Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Flying The Pitsco Solid Fuel Rockets

Today is the 22nd June, 2016. This has taken longer than I care for, I admit. It has either been too hot, too windy, or too rainy. If the rockets were going to fly, it had to be today. The temperature, while a bit warm, was at least not too oppressive, and the air was relatively dry.
I arrived at Hickory Street Park in Fernandina Beach just before 11am local time. Setting up was quick. Both rockets had been prepped before I even left home. First up was the older of the two, the "Cardinal", the one I initially built in 2014. Somewhere along the way, however, I had managed to lose the engine. Fortunately, I had a couple of Estes' A10-3T's, roughly the equivalent of an A8-3. Making an adapter was easy, and that would what carried the Cardinal aloft.

At 11:05am, I did a five second countdown and pressed the launch button. A second and a half later, it seemed, the Cardinal was aloft. It got good altitude for the small engine, and soon drifted back down to within a short distance of the launch pad, basically an RTLS (Return To Launch Site).
Canary was next.

I found the delay of launch on the Cardinal suspicious. As it turned out, there was a good reason for it; the batteries in my launch controller were dying. After two failed attempts, I decided to open up the controller and replace the batteries (word to the wise. Always carry spares). This time, the Canary went up, immediately after the launch button was pressed, zooming upward on the thrust of its A8-3 engine. Time was about 11:25am.
Both rockets performed solidly. Aside from my recommendations where their construction was concerned, I feel that these are very decent little performers.
Oh, and I shot videos of today's launch. Not the highest quality, mind you, but fun nevertheless. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Building The Pitsco "Model A.1" - A Review

Two years ago, I built and reviewed a Pitsco Solid Fuel Rocket kit, which I referred to the "Model A". A representative from Pitsco, Melissa, read the review, and offered to send me a newer version of the model to see what changes were implemented. The first one I built was an older version, from 2001 no less, and had been in my collection for years, a survivor of a pair we ordered when I was at the South Florida Science Museum.
I took her up on her offer, and a short time later she sent a new Pitsco Solid Fuel Rocket, one that I refer to as the "Model A.1."
Unfortunately, life got in the way, and it took over two years to finally get around to building the model. Unlike the model I built in 2014, this model I built mostly by the book (mostly). This is a review, with some observations.

Body Tube -
Like the original model, you have to roll the body tube, with the first layer being typing paper (I imagine notebook paper would work as well). They recommend rolling it as tight as possible around the plastic core, but to not glue until you get to the last 1" (25mm). 

Still, I think it is probably a good idea to use something like a glue stick or white glue to add as close as possible to that initial wrap, being careful not to get any on the plastic core. The rest of the wrapping went per instructions. 

Once it was all dry, I trimmed off the excess gummed paper tape, removed it from the plastic core, and set the tube aside. When it had dried, I made the initial line for the launch lug and attached it.

Fins -
The original booklet wasn't clear with how to lay the fin pattern out on the material. This time, they show you how. That was good, as there is really just enough material to make the three fins. I chose to make a copy of the fin pattern and use that as the template. 

The three fins were cut using a sharp razor knife. 

As I still do not have a fin guide, I marked the lower end of the body tube and used both the plastic core and a ruler to make three 4" (100mm) lines for the fins. Each fin was attached with white glue. I used my normal pre-glue method here; a bead of white glue is applied to the fin root, the fin is pressed into its place, and then removed, allowing for the glue on the parts to dry. Then, I used white glue again, applied it to the fin root, and attached the fins. This gives a stronger joint. When the fins had dried, another bead of glue was applied as a fillet on either side of the fin root.

Back to the body tube. There is a problem that arose that might crop up with others. As the inner layer was not glued, it tended to unroll on the inside. This was probably due to humidity here in Florida affecting the paper. I applied a little glue carefully to the inside of those layers and pressed the paper outwards. I also applied a little bead of glue around the end of each edge to serve as additional reinforcement.

