Any guesses on new rockets in the 2023 catalog?

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I ran the Manufacturer's Forum at NARAM this past summer. In the weeks before there was some sort of torches and pitchforks hubbub about Estes (I forget what that tempest in a teapot was centered upon; perhaps a delay in the upscaled Orbital Transport?), and a melee was threatened.

Not one of the usual troublemakers in the audience had the stones to challenge John or Ellis during their presentation or during the Q&A after. Probably because they knew their questions were sophomoric and inappropriate.

Estes is being run like a responsible company playing a long game and building for the future. That's great for all of us.

James
+1

Great to have a few new kits available, especially when they have completely some new parts, like the So Long. I'd rather have a few new really interesting models than a bunch of new plain ones.

Let's compare Scale Models:
- 1969 Catalog, at the height of the space race, before the sale to Damon: 12 scale rockets
- 2003 Catalog, one year after Tunick took over, 5 scale rockets
- 2023 Catalog, 14 scale rockets

We've got it darn good, folks!
 
+1

Great to have a few new kits available, especially when they have completely some new parts, like the So Long. I'd rather have a few new really interesting models than a bunch of new plain ones.

Let's compare Scale Models:
- 1969 Catalog, at the height of the space race, before the sale to Damon: 12 scale rockets
- 2003 Catalog, one year after Tunick took over, 5 scale rockets
- 2023 Catalog, 14 scale rockets

We've got it darn good, folks!
Edited
Yes we have it good these days but let’s keep a level head here - if we’re going to lay catalogs down like poker hands I’d definitely raise if I’m holding a 1971 or a 1974 and the guy across the table has a 2023 😁

I think the biggest difference between then and now isn’t necessarily the people buying the rockets but the environment they’re buying them in - we have such a wide and deep field to pick from Estes doesn’t have to be everything to everyone. Want whimsical kits that take some skills to build? FlisKits can do that. Need scale kits? See ASP and Rocketarium. Looking for some fantasy and sci-fi stuff? Click on The Squirrel Works. Need some beginner kits? Custom Rockets and Quest have plenty of those. Have a hankering for the big stuff? LOC and Madcow have that covered. How about a one stop shop for nearly everything? See Apogee, eRockets, JonRocket or Sirius. Plus all the other sites, makers and vendors I didn’t list - there’s plenty more.

With all the variety and sophistication out there Estes can do what they seem to do best, serve as the gateway, the ground level, the name brand even the gift buying aunts and uncles recognize when they’re buying birthday presents. Personally I’d like to see Estes broaden their product lines more, they could use a couple more fresh new designs - especially 13mm powered kits - and (I know this won’t be a popular opinion) keep going down their current path with the PSII kits: rockets with some physical presence that use their standard style parts and fly on BP motors. A BT-70 based PSII would round the line out nicely. Add a couple more scale sounding rockets, sounding rockets can be beginner level builds while still having a great scale look. Plus a few more payloaders would be good (please John Boren, redesign the Green Eggs! It’s not a looker). And stay the course with the focus on supporting STEM education and educators.

Improvements? The Electron Beam controller works but sure could use an update. Carrying a line of spare parts from current and classic kits like nose cones, centering rings, decals would be something great for the hobby but I doubt it’s practical or possible these days. Their foray into the world of modern electronics has been painfully slow - the altimeter, then years later the neo Astro Cam - they can do better, I think. Oh, and get those long talked about new motors on the shelf - the C5-0 booster and the new “Super” 24mm motor, especially the C5 booster.
 
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The Electron Beam controller works but sure could use an update.
Besides changing its look, what changes do you think it should have? I'm just curious as to what improvements are possible with the current iteration with the Electron Beam controller.
 
Besides changing its look, what changes do you think it should have? I'm just curious as to what improvements are possible with the current iteration with the Electron Beam controller.
Perhaps not an update but maybe a new solid state controller and price it between the Electron Beam and the PSII. The EB is serviceable but certainly seems a bit too low tech for our space age hobby.
 
