# Level 1 Estes Alpha Kit Questions

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#### DNoal

##### Member
Here are a few questions I thought of while beginning construction of my first level 1 kit.

I really don't want this to drift away. (At least until I get a few more kits built.)

The parachute that came with the kit is the same as the one I flew on the RTF Tidal Wave and that much heavier rocket drifted FAR.
Can the chute be replaced with a streamer in the Alpha? If so what material should I use, how much, and where should it be attached? (The instructions for this kit have the chute attached to a loop in the nose cone.)

Aside from standard wadding and dog barf what other materials have you successfully used for this purpose?

What is the ideal length for a shock cord? The kit came with one that is 1.5 times the length of the rocket. Is this too short?

If I build this kit as per the instrucitons will I need to check balance/add weight ? If I make any of the above changes will I have to? (ie: Will replacing the included shock cord with a heavier elastic cord mess up the center of gravity?)

#### powderburner

##### Well-Known Member
Yes, of course you can replace the 'chute. A streamer of just about any size will work, even down to a 12-18 inch length.
Actually, you don't have to have a streamer or parachute at all.

There is a little-used, seldom-mentioned style of rocket recovery called breakup recovery. In the original editions of Harry Stine's Handbook of Model Rocketry, he called it nose-blow recovery (now there's a truly gross image). The purpose is simply to separate the front end and rear end by a short tether, maybe 2-3 feet long, and let the whole mess freefall. Tumbling will orient the falling pieces so that they generate sufficient drag, and usually this causes no more landing damage than streamers or parachutes. It also gets a rocket down quickly from high altitudes and greatly reduces drift, but it is LIMITED to SMALL, LIGHT rockets.

The shock cord is so easy and cheap to replace that it's just not worth worrying about, just go ahead and do it. Two or three feet should be PLENTY for a rocket that size (it may not all fit into the nose!) You can get a very long (5 feet?) piece of elastic at W-mart for 99 cents (and have some fun shopping in the fabric department, when the little old ladies ask if they can help you, you say "I'm looking for some missile components"). Go for it.

#### powderburner

##### Well-Known Member
Gotta make one more post real quick.
Don't like that number.

#### DNoal

##### Member
Gotta make one more post real quick.
Dont worry, theres plenty of room here.

So you're saying I could simply leave out any recovery for this small of a rocket? It would safely land with little to no damage?

#### Weekends

##### Well-Known Member
You could also cut a spill hole in the 'chute. The biggest I normally go is the size of the ESTES logo in the center of the 'chute.

As for wadding, some guys have ejection baffles. I've never made one for a low powered kit tho.

Streamers are great. As for materials, you can get that stuff either locally (hobby shop with rocket stuff) or online:

https://www.fliskits.com/

Oh, and on a side note, I also attached a snap swivel (found at any fishing supply place) to the parachute. It helps with tangling and makes it WAY easier to change 'chutes.

Hope it helps
Weekends

#### astronboy

##### Well-Known Member
I really love the Alpha. I have a 24mm engined version a 13mm version, a 2stage version, as well as several different unbuilt vintage kits. I also just LOVE sad little 'kid built' Alphas that I have picked up over the years.

My latest ALPHA uses a 2ft long piece of shock chord to prevent 'ESTES Dent' (where the nosecone snaps back into the BT.) I have flown with ESTES wadding, Quest wadding, and dog barf.

The chute is a 12 incher with a spill hole. This combo brings the model down pretty quickly without damage. (Just cut out the ESTES logo circle from the center of the chute)
Here is a pic in classic early 1970's colors:

#### powderburner

##### Well-Known Member
Well, I dont really want to recommend that you start kit-bashing on your second model rocket. If you want to build the Alpha more-or-less to plan, you can attach a parachute on the days you want to fly that way, or use a streamer, or use nothing (and try the break-up style of recovery). That having been said, the Alpha III is an excellent kit to buy in bulk (watch on ebay and RocketryOnline) to build more Alphas, or to have on hand for a ready supply of parts for new projects.

When you build the Alpha check the instructions to see if it says to add nose ballast. While a little extra stability is always nice to have, this design has been around since dirt was invented, has already been flown once or twice, and has proven its stability and performance. I would be surprised if you really needed to add ballast.

If you want to use a streamer you can make one from just about anything. You can use the cheapo party streamer colored tissue (at your local party store, or party supplies section of W-mart), but this stuff tears easily and will probably have to be replaced after a few flights (and if it gets wet, you have a BIG mess, stains on your hands, pulped/disintegrating tissue, etc). You can use a strip of plain paper (like copy machine paper); this form of paper will hold folds so you can fold up the strip accordion-like to increase the drag, but this paper will also tear easily and need replacement often. You can get an aluminized mylar space blanket (at your local outdoors store) and cut it into strips; this stuff is highly visible at altitude and is quite durable. I think you can also purchase mylar streamer material by the roll from Totally Tubular as well as other model rocketry vendors.

If you want to add some extra shock cord, or add a length of high-quality string (like kite string) between the existing shock cord and the nose cone, yes you will make a small change in the c.g. (Are you by any chance an engineer?) But the difference will be negligible; again I would not expect that ballast would be needed.