Shock Cord & Engine Mount -
Since the page that had the fin pattern had been copied, so had the shock cord mount. This was cut out, and the shock cord attached according to the instructions. This was set aside to dry.
My one big area of concern with the model was the engine mount. This was something that didn't change on this model. In my initial build, the engine mount was modified so that the forward part of the engine clip slid into a slit near the top of the engine tube (about 1/4"-6mm down). Pitsco calls for the engine clip to simply be put over the engine tube, with one end over the top of the engine mount, the clip held in place with the spacer rings. This time, I chose to stick to Pitsco's instructions, but feel that this is still an area of weakness. However, the engine spacer rings are a tight fit, so perhaps the clip will be held in place fairly well. Flying the model will determine how well that works.

Parachute & Final Assembly -
The rest of the model went together according to the instructions. The only change I made to the parachute assembly was to put a drop of white glue on every knot. This is an old trick I've used, as there is nothing worse than having shroud lines coming undone. 

Before the final assembly, I chose to paint the model, as I had the previous model. Unlike the previous model, a gray primer coat was skipped. The model was painted white, sanded smooth, and then painted a bright yellow. Of course, painting the model is optional, as in unpainted form it will still fly.

Once the paint had dried thoroughly, the final assembly took place. The engine spacer rings on this model were a much better fit than they were on the previous model, so no paper layer was needed to build it up. 

The parachute was attached to the screw eye, and then the screw eye was attached to the nose cone.
Final details consisted of the same red and white checkerboard pattern self-adhesive decal material I had used on the first model. 

As the first model was red and this one yellow, they have been named "Cardinal" and "Canary".

Conclusion -
The changes here were minor, but important. I like that the fin material layout is now shown on the instructions, and the new engine spacer rings seem to be a better fit. However, the method for rolling the inner body tube could cause problems for some, and the engine mount may be an area of concern on later flights for the model.
Still, this is a light model, definitely stable, and probably a good performer. This is something I hope to test soon enough.
Stay tuned.
Here we are, late June, 2016, and the models still haven't flown yet! The weather here this time of the year is dodgy. As soon as they fly, I will share! - RL)

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Fleet That Never Was

A comparison of launch vehicles from the early 1960's.
Image courtesy NASA
Today is the anniversary of Alan Shepard's suborbital flight, which signaled the official start of our accepting the Soviet "challenge". With this anniversary, I find myself reminiscing about my dreams of spaceflight.
Sometime in early 1968, my parents skimped and saved and bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia. For the next few years, I would wear this set out, namely volumes "A" and "S". "S" especially; that was where "space travel" lived.
I could barely read when we received it, but I certainly enjoyed the pictures. There was one page in particular, one that compared all the US launch vehicles, and elsewhere was a page that showed the different manned spacecraft, complete with the Vostok in its aerodynamic shell. I didn't need to read, though, I knew these spacecraft by heart.
For the first few years of our having this godsend, I accepted that not only was Apollo operational, but that somewhere the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were still being saved for other missions, just in case. 
And why not?
By second grade, I was checking out space books a plenty from the school library. Most of these books were already seriously dated by 1970-71, and showed things like space stations serviced by Gemini spacecraft, or Mercury spacecraft with all manner of protrusions. Apollo was clearly being saved for the important lunar and deep space missions. 
All of this made sense to my young brain. You have a variety of spacecraft for a variety of missions.
Again, why not?
When I first heard about the "space shuttle", around 1971, it didn't quite sink in that it was to replace the Apollo and all manned spacecraft. It was about the same time that I learned the painful truth.
There were no other "spaceships" being kept in reserve. 
In fact, there would be only a few more missions to the Moon.
This bothered me a great deal.
It seemed to me that we had gone through all this effort to build an infrastructure to allow us access to space, and were letting it go. At least we had the shuttle that was to come, and was set to provide regular access to space. 
As I grew, I discovered more and more just how the space program was really viewed. By the time I became a teenager, I was bullied mercilessly for a number of reasons, among them the fact that I was a "space freak". It was also apparent that the "adults" cared little for space as well. 
Political points were made, we proved we could beat the Soviets, game, set, match, the end. 
When the shuttle finally flew in 1981, more than two years behind schedule, space started being cool again, thanks to movies like the "Star Wars" saga and other science fiction flicks. Those dreams that the child I once had were replaced by a reality that was a lot less interesting, but still promising. 
I suspect that the child I was would be crushed to know that a little more than a decade into the 21st century we'd have gone no further than low Earth orbit.
But these are good times, there is potential, we can stir the pot again, and maybe, just maybe, keep those dreams going. 
At least that's what Robert Ray Little, age seven, would want. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Building the Pitsco "Model A"