Perhaps not an update but maybe a new solid state controller and price it between the Electron Beam and the PSII. The EB is serviceable but certainly seems a bit too low tech for our space age hobby.
I wish it could deliver more current. Something to really make something like a Sidekick go.
 
Perhaps not an update but maybe a new solid state controller and price it between the Electron Beam and the PSII. The EB is serviceable but certainly seems a bit too low tech for our space age hobby.
What's the advantage for LPR users by having a solid state controller? And are there any benefits to Estes for making a controller that way?
 
I wish it could deliver more current. Something to really make something like a Sidekick go.
How much current can the basic Electron Beam Controller deliver now and how much would you like it to deliver?

I'm asking all these questions because I've been thinking about making my own controller or modifying an existing one. But I don't really know how my designs would be any better than current designs, besides changes relating to personal preferences.
 
What's the advantage for LPR users by having a solid state controller? And are there any benefits to Estes for making a controller that way?
The user interface with the EB is counterintuitive for most current users - people today are accustomed to pressing (or tapping) a button and whatever action is supposed to happen occurs, single press - thing works. With the EB you hold the button down until the action happens. It’s a small issue but one that trips up a surprising number of people.

As far as performance goes we all know the more juice the better! My success rate with the Estes “cornstarch” starters is well over 90% on our club’s gel cell vehicle battery LPR launch system. I doubt most “solo” users are hitting that with an Electron Beam, even with fastidious care to ensure fresh batteries, clean connections and properly installed starters.

So a controller using a little more sophisticated continuity circuit, a press it and forget it launch button and, say, four AA batteries worth of juice would be a definite step up from the EB. Whether Estes can hit an acceptable price point with the electronics that needs is a valid question. Used by the letter, with properly inserted starters, the Electron Beam is a cost-effective controller but think of how much more of a positive experience a new user could have with something not quite so exacting.
 
Anybody notice on page 82 of the 2023 catalog....The Ultimate Sanding Bar a 2.75"x7" sander very much like the Great Planes Easy Touch only wider and longer than the short version on the Easy Touch. The top of the extrusion also has a rounded profile instead of flatter.

Apologies if it was mentioned earlier, I just didn't see it as I skimmed through the last 6 pages that have appeared since I lost some interest in this thread.
 
Anybody notice on page 82 of the 2023 catalog....The Ultimate Sanding Bar a 2.75"x7" sander very much like the Great Planes Easy Touch only wider and longer than the short version on the Easy Touch. The top of the extrusion also has a rounded profile instead of flatter.

Apologies if it was mentioned earlier, I just didn't see it as I skimmed through the last 6 pages that have appeared since I lost some interest in this thread.
Love my Great Planes Easy Touch! Between Apogee’s version, eRockets 3D printed version and now Estes I’d say the handy sander drought is over.
 
How much current can the basic Electron Beam Controller deliver now and how much would you like it to deliver?

I'm asking all these questions because I've been thinking about making my own controller or modifying an existing one. But I don't really know how my designs would be any better than current designs, besides changes relating to personal preferences.
Currently (ba dum tsss!) it doesn’t deliver enough to make two-motor clusters ignite reliably. My Starchaser Thunderstar and 36 D Squared consistently suffered engine-out liftoffs using it in the late 2000s and the specifications have not changed since then. If anything, igniters have gotten worse until very recently.

I would like any future upgrade to rectify this.
 
Currently (ba dum tsss!) it doesn’t deliver enough to make two-motor clusters ignite reliably. My Starchaser Thunderstar and 36 D Squared consistently suffered engine-out liftoffs using it in the late 2000s and the specifications have not changed since then. If anything, igniters have gotten worse until very recently.

I would like any future upgrade to rectify this.
But isn't that what the Pro Series II Controller is for?
 
