Mini Alpha Starter Set

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Scott_650

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2015
Messages
2,318
Reaction score
1,880
Location
Louisville OH
The new #9985 Mini Alpha starter set is on the Estes website - shows out of stock but the product page has a link to the instructions for the rocket. It uses a Star Hopper style snap together plastic fin can with white and a single blue fin plus what appears to be a prefinished body tube. Hard to tell from the pictures but it looks like the body tube is finished similarly to the anniversary Alpha from a few years ago. The nose cone is (apparently) molded in red and looks like a fair approximation of a down sized Alpha cone - I’m sure an Alpha expert (like BEC 😎) will do some research and have some insight.

Hopefully they offer the rocket separately, even though it’s not a “builder’s kit” it looks like a good fit as a beginner’s kit for younger children or an easy path for an Alpha completist to have a down scaled Alpha. There is a separate SKU listed for just the rocket so maybe a good indicator we’ll see it as a standalone kit.
 
As a vendor who tries hard to reach new and beginner hobbyists, I'm excited about Estes including motors & wadding in starter sets (*). My experience is that many such people have more tolerance to prices than there is to the number of items. The price either works or it doesn't. But it's a drag, say, talking with a guardian whose kid is real excited about rockets but they're not, and they're prepared to hand over their credit card for a starter box anyway, but, oh, you also need motors... and wadding... and don't forget batteries. Launcher, rocket, motors, and wadding all in one box is much nicer.

I am also a big fan of any move to put some renewed attention on small rockets and motors.

(*) Include them again, right? Didn't they use to "back in the day" or am I misremembering?
 
Estes needs to upgrade that horrible Launch controller, 4 AA batteries only work a few times before failure and dissapointment, and has resulted in countless disapontments to new Rocketeers. I got 3 good launches on new batteries last time I tried using one. Meanwhile, my controller that uses 6 C batteries has over 400 launches, is on it's 2nd year, and istill works great. Maybe add a 5th or 6th AA battery?
 
The extras included with the different starter sets at HL vary by SKU. Some have motors, some have wadding, etc.
Aerotech has both Quest starter sets - motors included - and oddly named launch sets with no motors. I think Estes uses a similar naming convention for their sets with and without motors.
 
I'd still put a dab of plastic glue on the fin can and fins...

Fin can halves and fin can to body tube, sure. But with the fins positively retained by the motor retaining cap, it's a take-down rocket. Fins are easily replaced if damaged, or it can be stowed in a small-diameter mailing tube and put in one's luggage for safe travel in a checked bag.
 
Fin can halves and fin can to body tube, sure. But with the fins positively retained by the motor retaining cap, it's a take-down rocket. Fins are easily replaced if damaged, or it can be stowed in a small-diameter mailing tube and put in one's luggage for safe travel in a checked bag.
I’ve built those style E2X kits both ways - of course the only ones that broke a fin on landing were the ones I glued!
 
The new #9985 Mini Alpha starter set is on the Estes website - shows out of stock but the product page has a link to the instructions for the rocket. It uses a Star Hopper style snap together plastic fin can with white and a single blue fin plus what appears to be a prefinished body tube. Hard to tell from the pictures but it looks like the body tube is finished similarly to the anniversary Alpha from a few years ago. The nose cone is (apparently) molded in red and looks like a fair approximation of a down sized Alpha cone - I’m sure an Alpha expert (like BEC 😎) will do some research and have some insight.
I will....but only after I can get one of these without the pad and controller. I have more than enough of these already on hand.

Hopefully they offer the rocket separately, even though it’s not a “builder’s kit” it looks like a good fit as a beginner’s kit for younger children or an easy path for an Alpha completist to have a down scaled Alpha. There is a separate SKU listed for just the rocket so maybe a good indicator we’ll see it as a standalone kit.
I do hope you're right...and as it is listed in the 2024 catalog separately I agree there is some indication it will be.

As a vendor who tries hard to reach new and beginner hobbyists, I'm excited about Estes including motors & wadding in starter sets (*). My experience is that many such people have more tolerance to prices than there is to the number of items. The price either works or it doesn't. But it's a drag, say, talking with a guardian whose kid is real excited about rockets but they're not, and they're prepared to hand over their credit card for a starter box anyway, but, oh, you also need motors... and wadding... and don't forget batteries. Launcher, rocket, motors, and wadding all in one box is much nicer.