Pitsco is a great science education company. Just a visit to their website can provide science crazy kids with great ideas. One thing they do nicely is rocketry. Currently, they carry many Estes products, as well as water rockets and various other aerospace education products.
They have a design of their own that they simply call a "solid fuel rocket". I prefer to call it the "Pitsco Model A"; their product ID is W13230. My first taste of this kit was when I was asked to build and evaluate one for the South Florida Science Museum back in late 2001. I also ordered one for myself, and it has remained untouched since that time. 

The Pitsco Rocket, ca. 2000
Since I've begun thinking about rockets in education again, I felt it was time to re-examine this kit. Even though it has been more than a decade, the people at Pitsco have apparently not changed the kit (though at some point they did produce one with a ready made body tube. More on that in a bit). So, I decided to build the model, and look at areas for improvement. We'll follow the instructions to a point, but there will be some changes along the way. We will also be adding a glue stick to our materials.

Package contents.
This hasn't changed at all since this model was purchased.
Body Tube - 
Before we commence, you will want to make sure that your working surface is flat and as smooth as possible. In the instructions, they recommend using a regular sheet of printer paper, rolling an 11 inch (275 mm) tube around the clear plastic (the form). Once you have it wrapped, you then glue the remaining edge down. This is our first area of modification. Wrap the sheet around a couple of times to help "train" it. Use an end of the clear tube as a guide. Then, go back to the innermost edge and use the glue stick to fasten that inner edge. 

Be careful here, as the trick is to make sure that you do not inadvertently glue the paper to the form. Make sure that this is down fairly tight. Once you've done this, use the glue stick to "draw" a tight zig-zig pattern heading towards the outer edge, but not completely to it; leave about 1" (25 mm). Also add glue along the top and bottom of the sheet. Once you've done this, start rolling the tube. When you reach the remaining edge, use a thin bead of white glue at the wrapped section and roll the rest of the sheet, pressing down to move the glue along. Once you have the inner tube formed, use the white glue to secure the edge down completely. It is best to let this dry completely before moving on to the gummed tape. 

The first layer of the red gummed tape is per the instructions, though I found it was better to use the exposed edge of the first layer as a guide. By the way, this 3" (76 mm) wide strip will not completely wrap around the tube, so expect a gap.

Make sure the first gummed layer is cut to 11" (276 mm).

And there's the gap.
The next layer of the gummed tape calls for it to be cut at a 45° angle. This is pretty easy to do (cut back at an angle to a point equal to the width of the tape), but they are vague when it comes to attaching it to the tube. What I found was that it is easiest if you start with the angled edge first, and start rolling from there. As with the first layer, we will use the edge of the plastic tube form as a starting point, making sure that the newly cut edge wraps around once the tape has been moistened. Also, this remaining layer is supposed to use the remaining tape, supposedly 18" (about 46 cm). The strip I had was longer, so I cut the piece to the specified length. 