The user interface with the EB is counterintuitive for most current users - people today are accustomed to pressing (or tapping) a button and whatever action is supposed to happen occurs, single press - thing works. With the EB you hold the button down until the action happens. It’s a small issue but one that trips up a surprising number of people.

As far as performance goes we all know the more juice the better! My success rate with the Estes “cornstarch” starters is well over 90% on our club’s gel cell vehicle battery LPR launch system. I doubt most “solo” users are hitting that with an Electron Beam, even with fastidious care to ensure fresh batteries, clean connections and properly installed starters.

So a controller using a little more sophisticated continuity circuit, a press it and forget it launch button and, say, four AA batteries worth of juice would be a definite step up from the EB. Whether Estes can hit an acceptable price point with the electronics that needs is a valid question. Used by the letter, with properly inserted starters, the Electron Beam is a cost-effective controller but think of how much more of a positive experience a new user could have with something not quite so exacting.
All fair points, but isn't there a rule or regulation from the safety code that says current to the rocket's igniter/starter is supposed to terminate when someone stops pressing the launch button, kind of like a "dead man's switch?"

I agree that having a little bit more current would be good to provide some leeway for less-than-ideal conditions (such as partially used batteries in cold weather). But I don't know how to do that cost effectively. Would adding an extra cell help? The extra voltage isn't the same as extra amps, but it might produce more reliable launches? The extra space and materials in the launch controller would be negligible in terms of cost.

I think having it use 5 NiMH AA cells would be perfect, except most people don't have decent NiMH AA cells on hand to use. They're readily available, but will add a significant amount to the "start up costs" of getting into model rocketry.

Going to C batteries is an option, but then you're basically turning it into the PS II Controller.

I wonder if having it use a rechargeable lithium cell can be done cost effectively? I presume the problem is that it would more than double the cost of production of the controller.
 
I don't really see any need for a middle ground between the Electron Beam and the PSII controller. One is for beginners, and one is for the guy who decides to get serious about the hobby.

All fair points, but isn't there a rule or regulation from the safety code that says current to the rocket's igniter/starter is supposed to terminate when someone stops pressing the launch button, kind of like a "dead man's switch?"
I was going to make this exact point, but you beat me to it. I don't think a "press it and forget it" launch button would fly with the safety code, and for good reason. What if that mechanism gets stuck?

I wonder if having it use a rechargeable lithium cell can be done cost effectively? I presume the problem is that it would more than double the cost of production of the controller.
When you're ready to graduate from the C batteries, the PSII controller has a JST connector to put a LiPo in it. I've switched mine to a LiPo and never looked back. It will fire Aerotech First Fire Jr's for G motors instantly, and the only thing stopping it from igniting high power is the cable length.
 
It's been a while since I posted, but I have been out to launch on my own time, and otherwise very busy with life in general. I'll admit, I was very disappointed that the Falcon 9 came out in the form that it did, I would have thrown money at kitted Falcon 9s, the RTF stuff doesn't appeal to me personally (I still have an unopened kit from the previous supplier I'll likely never open. The one I built is fun to fly but, looking back, the kit struggled design-wise). I will say that my son got an RTF SLS for his birthday last year and it flies beautifully, so the "fly" part seems to be nailed down, I just prefer the build part of the hobby... especially with scale stuff.

So far 2023 just isn't all that exciting for me, or the six kids and one wife I'm trying to keep interested in the hobby beyond the occasional "nice weekend" flight or two at the local ball diamond. Hopefully something like a Mercury-Atlas, or kit-form Falcon 9 come out later in the year to cause me to shake the dust out of my wallet.
 
People are always asking for cool movie tie-ins, a la Star Wars back in the 70s. But perhaps with the Falcon 9 we are seeing that the partner corporation may set a lot of constraints on what can be designed and sold with its trademark attached.
 
just got my first 2023 catalog in the mail, thanks to the fine folks at Estes.

