The best way to get started in rocketry is to buy an Estes or Quest kit at your local hobby shop or larger toy store. These rockets are complete, easy to build, and come with detailed instructions. Model rockets generally have a level of difficulty indicated which ranges from completely pre-built rockets (ready to fly) to “level 4” rockets which require cutting out pieces from raw materials and complex painting. Two great Estes kits to start with are the Alpha III which is very easy to build and the Black Brant II which is more fun for those with some model-building skill. Estes now has a web site.

For mid-power rocketry, the largest company is AeroTech and their Initiator and Arreau rockets make good introductory kits. The AeroTech kits come complete and with detailed building instructions. These are more work than model rockets, but don’t require any very advanced skills.

For high-power rocketry, the two largest companies are Loc/Precision and Public Missiles, Ltd.. Anything in the Loc/Precision Entry Level Kit Series makes a good starter mid-power kit with high-power construction techniques and the Graduator and Forte are popular high-power kits. The P.M.L. Ariel and D-region Tomahawk are also good starter kits, and for the more adventurous, the Bull Puppy makes a great-looking rocket.

Kit manufacturers will list several recommend motors. Take their recommendations seriously. Too weak a motor will result in an unstable flight and too powerful a motor will destroy the rocket. See the Rocket Design section for background information. The ejection delay is also critical for a successful flight because too short or too long will case the rocket to open up while it is still travelling too fast and the two sections will come apart (a separation).

Amateur rocketry is all about doing everything yourself, so no kits here. Some larger launches attract companies such as Thunderflame Associates which hold motor-making classes, but your best bet is to find other amateurs in your area and work with them. Scratch-building supplies can be purchased mail-orders from many vendors. Giant Leap Rocketry, Missile Works and Magnum Rocket Hobbies (now out of business) are a few of the largest.

This list is far from complete and we don’t want to slight any of the companies not mentioned. The Rocketry Online Vendors section includes many other excellent companies making and selling kits, motors, parts and supplies.

Submitted by: John Coker