Experimental Rocketry Links
Richard Nakka: http://www.nakka-rocketry.net
The best and most detailed web site about experimental rocketry with all the science and math besides all the experimental results, detailed construction, etc. He was heavily into sugar propellant but has advanced and branched into epoxy and other propellants besides igniters, rocket construction and much more.
Equally a prolific as Richard but with a little different direction. Known for his "recrystalized" sugar propellant using corn syrup and probably the first to document its use. Tiny motors, big motors, commercial motor propellant reloads, teacher of rocketry, and with a great sense of humor. Highly recommended.
Dan Pollino: http://www.inverseengineering.com
Like Edison, when you read his archives of his developments, you think of all the things that didn't work. Recently, his "flexible" sugar propellant, also using corn syrup, has gained some notoriety. His web site isn't the easiest to find specific things on but interesting none the less. Author of K450 PVC Rocket Engine Design and Construction. (see the comments below in the "book" section). Dan has made some huge sugar motors.
Scott Fintel: June 7, 2016 Wayback Machine Archive**
Another sugar propellant researcher. His videos show detailed steps of making a number of different sugar propellants. He also has a forum that in the past has gotten a lot of action. Scott has built some large rockets. Check out what's in his "What's New" box, too.
Trailer Trash Aerospace: Dec 3, 2010 Wayback Machine Archive**
I especially like their tools and tips section** -- tube cutting, fiberglassing and foam cutting. Also lots of information about their motors and rocket projects, some very unique and interesting. They use homemade aluminum motors and potassium nitrate - sugar fuel up to 5" in diameter (that is HUGE!).
Stuart Leslie: http://www.4sightinc.com/stu
Something unique here: Stuart chronicles building a tiny aluminum motor including nozzle without a lathe using lathe tools clamped to his drill press. Also has made larger projects and finally got a lathe (like some others of us plan to do). Very interesting.
The Amateur Rocketry Links Library: Dec 9, 2013 Wayback Machine Archive**
Known for its vast coverage of rocketry through copious links, it is a good source. I think Rocketry Planet may be in competition with the most links, though. Update 2017: It appears Darrell Mobley, owner of Rocketry Planet, passed away at the age of 54 in 2011 and by 2013 the Rocketry Planet website was gone (last wayback machine archive March 17, 2013).
Armadillo Aerospace: Sep 2, 2013 Wayback Machine Archive**
This is not a website to explain homemade rocket motors but it is incredibly interesting! A liquid fuel rocket with attitude control and capable of a soft landing just using the engine. It is a small group of volunteers working two days a week and have developed a... well you have to see it to believe it. Here is their latest video. Update 2017: John Carmack finally called it quits (put it into "hibernation mode") in 2013 after winning the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Level 1 & 2. Several of the employees formed a new company called Exos Aerospace.
Amateur and Experimental Rocketry of Kurt Theis: Aug 1, 2015 Wayback Machine Archive**
Some interesting experimental information such
as the reason for building in igniters in the top of the motor instead of
inserting from the nozzle end, machining aluminum cases on a lathe, other
tools, equipment, and more.
Bic Pen rocket, and an experimental rocket motor and tests.
Pat Bunn: June 16, 2008 Wayback Machine Archive**
A small website but good for some ideas.
The premier experimental forum which started out as primarily sugar propellant rocketry but covers all phases of rocketry. 2017 update: no longer existing.
PVC Motor Rockets: groups.google.com/group/PVC-Motor-Rockets
Similar to Sugpro but smaller following. 2017 Update: Group still exists but no activity in the last 3 years.
Rocketry Forum: http://www.rocketryforum.com/
Covering all facets of rocketry from model to high power and research.