I would like to point out that we haven't heard from Dr. Grace Henry since she left Mars on Day 33 of her mission. we just keep receiving the same transmission from a year ago. Nobody seems to care.
No word on the Vesta, seems to be just hangin' around. just a guess, but i'm thinking the ship was identified incorrectly as an Intruder, but it appears to be Loiterer class, further evidenced by it's long standing placement on my shelf.
Admiral Beard has been very busy with writing his next commencement speech and can't be bothered with dumb stuff like space force'n.

i like the new and redesigned pages, though they are few, and i'm surprised at the seeming lack of emphasis on the space x page. feels like a late addition to the design. props to Estes for bringing the printed catalog in on time, though. guessing that matters to them.
 
I would like to point out that we haven't heard from Dr. Grace Henry since she left Mars on Day 33 of her mission. we just keep receiving the same transmission from a year ago. Nobody seems to care.
I hope Estes does and my hope is that they're planning a rescue mission as we speak. The reason it's taking so long is because they're trying to develop a new Mars Lander, from the ground up.

They just need to be careful with the new design and rescue mission parameters because if the rescue crew:

Screws up the supply capsule rendezvous, they die.

Miscalculates the gravity assist maneuver with Mars, they die.

Estes, are you listening? ;)
 
There is something between the regular Electron Beam and the PSII controller - the "E Launch Controller" which is essentially an Electron Beam with 30-foot heavier-duty leads (but no built-in two-motor clip whip). Not much point, really. The PSII controller is superior in every respect except compactness and the price differential is small.

The Safety Code calls for a removable safety key. It also requires that when you let go of the go button, it should open the circuit: "I will launch my rockets with an electrical launch system and electrical motor igniters. My launch system will have a safety interlock in series with the launch switch, and will use a launch switch that returns to the “off” position when released." No latching "fire" buttons allowed (and for good reason).

And they ARE essentially solid state. There are mechanical switches, of course, but continuity indication in recent years has been LED. In the PSII controller there's the piezo beeper. But what else could one make "solid state" without complicating things with a microcontroller and power transistors to replace the switches and such? What advantages would that really have that outweighs the additional cost/price?
 
There is something between the regular Electron Beam and the PSII controller - the "E Launch Controller" which is essentially an Electron Beam with 30-foot heavier-duty leads (but no built-in two-motor clip whip). Not much point, really. The PSII controller is superior in every respect except compactness and the price differential is small.

The Safety Code calls for a removable safety key. It also requires that when you let go of the go button, it should open the circuit: "I will launch my rockets with an electrical launch system and electrical motor igniters. My launch system will have a safety interlock in series with the launch switch, and will use a launch switch that returns to the “off” position when released." No latching "fire" buttons allowed (and for good reason).

And they ARE essentially solid state. There are mechanical switches, of course, but continuity indication in recent years has been LED. In the PSII controller there's the piezo beeper. But what else could one make "solid state" without complicating things with a microcontroller and power transistors to replace the switches and such? What advantages would that really have that outweighs the additional cost/price?
How do relay box launch systems fit in the Safety Code? Once you push the handset button and the relay is powered there’s no stopping the process by releasing the launch button on the hand set - the ignitor/starter is going to be powered as soon as the relay trips.

Edit - too much sitting around watching vNARCON presentations today - not enough blood flow to my brain, of course the relay opens when the current is cut off, doh! 🥴

The other ongoing launch controller discussion we’ve been participating in hit some fascinating possibilities - a basic, EB-like controller with a USB rechargeable battery pack would be a great tool and a definite improvement. Even if it’s twice the price the savings in batteries could make that up in a season of launches.
 
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How do relay box launch systems fit in the Safety Code? Once you push the handset button and the relay is powered there’s no stopping the process by releasing the launch button on the hand set - the ignitor/starter is going to be powered as soon as the relay trips.

Edit - too much sitting around watching vNARCON presentations today - not enough blood flow to my brain, of course the relay opens when the current is cut off, doh! 🥴

The other ongoing launch controller discussion we’ve been participating in hit some fascinating possibilities - a basic, EB-like controller with a USB rechargeable battery pack would be a great tool and a definite improvement. Even if it’s twice the price the savings in batteries could make that up in a season of launches.

