortended) Big Bertha rocket from the same time period.

My vintage Estes Spaceman ready for flight.

My upscale scratchbuilt Estes Sky Hook (29mm motor mount). Flies well on a G80 motor.

My Estes Cobra (clone). This rocket got caught in trees and no longer exists. THis is the third Cobra I have lost to trees, the first two were originals!

My modern day rocket workbench area. Still a number of vintage rockets on that shelf!

Rocket Day, 4 May 1974

"Rocket Day" was held on 04 May 1974. On this day we launched roughly 100 rockets. Lots of planning went into this event. Five kids in our club (me, Paul Goewey, Mike Schmidt, Tim Rymasz and Steve Weatherbee) made this event happen. A massive prep event took place the night before the event. People from all around the neighborhood came out to watch. The Goewey girls made a "Rocket Day" cake. As luck would have it the wind was fairly stiff on this Saturday, but we went ahead with the event anyway Below are about a dozen photos from this event.

This photo was taken just prior to the Opening Ceremonies. People from left to right are Mike Schmidt, Tim Rymasz, Joe Roberts (me), Paul Goewey and Steve Weatherbee (hidden behind a rocket). From left to right the rockets include: Estes Patriot, Estes Mercury Redstone, Estes Gemini Titan, Estes Saturn V, Estes Saturn 1B, Estes Gemini Titan and a Cox Saturn V. This Cox Saturn V was made of plastic (it was Mike Schmidt's), it flew clumsily on a "D" engine. It was too heavy and somewhat unstable and as a result it flew in the sky about as well as a drunk drives a car!

Paul Goewey's Estes Saturn 1B rocket lifts off. Unfortunately only 2 of the four C6-3 engines ignited, proving off-centered thrust. The rocket crashed into briars and high brush and received some damage (not major but the rocket required repairs before flying again).

Joe Roberts' Estes Cobra lifts off on a cluster of three B6-4 engines. This rocket was not recovered untl several months later (it was found on the other side of the mountain not far from Glendale Rd). Unfortunately it was in bad shape due to being exposed to weather for so long. To the left of the Cobra is an Estes Gemini Titan.

Joe Roberts preparing to launch an Estes Patriot. This rocket was donated to our club after I wrote a letter to Estes telling them about Rocket Day. Keen eyed observers will note that I am wearing my shirt with "Estes Aerospace Club" emblem on it. I was Level 4 (level 5 was the highest level). The launch pad shown here was made in metal shop by Paul Goewey as I recall.

Some of the rockets that were launched today. A careful look will reveal MANY classic Estes rockets. That larger black and yellow rocket is not a Big Bertha, rather it is the similar looking Estes Ranger (the Ranger uses a cluster of 3 engines). Some of the other rockets on this table: Chreokee-D, Sprint, Red Max, Mini-Bomarc, Javelin, Alpha III, Aerobee 300, Avenger, Viper, Little Joe II, V-2, Saros, WAC Corporal, Streak, Beta, Screamer, Sandhawk, Drifter, Scrambler, Starblazer, Mark II, Scout. Not shown here but also launched included classics such as the Mars Lander, Mars Snooper, Saturn V, Saturn 1B.

A Little Joe II drag race. Most of them are Estes, one is the Centuri model. At the far left is an Estes Super Flea and to the right of it is an Estes Scout. Lying on the ground in the foreground is someone's Estes Viper.

An Estes Sky Hook just about to lift off. To the left of the rocket is our "battery box" (contained three Burgess 7.5V batteries.

The rocket that just lifted off is long forgotten, however to the right of where it lifted off is an Estes Birdie awaitning its turn to get into the air.

An Orbital Transport rocket about to lift off while a Patriot and Gemini stand ready.

Joe Roberts' Estes Scrambler lifts off on three A8-3 engines. An egg was lofted and safely returned on this flight!

Another view of some of the rockets that await launch!

Visit the coolest Hobby store
Click here to visit

Rocket Day 1980

"Rocket Day" 1980 was held in August. It was not as massive as the original rocket day held in 1974 but there were still a good number of rockets to be launched. Below are about a dozen photos from this event.

Rockets prepared for launch on Rocket Day 1980.

An Estes Constallation with engine just starting to output thrust.

My brother Mike's Estes Demon.

My original Estes Little Joe II (vintage 1973) making another flight Still have this rocket in 2010.

A Centuri MX774 just about to lift off.

A Centuri Orion. I lost the original nose cone in 1974, so I made a new one in wood shop on a lathe. It is pine (not balsa) so it is a LOT heavier than normal!

My 1974 Estes Patriot making another flight (still have this rocket in 2010).

My brother Mike's "golden" Scud-B rocket.

Alan Bercovici's Estes Renegade rocket in flight.

My Estes Wizard loaded with a 1/2A6-2 engine. Anything larger than this in our field and kiss it goodbye!

More to come...

When I have time...

Joe's home page...
E-mail to Joe Roberts