How to Make Amateur Rockets 2nd Edition, by John H. Wickman
This is the best book to start with in my opinion because he takes you through all the math. He focuses on composite propellant -- ammonium nitrate and ammonium perchlorate -- motors built using PVC pipe and Durham's Water Putty nozzles and closures. He touches on other subjects. You won't learn how to construct a rocket vehicle here or learn about commercial motor reloads but a lot of his material is applicable to other types of motors. Another area he goes into more extensively than anyone else is finding a place to launch and how to get an FAA waiver.
The company that bears his name, Wickman Spacecraft & Propulsion Company (WSPC), designs and builds full size rockets and motors for the military, commercial and educational groups so I think he knows what he is talking about. He also holds classes where a person can go for a few days, learn the science, build and test fire a rocket motor.
Experimental Composite Propellant, by Terry W. McCreary, Ph.D.
This book is spiral bound and available through many chemical, rocketry and pyrotechnic suppliers. It is not available through bookstores. Where I feel like the title of other books often are a little misleading because they don't tell you what the book is about, this one is about just what it says and more. It focuses on just what the title says and explains all different kinds of ingredients and what they do and why from a chemical view point. It also throws in "bonus" information -- building motors, igniters, test fixtures, engine design, casing materials, and more. With a normal high school chemistry, physics and math background, this is a readable, understandable, and very useful book. Dr. McCreary has also co-authored a General Chemistry book (very expensive). Highly recommended.
Rocket Propulsion Elements, by George P. Sutton & Oscar Biblarz
Available through bookstores. (Buy a used one) This is the book you buy and set out on display or have it in the foreground when you take pictures of you and your rockets or motor building activities to make you look smart because most of us don't understand most of what is in this book. It is a college level text book and very detailed about rockets in general including liquid fueled and all the mechanical systems and physics and engineering to go along with it. If you are comfortable with partial derivatives and calculus, you may get more out of it. Having said that, if you can't get something out of it, then you are past the learning stage of your life and you are ready to cash it in. You should be able to get ideas from all kinds of resources even if you don't understand them all.
My Free 1979 Manual: click here
This is an old booklet about making black powder rocket motors but is also applicable for learning how to make black powder for igniters and ejection charges, rolled paper liners, and just for the black powder motor information. I don't recommend black powder motors at all, now, but for something different, you might want to try it sometime.
Amateur Rocket Motor Construction, by David Sleeter
Available from rocketry or pyrotechnic suppliers or any bookstore. This is a published 514 page paperback book. David's first edition of this book came out shortly after mine and may have been completely independent of mine (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt) but I'll also give him credit for continuing the research and writing light years beyond my little booklet. The full title of the book is "Amateur Rocket Motor Construction, A Complete Guide to the Construction of Homemade Solid Fuel Rocket Motors." To me this is misleading because it is only about black powder motors and very few people in high power experimental rocketry would even consider black powder for a fuel. Sugar propellant is far better, and composite propellant that much better yet. It is a very well written book with extensive details about every facet of black powder motors. That is on the positive side. On the negative side, it is 514 pages but 40% is on individual drawings of motors and tools that could have been compressed into a half dozen pages by using single drawings with tables of the different dimensions since they are otherwise identical. It is also strange that he is the apparent author of "The incredible 5¢ sugar rocket"** which has been widely distributed over the internet, often mentioned and has been responsible for many people getting into experimental rocketry or rocketry in general. I also find his website strange. It is a sub web of AT&T so he has not gotten his own domain name, The company Rocket Science Institute just sells books but says it is "a non-profit scientific and educational foundation in support of "amateur" experimental rocket science, engineering, and technology. This is no reflection on the great information available in the book, I just find it all very strange.
PVC Rocket Engine, by Dan Pollino
The second edition of Dan's book is now available. This version moves Dan into the "big league" as it is now a soft bound book complete with ISBN number and available on Amazon.com and other places. Congratulations, Dan, a big investment that I am sure will pay off. This book is a step-by-step set of instructions on how to build a PVC case, potassium nitrate and sugar fueled K450 rocket motor that develops 300 pounds of thrust and per Dan, will propel a rocket over 5000 feet. To start with, Dan has developed, built, tested, and flown this motor many times and has, as far as I know, worked out all the bugs so this motor will work consistently every time. The instructions are so clear and so detailed that anybody even without a background in experimental rocketry should have no trouble following the directions and making this motor the first try. This is the way to make a set of instructions! This is the way I try to write instructions, too.
