Estes Hydrogen Fuel Rocket

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joepolicy

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While waiting for the Estes X-Prize rockets I pre-ordered, I thought I would pick up one of the new Estes Hydrogen Rocket Kits. Turns out it is pretty interesting, but I do not think I will be giving up my BP/AP rockets any time soon!

First attachment, the unboxed kit.
 

joepolicy

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Next up, the rockets. The one on the left is bounce recovery, the other, helicopter.
 

joepolicy

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This is the base of the unit from the back, showing the battery compartment. It takes 6 "D" cells:
 

joepolicy

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This is the reaction chamber. If you look closely, you can see the igniter which looks like a light bulb filament:
 

joepolicy

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Here the unit is generating hydrogen as indicated by the yellow LED. The red LED in the background is for the power:
 

joepolicy

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Here you can see a couple bubbles of hydrogen being formed during the fuel generating phase:
 

joepolicy

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When the green LED is lit, you are ready for launch:
 

joepolicy

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This shows the Launch Cable Safety Switch. The launch button is built into the base unit. You must pull the cord out far enough to engage the safety switch in order to launch:
 

joepolicy

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Almost forgot, these are the citric acid crystals. You mix them with water which gets the electrolysis process going. You get four packets which will give you many launches:
 

joepolicy

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The kit comes with 4 pages of well illustrated instructions. Each part in the stack has o-rings to seal everything up. The kit includes a couple extra O-Rings and and one extra gasket. I used a little petroleum jelly on the rings, the instructions do not mention this but I believe it helps to fit the parts together.

This kits could not be any easier to prep. You mix the citric acid with tap water (they include a mixing bottle), lock the fuel generator into the base, then lock on the reaction chamber.

At this point, you pour the citric acid/water solution into the reaction chamber. The hole at the top of the chamber is a little small, but I had no problem pouring in the solution. You are advised not to get the solution on the igniter, so pour slowly and fill to the red line.

Next, you lock on the launch tube. Finally, pick your rocket and place it on the launch tube. Note: the generator will not activate until the rocket is in place on the launch tube.

There are three color coded wires to connect to the various parts. They are of varying length, so it would be hard to mix them up even if you were color blind.

The base must be level for everything to work. There is a little ball bearing on the base unit that helps you to ensure it is level.

Once everything is in place, flip on the power switch. The red power light will come on and the yellow generating light should illuminate. It took about 5 minutes for the generator to produce enough hydrogen for launch. When there is enough, the green LED will light up.

You must pull the launch button cord out enough so that it pulls out the red safety switch shown in the photo I posted previously. Then, press the launch button. You can see the igniter heat up to red hot. Then, with a little blue burst of flame, the rocket is propelled off the tube to a fairly respectable height. I launched at night, so I am not 100% sure how high it went, I would guess about 150-200 feet. Kit says it can launch up to 250 feet.

The next generating sequence took about 3 minutes and I had another great launch - the helicopter rocket took a little longer to come back down, but it was unscathed. I will try to get some daytime launch pix tomorrow if the weather holds.

The only residue in the rocket is a little film of water, the only byproduct of the launch. Nothing to clean! Estes says you can leave the solution in the generator for several days, but they do recommend pouring the solution back into the mixing bottle and rinsing the generator with tap water and letting it air dry if you will not use it for extended periods.

What can I say, this is just a cool kit. It is a neat idea and I am sure it will impress the kids (heck, I was impressed too). This would make an interesting science fair project as well. If you are looking for something different, then buy this kit!
 

rstaff3

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Nice description Joe. I have wanted one since I first heard of them. But now I find myself spending money on other things. Maybe if there is a holiday or post-holiday sale.
 

sandman

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Yes, very nice Joe but....

Should you be doing that in the house???:eek:
 

shockwaveriderz

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way cool...... I am already trying to figure out how to create a 2 stage verson as well as a 2 engine cluster.......I can't wait to get these......
 

r1dermon

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yeah man, electrolysis is cool. lol. that is a cool idea by estes. kudos to them. i never would've thought that one up. what's it use for a nozzle? some type of alloy?
 

joepolicy

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Originally posted by sandman
Yes, very nice Joe but....

