Aspiring Heights…


New Member
Jul 11, 2021
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My name is Rick and I want to start a high altitude rocketry club in Grand Haven, MI. I make my own sugar rocket engines. I have a chemistry background but I am an airline pilot. I know how to open TFR’s so getting authorization to go to 10,000 and beyond should not be a problem for me. I found this page through John Beans at Jolly Logic. He said guys here could help me with some of the obstacles I’m trying to tackle.

most recently:

•How do I make a charge to blow the chute? I have some shotshell propellant I thought I’d start with. A layer of wax with a 3/8” cannon fuse at the top of mymotor
•How can i make my own Laval nozzles? Any tips?
•I need a good launch pad design. I’m thinking of using a camera tripod, but I want to be able to set the angle because I use winds aloft data to do the trig so my rocket lands close to where I launch it.
•Do I use a chute delay device?

I am really looking forward to making leaps forward with the collective knowledge I can learn here.



Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Dec 7, 2019
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Pahrump, Nevada
First get a dual deploy altimeter. Ditch the fuse. Don't use smokeless powder. A dual deploy altimeter senses apogee and deploys the drouge and at an altitude of your choosing deploys the main. I use 500'. You want to use FFFFg black powder for your ejection charges. I would also suggest you join an existing club to gain experience before trying this on your own. TRA would be my suggestion.


Well-Known Member
May 16, 2020
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Doerun, GA
Welcome, Rick.

For parachute ejection, commercial composite motors use a separate delay grain that burns along with the fuel grain(s), but more slowly. A black powder charge on top of the delay grain is ignited at the end of the burn. You determine when, in seconds after motor burn-out, you want the recovery device to deploy and adjust the delay grain's physical length for that delay time.

Most flyers that build their own motors use a dual deployment altimeter for deployment as teepot suggests. It's a better alternative, and many have the option to open a small drogue chute at apogee to minimize drift, and then release a larger main chute at low altitude for a soft landing.

John's Jolly Logic chute release is very popular and the flights I've seen with it have been great. It does require an apogee ejection event of some sort, and many use motor ejection. You could also use a simpler altimeter, like the Eggtimer Apogee that fires your separation charge at apogee.

DIY motor topics aren't taboo here, and there are a lot of folks here who make their own. But you have to be a Level 2 flyer certified by National Association of Rocketry or Tripoli Rocketry Association and request permission to discuss details about formulations and such. See Rule#9:
"Research Rocketry (making your own motors, igniters, etc) is an advanced topic that is restricted to certified flyers from the United States. The specific details are not to be discussed except in an area specifically designated for such topics. These topics include propellant and igniter compositions and techniques for processing propellant. Posts on the topic of Research Rocketry containing information not widely available in published materials are limited to the access controlled area. Directions to apply are here. "

As far as launchers go, the biggest questions are how heavy is the rocket and how powerful is the motor? I have a heavy camera tripod built for big 1980's video cameras. It didn't flinch for a ~4 pound rocket under H-motor thrust, but I would be wary of it if those figures were doubled. Angling the rail or blast deflector can add more considerations.

As teepot said, you'd do yourself a huge favor by seeking out a TRA club in your area and attending a launch to meet some folks and eyeball their handiwork. I think there is plenty of action up your way, it shouldn't be hard to find a launch. I promise the trip would be worthwhile both in newfound knowledge, contacts and motivation.

Stick around and ask more questions!


Builds Rockets for NASA
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Aug 27, 2011
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Great questions.
Looks like a good number of NAR clubs and some Tripoli prefectures in your area, looks like Lansing is about 90 minutes from your and has a Tripoli club.

I admire your ambition to start a local club, but doesn’t sound like you have the experience yet to operate let alone lead it. I am NOT trying to rain on your parade, simply suggesting you join and fly with some experienced people.

i am not high power and probably never will be, but I have watched a bunch of them and it seems like something better learned from observation than reading posts and books. Plus flying rockets with other rocket nuts is a lot more fun than doing it by yourself,

Camera tripods are great for low power (I am almost strictly low power) and mine is a simple inexpensive tripod with this

To add a rod.

I use the blast plate from an old Estes launch pad.
easy to set any angle and direction you want, and keeps the launch rod tip from poking your eye out!

see this thread post 6 for a replacement for the Estes launch pad plastic doohickey that I was always loosing that keeps the plate in good position on the rod

I wish you the best.


Well-Known Member
Feb 4, 2021
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Welcome to the forum Rick.
I got into this with zero knowledge less than a year ago, now level 2 certified.
I would recommend getting a couple small rockets from local hobby store and assemble them. Along the way find a local launch club, get some motors and roll with it.
I've had a blast, but building Low Power then building up will help you more than reading and videos.