The second edition edition has about four times as many pages as the first because the first edition was an 8-1/2 X 11 format with four pictures and accompanying explanation (four steps) to each page while the second edition is a 6 X 9 format and has one picture with text explanation (one step) per page. The first edition was on card stock and with a wire ring spine. The first edition had color pictures, the second edition is in black and white with larger pictures. This is normal in publishing because color pictures are VERY expensive to print. There is no information lost in going to B&W pictures except maybe in seeing the color of the propellant at different stages of its preparation. The templates that were full size and included as pages in the first edition are now downloadable from his website.
Bits and pieces of this book can be found from his original website whose pages have been moved to the gallery section** of his current website. These pages chronicle his developments but it is worth the money to get his book and get the perfectly laid out step by step details of a mature working motor.
Dan has some unique methods that are very interesting. I like to support any effort of any fellow experimental rocketry person and I hope he makes a significant amount of money with his book. We spend so much money in this hobby that getting a little back for all our efforts sounds really good. I respect all the effort he has put out over the last several years and what he has posted on his web site. Support an experimental rocketeer -- buy his book. It is available from his web site, from Amazon.com and from some rocketry suppliers but do him a favor and buy it directly from his web site.
M-80 Rocket Powered Skateboard by Dan Pollino Click here (2017 update: website not available, no pictures in wayback arckive).
A 14 month development project and quite an accomplishment. This is a very low thrust (for its size -- 22 pounds), single use, long duration (9.5 seconds) rocket motor ignited while on the skate board. This has got to be a thrill! This book, just like Dan's previous book, PVC Rocket Engine, gives you step by step details on how to build this intriguing "vehicle" so that anybody with average mechanical skills would have no trouble building it. You may find others on the web and on you-tube where people have strapped a model rocket engine onto a skateboard but it just doesn't work. There is more to the engineering to making a working rocket skateboard than that, and Dan has engineered this device incredibly well, and being a mechanical engineer myself, I know good engineering when I see it!
I was impressed with a number of features and innovative methods that Dan has used. Safety items include a "dead man's switch" that instantly extinguishes the rocket motor if a person were to fall off or for any other reason release the switch. A pressure switch in the extinguishing system in series with the ignition switch insures that the rocket motor cannot be ignited unless the extinguishing system is functional. Even a shock absorber on the motor mount is included. This absorbs some of the the initial thrust that might otherwise kick the skateboard right out from under its rider. The low thrust long burn is just what is required to propel the skateboard with any size person on it for real. And this is not a one shot ride. Make up a whole batch of rocket motors at one time and you have a whole afternoon of rocket propelled thrills.
I had some questions that may occur to other readers and Dan was more than ready and willing to answer them. One of my questions was, "You say the skateboard is street legal. How is this so?" He said he called around and talked to all the relevant departments and agencies and they say it is considered a motor vehicle and breaks no laws by being ridden on the street. My advice is, nevertheless, you might want to check local ordinances because cities have a habit of passing city ordinances controlling things that might not be prohibited at a state level. Dan's final comment to this question was, "There is no law against riding a rocket skateboard on the street." That is fantastic news to me with so much of our lives controlled and so many things outlawed, especially when it comes to experimental rocketry.
I also asked about his interaction with the ATF on the project. He had originally hoped to sell the completed motors and if not that, then the kits to make the motors. The ATF ruling was as I would have expected in lieu of their rulings in other experimental rocketry issues in recent years, a person receiving a completed motor would have to have a low explosives users permit, the same as for any rocket motor over "G" size. He didn't mention it, but he also would have had to have a manufacturer's permit which would have been a total headache, I am sure. The ATF had no problem with selling kits but considering liability issues, Dan decided just publishing this book was a better choice. And that choice puts all that development Dan accomplished at our disposal with instructions anyone can follow.