Ah good. I was gonna say that that relay had better not latch when the launch button is pushed.

Yeah, I've been in that discussion. For personal launching there may be some merit to that idea - a rechargeable controller based on Li-ion cells. It kind of depends on what the market is for that. The E-Beam is easy/cheap to get if you know where to look. For instance, a launch set at Hobby Lobby (you can get the Alpha III launch set, including the Porta-Pad II and E-B for less than the list price of just an Alpha III kit).

BUT - I have an old ElectriFly 1250 mAh 3s LiPoly pack in my usual PSII controller. I fly quite a bit (see the recent Newton tally threads for actual numbers). I charge that thing once a season, whether it needs to be or not. I expect I'd get most of season out of a set of C-cells in the same controller if I wasn't using the LiPoly pack. But a small, handheld controller that I could fly for a season (and which, if infrequently used, would still be good to go) would be of interest. I throw away more AAs that have leaked in my small controllers than I wear them out.
 
But a small, handheld controller that I could fly for a season (and which, if infrequently used, would still be good to go) would be of interest. I throw away more AAs that have leaked in my small controllers than I wear them out.
I really think you should consider the Tenavolt AA cells I mentioned a while back. The current set of 4 I'm using now were installed in my Electron Beam controller (the red one that comes with starter sets) in April of 2022. Earlier this week I used them for their 42nd launch and they're still going strong. During that time, I haven't removed them from the launch controller for charging or any sort of maintenance.

I definitely agree that a USB chargeable launch controller would be nice, as almost everyone now has a USB charging cord easily accessible...or at least more accessible than a AA charger or fresh AA alkalines. But I think we need to figure out which type of USB physical form it should use: USB-C or Micro USB. Also, I think the lithium (or LSD NiMH) cells inside should be user replaceable.
 
Micro USB shouldn't really be on the table at this point.
Why not? While I agree that USB-C is the future (and it would be my preferred charging format), Micro USB is probably more ubiquitous right now.

I guess one factor is when this hypothetical controller would be ready for sale. If it wouldn't hit store shelves for another 2-3 years, then USB-C is probably the better format.
 
I really think you should consider the Tenavolt AA cells I mentioned a while back. The current set of 4 I'm using now were installed in my Electron Beam controller (the red one that comes with starter sets) in April of 2022. Earlier this week I used them for their 42nd launch and they're still going strong. During that time, I haven't removed them from the launch controller for charging or any sort of maintenance.

I definitely agree that a USB chargeable launch controller would be nice, as almost everyone now has a USB charging cord easily accessible...or at least more accessible than a AA charger or fresh AA alkalines. But I think we'd need to figure out which type of USB physical form is should use: USB-C or Micro USB. Also, I think the lithium (or LSD NiMH) cells inside should be user replaceable.
I did look at those AAs.....a question for you: do you use four of them (so have a 14.4V nominal vs. 6V nominal power system)? If you do, how has that LED continuity indicator held up? I'd be afraid it would fail with over double the voltage input to it.

I'd vote USB-C for recharging, just because that's the direction things are going, and even though for many of us it's a pain in this transition. The key there, I think, would be the necessary charging circuitry, including the step-up converter, to make the thing truly self contained. If it depended on the power-delivery specs of USB-C, the up converter wouldn't be needed, but the range of available source chargers/power supplies would be greatly reduced. The power supply for the computer I'm using right now (2016 MacBook Pro) would work as it will also supply 9V and 20.2V if properly "negotiated with" but I expect folks who have USB-C power supplies that came with one-cell devices (i.e. phones) wouldn't have that ability.
 
I did look at those AAs.....a question for you: do you use four of them (so have a 14.4V nominal vs. 6V nominal power system)? If you do, how has that LED continuity indicator held up? I'd be afraid it would fail with over double the voltage input to it.