It is this spiral wrap that is trickiest, so be patient. Make sure that the tape is adequately moistened, but not overly so. You need it to be wet enough to allow for repositioning, but not terribly so. Once the tape has been moistened, it will flatten out easier, but even more so than the first layer, we need to move judiciously. Wrap the tape carefully and evenly. There will be about a 1/4" (6 mm) overlap. When you reach the end of the tape, you may need to slide the form so that it is flush with the two previous layers. This is to prevent this third layer from adhering to the form. Once we've reached the end, and all of the remaining tape, set the tube aside to dry. 

Engine Mount - 
Now we're going to jump ahead to the engine mount. One thing I do like about the instructions on this kit is that they want you to insert the engine mount after the rocket has been built and painted. That's actually the way I prefer, but for this build, we're going to build the engine mount ahead of time, and insert it before completion to make the rocket sturdier. We're also going to modify the engine mount.
As specified in the instructions, the engine lock is held into place by the spacer rings. This is okay, but not terribly strong. After a few launches, the lock will be prone to shifting. Remember that every time an engine ignites, it basically kicks the rocket off the pad. 

Note the engine tube.
This is a glimpse of what will need to be done.
My suggestion is to move the lock further down the tube. We will make a slit 1/4" (6 mm) down from the top of the tube. 

Once we have done that, slip one end of the engine lock into place. 

We will attach the top ring first, and as per instructions, it will be 1/8" (3 mm) from the top of the tube, covering the top of the clip. As for the second ring. The instructions call for it to be mounted so that the bottom of the ring is at 1" (25 mm). In our version, we will slide it up so that only the top is at that point. 

The engine lock is not quite positioned straight here, but otherwise
the mount is finished.
There is a problem that seems to show up on some of these kits, and this one was no exception. The mounting rings are too small for the inside of the body tube. My solution was to cut a 1 5/8" (about 42 mm) by 7" (177 mm) and wrap this around both rings. I found that the glue stick was the best solution for getting this started, but you will want to use white glue on the rings themselves. Use the glue stick for the rest of the wrap. 

Final Body Tube Assembly - 
Back to the body tube. There will be some trimming needed to clean it up. My suggestion is the use a strip of paper about 2" (50 mm) wide. This paper needs to have a straight edge, and wrapped around the tube so that this edge is aligned, and then taped. Mark the tube at 11" (275 mm) from the "bottom", and slide our paper wrap to that point. Use a pen to draw a line around the tube along the edge of the wrap. 

Once satisfied with the line (which should line up with the inner layers), use small scissors to remove the excess. Also trim the bottom of the body tube as needed, being sure to move the form as necessary. At this point, the tube is complete. 

Make the marks for the positioning of the fins and launch lug as needed, per the instructions. Before they are attached, we will insert the completed engine mount. You will want to slide it in until the engine tube is flush with the bottom of the body tube. Use white glue for this, and make sure that you are fairly quick and steady as you insert the mount.

Fins & Patterns - 
Before we move on to the fins, another recommendation. Rather than cutting the patterns out from the instruction booklet, I recommend photocopying that page, especially as the shock cord mount is on there as well. This allows the instruction booklet to be kept intact for reference later.

My all-in-one does color copies by default.
It might look like the fin material (which appears to be a thick fiber or Bristol board) is insufficient for the three fins, but it is all really a matter of positioning the pattern. 

Once the patterns were transferred, I cut the fins out with a razor knife. They can be cut with scissors, but be warned, this is some very tough material, and again I urge patience. 
With the fins cut, construction proceeds as usual. To attach my fins, I used Aileen's Tacky Glue. First, I applied a thin bead of glue to the fin roots (where the notches are located). Then, I pressed the fin to their marked positions on the body tube, but removed them. Allow this glue to dry. This pre-glueing will ensure a stronger joint. Once the glue has finished setting, apply another bead of glue, this time not as thin, to the fin root again, and attach each unit again, making sure they are properly aligned and positioned. 
Once the fins are attached, allow them to set. This is best done slowly. You might be able to insert the plastic tube again to hold the rocket while the fins set. When they have set, apply a bead of white glue to each side of the roots; these fillets not only help to reinforce the fin attachment point, they also help to streamline the rocket. 

