Amateur rocketry

Amateur rocketry, sometimes known as amateur experimental rocketry or experimental rocketry is a hobby in which participants experiment with fuels and make their own rocket motors, launching a wide variety of types and sizes of rockets. Amateur rocketeers have been responsible for significant research into hybrid rocket motors, and have built and flown a variety of solid, liquid, and hybrid propellant motors.


Amateur rocketry was an especially popular hobby in the late 1950s and early 1960s following the launch of Sputnik, as described in Homer Hickam's memoir "Rocket Boys".

In the summer of 1956, 17-year-old Jimmy Blackmon of Charlotte, North Carolina, built a 6-foot rocket in his basement. The rocket was designed to be powered by combined liquid nitrogen, gasoline, and liquid oxygen. On learning that Blackmon wanted to launch his rocket from a nearby farm, the Civil Aeronautics Administration notified the U.S. Army. Blackmon's rocket was examined at Redstone Arsenal and eventually grounded on the basis that some of the material he had used was too weak to control the flow and mixing of the fuel. [Newsweek, August 13, 1956] [Time, August 27, 1956] [] [,9171,864107,00.html?promoid=googlep]

Interest in the rocketry hobby was spurred to a great extent by the publication of a June, 1957, Scientific American article that described the design, propellant formulations, and launching techniques utilized by typical amateur rocketry groups of the time (including the Reaction Research Society of California). The subsequent publication, in 1960, of a book titled "Rocket Manual for Amateurs" by Bertrand R. Brinley provided even more detailed information regarding the hobby, and further contributed to its burgeoning popularity. At this time, amateur rockets nearly always employed either black powder, zinc-sulfur (also called "micrograin"), or rocket candy (often referred to as "caramel candy") propellant mixtures. However, such amateur rockets can be dangerous because noncommercial rocket motors may fail more often than commercial rocket motors if not correctly engineered. An appalling accident rate led individuals such as G. Harry Stine and Vernon Estes to make model rocketry a safe and widespread hobby by developing and publishing the National Association of Rocketry Model Rocket Safety Code, and by commercially producing safe, professionally-designed and manufactured model rocket motors. Model rocketry by definition then became a separate and distinct activity from amateur rocketry.

As knowledge of modern advances in composite propellants became more available to the public, it became possible to develop amateur motors with greater safety. Hobbyists were no longer dependent on dangerous packed powder mixtures which could be delicate and unpredictable in handling and performance. []

The Tripoli Rocketry Association sanctions some amateur activities, which they call "research rocketry," provided certain safety guidelines are followed, and provided the motors are of relatively standard design.

Notable Events

On May 17, 2004 Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) successfully launched the first amateur high-power rocket into space, achieving an altitude of 72 miles. [CSXT web site:]

Prior to that the Reaction Research Society on November 23, 1996 launched a solid fueled rocket, designed by longtime member George Garboden, to an altitude of 50 miles from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

ee also

*Model rocketry
*High power rocket
*Portland State Aerospace Society
*Reaction Research Society
*Civilian Space eXploration Team
*Space Frontier Foundation

External links

* [ Reaction Research Society (RRS)]
* []
* [ Rocketry Online]
* [ Richard Nakka's Experimental Rocketry Web Site]
* [ Steve Jurvetson's TED Talk on Amateur Rocketry]
* [ I Build Rockets Website]


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