I'd vote USB-C for recharging, just because that's the direction things are going, and even though for many of us it's a pain in this transition. The key there, I think, would be the necessary charging circuitry, including the step-up converter, to make the thing truly self contained. If it depended on the power-delivery specs of USB-C, the up converter wouldn't be needed, but the range of available source chargers/power supplies would be greatly reduced. The power supply for the computer I'm using right now (2016 MacBook Pro) would work as it will also supply 9V and 20.2V if properly "negotiated with" but I expect folks who have USB-C power supplies that came with one-cell devices (i.e. phones) wouldn't have that ability.

Each Tenavolt cell provides a pretty well-regulated 1.5v until the cell dumps. So I'm delivering a regulated 6v to the Estes starter/igniter for each launch. I'm betting there's a slight amount of voltage dip right during ignition, but launching regular 13 and 18mm BP Estes engines isn't a problem. And any voltage dip is probably less than with regular alkaline AAs.

Yes, USB-C is the future, but you're right, there's some compatibility issues to figure out. I think the best bet would be to have the controller use whatever format is more likely to work with "dumb" USB-C 5W, 10W, etc. chargers. In other words, this hypothetical launch controller would use the USB-C physical format and not get into the issues of which charging protocol to use.

I believe the newer PD (Power Delivery) chargers will recognize devices that use this "basic" protocol and will adjust their outputs accordingly.
 
Even today we're several years into the transition to it, plus it's a better standard anyway.
No argument from me on that. Not having to worry about how to plug it in (there is no right side up or upside down) is reason enough to switch. I'm just thinking about finding a format that's as accessible to as many rocketeers as possible.

I'm betting that more people have access to Micro USB than USB-C right now. Even if they use a laptop, tablet, phone, etc. that all use USB-C, they still have a Micro USB cord in a drawer or between 2 couch cushions somewhere.
 
Each Tenavolt cell provides a pretty well-regulated 1.5v until the cell dumps. So I'm delivering a regulated 6v to the Estes starter/igniter for each launch. I'm betting there's a slight amount of voltage dip right during ignition, but launching regular 13 and 18mm BP Estes engines isn't a problem. And any voltage dip is probably less than with regular alkaline AAs.
Ah, missed that. In that case, with the addition of a suitable charger on hand, those things would be ideal for several applications I have to hand, not just launch controllers. The 2-AA-cell electric toothbrushes my wife and use (which are now running on aging NiMH rechargeables) come immediately to mind.
Yes, USB-C is the future, but you're right, there's some compatibility issues to figure out. I think the best bet would be to have the controller use whatever format is more likely to work with "dumb" USB-C 5W, 10W, etc. chargers. In other words, this hypothetical launch controller would use the USB-C physical format and not get into the issues of which charging protocol to use.
I think the little circuit board that the fellow who started that USB-rechargeable E-beam thread is using does exactly the "negotiation". With a 9V input, a 2s pack of 18650s or even something smaller would be fairly easy to do.

I believe the newer PD (Power Delivery) chargers will recognize devices that use this "basic" protocol and will adjust their outputs accordingly.
Yes. As long as the device they're plugged into tell them the right thing.
No argument from me on that. Not having to worry about how to plug it in (there is no right side up or upside down) is reason enough to switch. I'm just thinking about finding a format that's as accessible to as many rocketeers as possible.

I'm betting that more people have access to Micro USB than USB-C right now. Even if they use a laptop, tablet, phone, etc. that all use USB-C, they still have a Micro USB cord in a drawer or between 2 couch cushions somewhere.
Yeah, I can even lay my hands on a couple of Mini USB cables with less effort than loose USB-C cables right now. But it's still the future, and it opens up those other voltages in power delivery mode, too.

Added: in that web page on the cells you linked me to there is a discussion about "not for use for camera flashes". Do they have a protection circuit in them that does current limiting? But even so, you don't have issues firing igniters using them?
 
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