Finishing the Rocket; My Approach (Optional) - 
Now, you can finish the rocket, following the rest of the instructions. Can the rocket be flown unpainted? Certainly. Since we inserted the engine mount prior to painting, we will paint the rocket using a different technique. Instead of using the plastic tube, I use rolled up newspaper to hold the rocket, though that is just a choice (I plan on reusing the tube). For my rocket, I applied a primer coat to allow for smoothing of the body tube. 

Once that set, I smoothed it down with the back of a piece of fine sandpaper, basically polishing up the body (the fins were fine). Once I was satisfied with that, I applied a coat of gloss white. 

This was allowed to set, and a final coat of high gloss dark red ("Robert's rockets are red") was applied, and my usual test pattern red/white checker board vinyl decal material used to decorate the rocket. 

The final product is over 14" (350 mm) in length, and fairly light. On an A8-3, it performs very well, climbing easily to a couple hundred feet (around 60 meters). I imagine on a C class engine, it should put on quite a show. 

Conclusion & The Pitsco "Model B"  -
Hopefully, these little changes to this design should make this little rocket that much more durable. The hardest part of this kit is that body tube, and as I mentioned, we're going to discuss it. At some point, Pitsco made a version of this kit with a regular model rocket body tube. The finished body tube appears to be just about BT-52 in size. This version, one that I have dubbed the Pitsco Model B, no longer appears to be available. Certainly, it might just be as easy to buy a ready made BT-52 tube and go that route, and maybe in some situations that would be preferable. But for the price (currently just $5.95 USD), it's hard to compete against the Pitsco Model A. It may be challenging, but it has plenty of potential. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dirty Birds, Starlings & Educational Rockets

Way back in 2002, I wanted to find a way to manufacture some inexpensive model rockets for teaching purposes. After having a couple of students make what could only be described "death machines" (and which I would not allow to fly), I felt the need to design something a bit more stable, inherently. 
Plastic fin sets were the logical choice, but the rockets that were available at the time that had these, the venerable Estes Alpha III, their smaller Gnome, or a couple of the Quest kits, were not cheap enough, not when compared to the Estes Vikings we had used.
Which was really a pity. The Viking started off as a Centuri rocket meant for the Boy Scouts of America. It has five fiberboard fins that can be arranged in a number of ways, allowing for full customization of each rocket. There are problems with this approach, though.
The first, and perhaps greatest, is student patience. They rush the construction, and this leads to other problems. 
These other problems are unevenly spaced fins, fins too far up the rocket (playing deadly games with CG/CP), weakly and poorly attached fins. Other problems had to do with the manner in which the rockets were built. Good old white glue, like Elmer's Glue All, is sufficient, but sometimes you find, especially in classroom situations, that someone has refilled the student bottles with Elmer's School Glue, a thinner, weaker variant. 
All of these problems came home to roost in the summer of 2002, when I had to tell a couple of students that their rockets couldn't fly.
I wanted to avoid that.
So, I set out to find an inexpensive alternative.

This quest to find the perfect educational model rocket actually began in 2001 while I was at the South Florida Science Museum. A year or so before I arrived, they received some kits from Pitsco. These rockets are unique in that they require that the student roll their own body tube. I was asked to evaluate one. I found that with my years of experience rolling the tube really wasn't that hard, but I wondered how easy it would be for a student, especially younger ones. From that point on, I concentrated on using the kits from Estes and Quest. Still problems persisted, as I previously mentioned.
About the same time, I was looking into the history of model rocketry and perusing some online scans of old model rocket newsletters. One of these, "Model Rocketry News", volume 2, number 1, February 1962, contained a plan by the one and only G. Harry Stine, one of the originators of the hobby and for many years its most prolific advocate. This rocket was the "Dirty Bird III". It utilized plastic components that Estes sold at the time, components that clearly showed their firework roots. The model was built around the BT-40 body tube, an old size that also has its origins in fireworks. 