Not many people can afford a trip into outer space, or to fly their own airplane. Many are not brave enough to go bungee jumping, skydiving or free rock climbing. But here is a down-to-earth honest-to-goodness rocket propelled thrill most anyone can afford! Buy Dan's book and build the M-80 Rocket Powered Skateboard.
And before you ask, no I am not getting a dime for any of these reviews -- they are my honest opinion and if I am excited about someone else's projects, there is good reason.
The Complete Water Rocket Manual by Gary Jacobs
Water rockets? Water rockets actually have a much larger number of hits per day on search engines than build-it-yourself chemical rockets. This is why I chose these to write my first e-book on. I'll have to admit that chemical rockets, whether sugar, BP or AP are more exciting, maybe just from the roar of the engines, but water rockets have their own appeal and challenges. This book is actually still in the writing stage but you have a unique opportunity to get this book while it is in process and get updates as the writing continues. Get the details here (main page) or the in-process offer here (page coming soon) (2017 update: "soon" still has not come--new business and getting old has delayed completion to who knows when--still thinking about it.)
RCS (Rocket Motor Components Inc): http://www.rocketmotorparts.com
Experimental rocket motors, parts (casing tubes, phenolic liners, O-rings, nozzles, etc.), chemicals.
Hardware for experimental rocketry and other scientific and hardware supplies. Load cells, nichrome wire, graphite, electronics, parachutes, recovery, hybrid motors and supplies and more.
Loci Research: http://lokiresearch.com/products.asp
Snap ring type motors, reloads, electronics. These are suitable for homemade (experimental) propellant as well as commercial.
Binder Design: http://binderdesign.com
Well known rocket kits, hardware, recovery, experimental motors, more.
Green Monkey Aerospace: gmarocketry.com/Home_Page.html
Small experimental motors -- 13mm & 18mm (summer of 08). Parts and kits. OUT OF BUSINESS
Mostly Missiles: http://mostlymissiles.com
Reloadable Aluminum cases and fuel kits, AP until Dec.
Dataq Instruments: http://www.dataq.com/194.htm
A/D Converters. Entry level one (DI-194RS) with software for $24.95. I use this one.
Scott Fintel's Software: thefintels.com/aer/software.htm**
Free software dealing with : Bates Grain Burn Rate Simulator, Hybrid Calculator, Density/Convertor, Batch Calculator, Kn Calculator, Motor Calcs.
Richard Nakka's Software: http://www.nakka-rocketry.net/softw.html
SRM-Solid rocket motor design, CASING - Motor casing design, IGNITER - Rocket motor igniter design, CONVERT - Units converter, EzAlt - Rocket Flight Performance Spreadsheet, SOAR - Rocket Flight Performance.
Fantastic easy to use program to calculate max acceleration, velocity, time to peak, recommended delay and maximum altitude with the motor input, rocket weight, and rocket diameter. Includes graphed output.
Graphical User Interface to ProPEP. Propep is a free program written some time ago by chemists tired of balancing reaction equations by hand. It is used to determine results in propellant formulas from a chemistry standpoint and gives data required to put into other rocket motor software.
James E Lanier's Software: http://www.chemroc.com/software.html
Bates Grain Calculator, $9.95, The Propellant Characterization Calculator, $4.95, Rocket Motor Calculator $4.95
Non-Rocketry Related Favorite Links
The best free graphics image viewer, converter, manipulator I have seen.
** Some great rocketry sites have come and gone through the years. Some of these, at least in part if not in whole, are accessible through the WAYBACK MACHINE (https://web.archive.org/). If you know the original web address (URL) enter it and then start with the latest archive date and work your way back until you find the best website archive. Links updated 11/22/2017