Should you be doing that in the house???:eek:
If you have ever lived in Germany, you would see that houses are actually very cave like. My house is 95% stone, the only wood is up in the attic. You could launch fireworks inside an empty German house and not cause a fire!

But seriously, I did not press the launch button indoors (important safety tip kids - never launch indoors). I carried the unit outside for launch after I was done with the pix. It was dark, cold and rainy yesterday (a normal day for Germany), and I did not want to mess up my camera.

Unit still works today, although the solution is turning brown. This was mentioned in the instructions. Can't wait to see what the kit bashers end up doing with this thing!
 

joepolicy

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I purchased it from JCPenneys, www.jcpenney.com. It cost $39.99 (ca. €31.00)

I have an American address as well as a German address, so I have no problem ordering from most companies in the states and I pay standard U.S. postage.

If you are having trouble finding someone to ship to Germany for a reasonable cost, PM me and I can get one to you fairly easily and probably save you money on the shipping. I live in the Rhineland-Pfalz area.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Joe
 

GlennW

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My mother tried getting this for my son and the guy at the hobby shop had them but wasn't selling them, he said Estes had a recall on them, anyone know anything about this? He said they would be available again in Feb.

Glenn
 

joepolicy

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I will do a review in January if someone does not beat me to it, I travel all over Europe in December so it is just not a good time, I have not launched a rocket since November (I know, I have sinned).

I did take some launch pix, but they are uninspiring. Unless you do a night launch where you can actually see the blue flash of the hydrogen igniting, there is not much else to see. You really start to miss the smoke trail from a good BP/AP launch.

As for a product recall mentioned in the previous post, I have yet to see anything on that. I had completed 37 launches when I first bought the kit and it worked just fine each and every time. According to the Estes web site, the only recall is for the pump on their air powered rocket.
 

gpoehlein

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Originally posted by joepolicy
The kit comes with 4 pages of well illustrated instructions. Each part in the stack has o-rings to seal everything up. The kit includes a couple extra O-Rings and and one extra gasket. I used a little petroleum jelly on the rings, the instructions do not mention this but I believe it helps to fit the parts together.
I'm not sure, but I think I'd skip the petrolium jelly if Estes doesn't mention it in the instructions. I've worked in the dairy industry for over 25 years, and we learned a long time ago that petrolium jelly and O-rings usually don't mix. If the O-rings are made from black rubber (quite a few are), the petrolium jelly will actually attack and degrade the rubber much more quickly than they will degrade through normal use. If the O-rings are made from silicone rubber, they can probably be uses with petrolium jelly. Silicone grease also will not usually interact with black rubber, but it has to be designed for use with them.

Another (minor) concern is that petrolium jelly is actually flamable - I'm not sure if there is any way the oxygen that this thing generates could come in contact with the petrolium jelly at the same time a flame does, but that might also be a concern as well.

Greg
 

rstaff3

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Originally posted by joepolicy
I will do a review in January if someone does not beat me to it,


OK thanks, no rush. December can get busy in general.
 

rstaff3

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Originally posted by gpoehlein
I'm not sure, but I think I'd skip the petrolium jelly if Estes doesn't mention it in the instructions. I've worked in the dairy industry for over 25 years, and we learned a long time ago that petrolium jelly and O-rings usually don't mix. If the O-rings are made from black rubber (quite a few are), the petrolium jelly will actually attack and degrade the rubber much more quickly than they will degrade through normal use. If the O-rings are made from silicone rubber, they can probably be uses with petrolium jelly. Silicone grease also will not usually interact with black rubber, but it has to be designed for use with them.

Another (minor) concern is that petrolium jelly is actually flamable - I'm not sure if there is any way the oxygen that this thing generates could come in contact with the petrolium jelly at the same time a flame does, but that might also be a concern as well.

Greg
Excellent point. This has also been a continuous source of discussion in regards to reloadable motors. I wouldn't try it if the rings are expected to last for any period of time. (I used petrolium jelly exclusively for years, but after I got my O-ring luber from Aerocon, have moved up to Dow 111 silicone grease.)
 

joepolicy

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The rings are silicone, I use a very thin coating on the rings - much the same as coating the rings in an RMS. I believe this will save wear and tear on the rings in the long run, but of course, it is up to each individual. I did a quick launch and it still works like a champ!
 
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