I wanted to build my own copy of this model, and asked around online to the various model rocket groups I belonged to. Someone suggested that I check Firefox Enterprises, as they carried fin sets, tubes, and nose cones that matched the ones used on the Dirty Bird III.
Wanting to be sure, I contacted the company to check on the shape of the fin unit, and sent them a rudimentary GIF drawing. The salesperson replied that yes, those were the fins. The body tubes were shorter, however. She also mentioned that the cones were just that, cones, though she didn't know what I meant when I asked about how they fit on the tubes. 
Feeling confident, I ordered the components. I went one step further, however. These rockets were ordered for my rocketry class at the Talcott Mountain Science Center. If the Dirty Bird III was really made from similar components, these would be equally easy. 
What arrived, though, was not quite what I was expecting.
The fin units did not quite match those found on the original Dirty Bird III. 

Not only that, the opening in the bottom was around 9/16" (14 mm) in diameter, perfect for mini-engines, not standard 18 mm engines that we had in abundance. The nose cones were not quite what I was expecting, but not really surprising either; they were the standard "sky rocket" type that fit over the tube. The tubes were also a little rough, but at least they were colored.

Undaunted, I pressed on. I'd make do.
Thus was born the "Starling", my own little "Dirty Bird" (if you know birds, you will understand the reason for that name). 
I had to produce thirty kits. The first thing I did was to open up the fin cans to allow 18 mm engines.

To retain the engine, I made engine hooks from coat hangers. This entailed cutting and shaping thirty of them. The rockets would use crepe paper streamers; I've been using this for years, as it is flame retardant and very inexpensive, as well as light. Thirty were made, each 18" (450 mm) long. Each kit contained an elastic shock cord, also 18". Rounding out each kit was a launch lug, made from yellow hard plastic tubing used for mylar balloons. These were cut to 2" (50 mm).
There were some quirks that I didn't like. My original method for mounting the shock cord to the nose cone didn't work, so we went to making a small hole in the side of the cone, running the cord through, and knotting it. The engine hooks were made from soft coat hanger wire, which bent easily, and had to be mounted externally, slightly marring the rockets appearance. 
But even with these quirks, the rockets flew fine, and in fact were pretty tough. Every one of them flew. Every student was happy, though I heard from parents that the rockets did look like fireworks. They usually found it humorous. 
In 2005, I made a second batch for EcoEd in Jacksonville, "Starling-A". These had one modification; the nose cones now had the shock cord attached to the inside of the nose by means of a wooden bead, that I threaded the cord through and epoxied in place before hand. I also picked up a new batch of white tubing for the launch lugs that was supposed to be the same size as the previous yellow lugs. What happened, though, was that these little tubes were not consistent. Some were less than the advertised 3.5 mm internal diameter, and ended up jamming on the launch rods. I was horribly embarrassed. 
I gave up on the design. Until recently.
Once more, my mind has turned to the problem of the best educational rocket, and again I wonder if these components can be used to produce something truly useful. To that end, a test rocket has been assembled, the first "Starling Mk. II", Little Aerospace Model R-2. I am awaiting the arrival of more components. This is to be a small field bird, and a low altitude one at that.
With any luck, the STA (Starling Test Article, designated R-2X) will reveal any short comings in the design. That's my hope, at any rate.