Break-up recovery works fine in small rockets, and was my favorite system for altitude competition. If you make the body tube break just in front of the motor mount, then most of the BT can be permanently glued to the NC. This allows you to seal, fill, and polish that joint until it disappears (here I am assuming that the NC itself has a polished-smooth finish) so that airflow remains smooth, laminar, and low-drag way past the NC and most of the way down the length of the BT. For sport flying, break-up recovery is just another way to go. The Alpha is easily adapted to break-up recovery because you can simply glue the NC into the front of the BT, and NOT glue the BT to the joint on the front of the plastic motor mount. At ejection, the rocket comes apart very easily at that joint (in fact, when building this rocket with kids in beginning rocketry classes, I have seen lots of em come apart at this joint even when they have been glued there to stay together). The only thing you have to worry about is finding a good spot inside the front of the motor mount/fin unit to make a solid shock cord attachment (a bent paper clip epoxied to the inside makes a good strong wire loop to tie onto).

Several examples of break-up recovery can be found on JimZs website:
https://www.dars.org/jimz/rp00.htm
after you get to this site, scroll to the bottom and click DOM at the bottom left (Design Of the Month)
Check out the files for Sky Bird II (#2 on list) and Mitosis (#40). Both of these are great examples of break-up. (If you ever crash your Alpha and have a left-over NC, I think that is the same NC shape called for to build the Mitosis.)

Another recovery setup that is very similar is tumble recovery. The motor shifts position when the ejection charge goes off, moving the weight of the dead motor aft (but being retained) and causing the rocket to be unstable. It tumbles down, returning much more quickly than parachutes or streamers would. Go back to JimZ, scroll down to the oval-shaped Estes emblem, and look on the list of old kits for the Scout (K-1). That is a classic early Estes design, and easy to make a kit-bash or upscale. Other examples of tumble recovery include the Sprite (K-15), and the Orange Bullet (#3 over on the D.O.M. list).

#### eugenefl

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
DNoal, a HUGE welcome to The Rocketry Forum! Great to see you are involved in the hobby!

In regards to your concerns about losing your Alpha, *if* you are recovering in a fairly grassy field, I would suggest the streamer recovery method for 2 reasons - 1, less drag and hangtime than that parachute, and 2, Visibility! Break-apart recovery will work fine with the Alpha although I would strongly recommend a streamer to aid in recovering the rocket.

Best of luck to you!

#### DNoal

##### Member
make a small change in the c.g. (Are you by any chance an engineer?)
No. But I don't want my new rocket to crash, either. I wasn't certain if additional shock cord would change the cg enough to worry about, since the overall weight of the rocket is so low.

The Alpha is easily adapted to break-up recovery because you can simply glue the NC into the front of the BT, and NOT glue the BT to the joint on the front of the plastic motor mount.
The only plastic part on my Alpha is the nose cone. So I cannot use this method.

I will however try replacing the parachute with a (mylar) streamer.

I am not afraid to make changes to it, I bought it instead of another RTF so I could more easily change it. If all I want to do is launch a rocket I have the Tidal Wave.

Aside from that I don't get home from work until way after dark in the winter, so my lauches are restricted to Saturday and Sunday. This gives me something else to do during the week.

I am figuring that the Alpha will go much much higher than the Tidal Wave and I am interested in making it easier to recover. That is the basis for my above asked questions.

#### astrowolf67

##### Well-Known Member
The Alpha WILL go much higher than the Tidal Wave. I'd suggest launching it on an A motor first, so you can get an idea of this little rockets altitude potential.

For streamers, on my smaller birds, I bought a roll of plastic 1" wide orange construction streamer from Lowe's. At the launch site, just pull off how much you want, tear it off, and tie it onto the shock cord.

#### Darian Rachal

##### Well-Known Member
You might try a 12" or so X-form chute or maybe a 9" round. Either one should work with an Alpha. My thought regarding recovery is that the chute should slow the rocket enough to prevent a fin from breaking. More than that is too much parachute.

#### powderburner

##### Well-Known Member
from DNoal:
The only plastic part on my Alpha is the nose cone.
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No plastic fins? Now you have me wondering what version of the Alpha you have there.

#### powderburner

DNoal offered:
The shop where I purchased it had a few more, i think. I paid $9.99 for it, if you want one I could probably mail it to you. ------------------------------------------ That is a very kind offer, but I will decline. I already have two or three extra starter specials laying around here somewhere. I will bring up these ideas: these kits are not likely to remain available for too long, especially at those prices, and especially with Christmas shopping coming up. You may want an extra for yourself (that's an awfully cheap way to get an extra pad for when yours gets stepped on, or an extra ignition system for when yours starts acting up). You may want one or two to give away at Christmas (infect some more of your family & friends?). You may want one to give to your kid's science teacher (give it through the PTA and it's a tax write-off too!). #### DNoal ##### Member Actually, this is just the rocket itself, there is not a starter kit with it. And at$9.99 I thought that was a bit expensive. But after visiting 2 local hobby shops that was the most popular level 1 kit I could find.

The kit came with BT, NC, engine mount, decals, chute and other nessecary parts.

#### Stymye

##### Well-Known Member
Great looking alpha!!

#### DNoal

##### Member
We had 2 successful flights with the Alpha today. We launched once each with B and C motors. Attached is a photo of the rocket on the Pad.

Since the wind was 10 or so mph we used the Tidal Wave on Bs and Cs to determine the best spot from which to launch, and nearly lost it in the woods. After about 40 minutes of wandering around I saw it hanging 8 feet above the ground in a tree.

Once we moved we had no further trouble with rockets in the woods.

All in all, we had a great day! Six launches and six recoveries.

#### astronboy

##### Well-Known Member
Excellent!! The rocket looks really good, and it sounds like you had fun.... which is what it is all about!!