I'll admit it. I am a rocket nut. I was glued to the TV set when Alan Shepard blasted into space on May 5, 1961 (I was just shy of 4 years old!) and have been hooked ever since

I discovered model rocketry in 1968 along with my best friend Greg Smith in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, when the hobby shop opened. We flew Centuri and Estes rockets. About a year later, we moved to Tucson (I was still unpacking my room during the Apollo 11 moon mission)


Starting junior high, I quickly became involved with a rocket-building class led by our counselor, Mr. Craig. The class became a club, the Sunnyside Organization for the Advancement of Rocketry (SOAR), named after our school, Sunnyside Junior High.


Mr. Craig led us into performing rocketry lectures and demonstrations for classes at our school, and others in Tucson. We hosted a couple of local rocket meets and competed with a couple of local clubs. The photo of the Mercury Redstone was taken at one of those launches

Model Rocketry sparked my interest in engineering and math. Designing, building, and flying a rocket is a very satisfying activity. I haven't moved into "high power" rocketry, but would like to some day.


I enjoy running computer simulations of rocket flights, and delving into the math behind them. I recently worked on a derivation of the formulas to generate ogive nose cones the link will show you how to draw tangent ogives and secant ogives. Kem Payza created an Excel spreadsheet that will draw nose cone profiles for ogive, elliptical, parabola, and other shapes. Click to download the file (UPDATED: approx 472 KB zipped).

Virginia Tech has a web site on aerodynamics called Configuration Aerodynamics Course that has a lot of information, including a pdf file called Geometry for Aerodynamicists. This document contains formulas for other nose shapes, such as the Von Karmen ogive (79 KB).

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is a method to calculate fluid flow in, or around objects. It is like running a virtual wind tunnel. I have been working on analyzing an Alpha to calculate the effects of launch lug drag and compare it to the analysis in Estes TR-11. It is a work in progress and I am currently waiting on an updated version of the software to allow better meshing around the launch lug. While waiting, I modeled a research rocket NACA used in the 1950s to study supersonic flight.

For more information on CFD analysis, go to CFD Online


This is a Visual Basic program that uses the formulas from Centuri's old technical report on predicting a rocket's altitude (TIR-100) to generate altitude and coast time charts. It will either calculate the maximum altitude and coast time for a given rocket, or generate tables for various drag form factors and weights. This output is in the form of delimited text file that can be imported into a spreadsheet to produce graphs. It will generate a chart for maximum altitude, and coast time for various liftoff weights and CDAs. The charts are not as elegant as a spreadsheet's, but they can be printed out.

The current version uses ounces for weight, inches for length, and feet for altitude. It is not anywhere as sophisticated as Rocksim from Apogee Rockets, or wRASP. It is a CHAD (CHeap And Dirty) way to plot off some altitude charts for casual use. Then again, the plot of altitude vs. liftoff weight does illustrate the concept of optimum mass!

Click to download RockAlt. It is a zip file with a "setup.exe" included . VB will have to install a few files to make the windows run OK. I have run the program on Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows XP.

NOTE: Version 1.3 is now available! I have added a "File open" dialog to allow flexibility in saving the output file. The zip file (rockalt13.zip) is approx 1.89MB.

The Centuri report TIR-100 is available here. (If the web site says it is unavailable, wait an hour or so for the download limit to timeout.)


Now that you have predicted how high your rocket can go, how do you find out how high it actually flies?

The method involves some trigonometry, and is described in the Estes Technical Report "TR-3" available at the Estes Educator site or at JimZ

I have written a Visual Basic program to calculate the altitude from the tracker angles. It will save the results to a text file that can be imported into a spreadsheet to help with data reduction during a rocket meet. The zip file is about 1.8MB and contains the setup program and a readme file.

My oldest son has taken the VB program and created a version that will run on Windows Pocket PCs. This program (PktPCTracker) is in a zip file and it is about 8KB.


Here are scans of the old technical reports TIR30 and TIR33. (Note if the web site says it is unavailable, wait an hour or so for the download limit to timeout.)

Several computer programs are available to calculate the CP of a rocket to determine if it is stable VCP is a free program. Rocksim from Apogee Rockets has more features but of course you have to pay for it!

There is also OpenRocket an Open Source model rocket simulator that has a lot of features.


Here are our picture pages. We'll update this as we launch. Check out the Saturn 1B project!

Other Links:

There are thousands of web sites related to rocketry. I have listed only a few to whet your appetite.

Rec.Models.Rockets FAQ (HTML Version)

Fly Rockets! a great introduction to this hobby!

How to Build Model Rockets Hans Michielssen's tips and tricks

Team America Rocket Challenge -student teams compete with a rocket project for cash!

Rocketry InfoCentral: The Ultimate Rocketry Information Site!

The Rocketry Forum: A forum devoted to rocketry enthusiasts!

Ye Olde Rocketry Forum: A forum devoted to "old school" rockets!

Rocketry Planet: Rocketry news, tutorials, and discussion forums!

ThrustCurve.org: A compendium of rocket engine information

National Association of Rocketry

Tripoli (High Powered Rocketry Association)

Red River Rocketeers (RRR) the new club in Duncan Oklahoma!!!

Dallas Area Rocket Society (DARS)

NASA/Houston Rocket Club (NHRC)

Superstition Spacemodeling Society (SSS-Phoenix)

Gates Brothers Rocketry Fantastic on-board videos from a rocket (Go to the Movie Gallery). Crank up the sound!!!

Rocketry Today by Marc Slabbinck

Rocketry for Educators by Apogee Model Rockets

Estes Educator site a web site for educators w/ technical reports you can download

Space Exploration Merit Badge an excellent reference to space and model rockets

JimZ Rocket Plan Site (plans for all the old favorites)

Ninfinger Productions Model Rockets (old Centuri and Estes catalogs here!)

OpenRocket an Open Source model rocket simulator

The Card Modeling FAQ information on building models from paper, and LOTS of information on paper and cardboard

Paper Weight - Thickness ever wonder how the thickness of paper is related to it's weight? (same info on another site)

VCT Rocketry Construction Toolkit nice tool to make templates, fin alignment guides, etc.

Aircraft Design, Synthesis and Analysis On-line aero information from Stanford U!

Teaching Materials for the World Wide Web on-line aero information from Virginia Tech!

NASA (don't these guys fly rockets? I read that somewhere....)

NASA Aeronautics education site

Model Rocketry Resources page at Eljet (thanks Angela!!)

A Field Guide to American Spacecraft

USNO Master Clock (get accurate time from the U.S. Naval Observatory!)

Since I am also a mechanical engineer, I will stick some links here of interest to rocketeer/engineering types:

Welcome to ASME International

ASME Magazine

NASA Tech Briefs Online - Engineering Solutions for Design and Manufacturing

NACA Technical Report Server (contains old NACA reports that are available for downloading)

MatWeb the Free Online Materials Property Database (this site contains material properties for over 15,000 different materials!)

eFunda, an online reference for the mechanical engineering community

Engineer's Edge, another online reference for mechanical engineers

Machine Design On-Line Home Page

Computer-Aided Engineering Magazine

MechaniCalc calculators and reference material for mechanical engineers

The Dilbert Zone (my hero)

Slide Rule Museum --ahh, brings back memories!