We'll find out soon enough.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Meet The R-3

This is the final product of my little scratch built rocket experiment, "Robert's Red Rocket", or R-3 for short. Considering how rough the tube was initially, it came out pretty nice. Fins could probably be a little smoother (I used two coats of Testor's flat olive green as a primer), but the glossy red paint job looks sharp. Need to install a streamer, but otherwise, it is ready to go.
And I am happy with it. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Behold the Scratch Built Rocket

It has been almost twenty years since I built a model rocket like this one. There are no commercial model rocket parts in its creation. In fact, you can call this a "craft store rocket". 
Really, it isn't much to look at. It's downright homely. The body tube, rolled from poster board and using a technique derived from the work of James Yawn  is just 5.5" (140 mm)long, 3/4" (18 mm) internal diameter, and just a shade under 1" (24 mm) outside diameter. It is not perfectly circular; instead of using spray adhesive, I used thinned wood glue, which was not spread as smoothly as it could have been. On the inside is an engine block, made from a strip of 1/8" (3 mm) poster board that was wrapped around the nearest thing I could find that was close to 1/2" (12.7 mm) in diameter; a AA battery. This was wrapped around until it matched the internal diameter of the body tube, and then glued about 2 3/8" (60 mm) from the bottom of the body tube. 
The nose cone is built from a core that used one of those 2 3/8" (60 mm) wooden peg men or game pieces. I built a washer that brought it up to the same diameter as the outside of the body tube, and used a card stock shroud to give it that nice conical shape up to the "head". 
Still need to smooth that part out.
The three fins are perhaps a bit too thin, using 1/16" (1.6 mm) balsa I had on hand. Their design is as old as model rocketry itself, reminiscent of the fins found on such classic birds as the Estes Big Bertha, or perhaps more appropriately, the Model Missiles Inc. Rock-A-Chute Mark II, the first true commercial model rocket. Their design is almost fool proof. Its sweep and area insures that most of the center of pressure is a bit further back on the model, but on this rocket, with that very heavy nose, this probably was not necessary. 
For a launch lug, I used a bright green Post-It note I had on hand, wrapped around a 1/8" (3 mm) dowel. 
There's still work to be done. Obviously, it needs to be finished. I have the screw eyes to attach the recovery system, but I am still not sure what to use (leaning towards streamer). 
The finished rocket stands around 9" (225 mm) tall. 
It is, however, 100% mine.
My first attempt at scratch building a rocket goes all the way back to kindergarten, but that wasn't a flyer. My fellow students and I were each given one green, one yellow, and one red piece of construction paper, and then we a pattern to make the nose. The rest was much simpler. I figured out the cone very quickly. My rocket had a green tube, yellow nose, and red fins. 
It was my first "model rocket".
It was in the spring of 1975 that I made my first scratch built model rocket for flying, and it was horrible. None of the rockets I owned at that time were usable, and some of the neighborhood kids were launching at Brookview Field, just behind our house. I had an engine, an Estes 1/2A6-2 (which were leftover from a pack I bought to launch my friend Craig's Estes Astron X-Ray; by the way, that is the absolute wrong choice for that rocket). I decided to throw together a rocket from what was on hand, and that meant a toilet paper tube, some cardboard, and a makeshift streamer from crepe paper. 
It went together in about thirty minutes. 
And never flew. 
By the time I got out there, they were packing their things away. 
The groups de facto leader, though, decided to humor this strange little twelve year old broke out his launch pad. I had my the rocket ready to go, with my one igniter. 
A word about those old igniters.
Before the newer low current igniters ("Solar Igniters", now known, inexplicably, as "Starters"), there were older designs that were nothing more than nichrome wire with a length of flammable material painted on them near their centers. These igniters required a lot of current to work, at a minimum 6V supplied in the form of six D sized batteries.
His was a motorcycle battery.
As luck would have it, his battery was exhausted. 
When we tried to launch my rocket, the igniter failed.
So, I thanked him for the effort, removed the engine, tossed the rocket in a waste barrel next to the baseball diamond, and headed home.
This still unnamed rocket is the spiritual heir of that rocket. Like that one, it has been thrown together with material that was either on hand or easy to get. And like that rocket it was thrown together because I am suffering from a colossal case of "rocket fever". 
Years have taught me, though.
In a few days, it will be finished, receive a paint job, hopefully taste the air at speed.
Well, that's the plan at any rate.