I am also a big fan of any move to put some renewed attention on small rockets and motors.

(*) Include them again, right? Didn't they use to "back in the day" or am I misremembering?
Aerotech has both Quest starter sets - motors included - and oddly named launch sets with no motors. I think Estes uses a similar naming convention for their sets with and without motors.
This is correct. "Starter sets" have motors/wadding, "launch sets" do not. Why that nomenclature, I do not know.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0686/0220/0369/files/2458_MiniAlpha_Instruct_WEB.pdf?v=1709669091

The interesting development for me is the bent-wire shock cord mount instead of a tri-fold that can inhibit ejection. I haven't played with enough ARFs to know whether this is new.
The Star Hopper uses the same design - not sure if it was the first or not.
The Star Hopper was the first time I'd seen that. I need to dig my Star Hopper out and fly it again just to remind myself how well that worked (or not).
 
Fin can halves and fin can to body tube, sure. But with the fins positively retained by the motor retaining cap, it's a take-down rocket. Fins are easily replaced if damaged, or it can be stowed in a small-diameter mailing tube and put in one's luggage for safe travel in a checked bag.
I’ve built those style E2X kits both ways - of course the only ones that broke a fin on landing were the ones I glued!
I never glue them in even on the models where it was called for in the instructions (AstroCam carrier comes to mind). It makes the models very packable. Since the motor retainer ring prevents them from sliding aft, they stay firmly in, even when stuffing a D16 in a Ghost Chaser, for example (though the plastic doesn't really like motors that get that hot externally in the long run).
 
I've upgraded a Booster-55 by chucking it in the lathe and opening up the insides to take a chunk of BT-50 epoxied in. Allowed me to use 24x95mm motors and provides a bit of thermal insulation, at least to the forward end and the fins. I imagine if someone was motivated and had access to the equipment, that could be done with an 18mm fin can to put in a chunk of BT-20H, but at that point, I think it might make more sense to go with conventional construction.
 
Yeah, probably not worth it.

Here's what happened to my Ghost Chaser after about 20 flights. I've put a little putty in the hole and still fly this model once in awhile. I had the AstroCam start to leak at the top of the fin can, but the red plastic has shrunk far less than this translucent blue stuff.

image002.jpgimage003.jpg
 
As someone who has already built an Alpha, I was kind of more looking forward to a Maxi-Alpha rather than a mini-Alpha. Estes used to offer the Maxi-Alpha, I remember it from the 1980's era catalogs.
 
Estes needs to upgrade that horrible Launch controller, 4 AA batteries only work a few times before failure and dissapointment, and has resulted in countless disapontments to new Rocketeers. I got 3 good launches on new batteries last time I tried using one. Meanwhile, my controller that uses 6 C batteries has over 400 launches, is on it's 2nd year, and istill works great. Maybe add a 5th or 6th AA battery?
Something is very odd about this. I don't keep count on the number of launches per set, but I've certainly been out to the park multiple times with my son on the same set of batteries, easily doing 10+ launches in a session.
 
Yes, and you can always get rechargeable lithium AA batteries. Assuming they don't have current-limiting circuitry that gets tripped, their ability to deliver high current for a significant number of mAh greatly exceeds alkalines. And then you recharge them.
That's what I use, and they work great.
 
I just had a brainstorm for a new kind of drag race:
Each contestant is handed a sealed Mini Alpha kit* (when the stand-alone kits become available), a sealed bag of wadding, and a sealed pack of motors. The first one to launch it wins.

*I would say starter kit, but most of us probably have a few Estes launchers sitting around in the original wrappers already. Although adding that to the pile might be a fun advanced version of the race.
 
As someone who has already built an Alpha, I was kind of more looking forward to a Maxi-Alpha rather than a mini-Alpha. Estes used to offer the Maxi-Alpha, I remember it from the 1980's era catalogs.
The Maxi-Alpha is extremely easy to clone, if you really want one. The fins and nose can be had from erockets, the rest is just common parts.
 
I just had a brainstorm for a new kind of drag race:
Each contestant is handed a sealed Mini Alpha kit* (when the stand-alone kits become available), a sealed bag of wadding, and a sealed pack of motors. The first one to launch it wins.

*I would say starter kit, but most of us probably have a few Estes launchers sitting around in the original wrappers already. Although adding that to the pile might be a fun advanced version of the race.
This could be fun as long as all the contestants have a strong dedication to safety. Otherwise it seems like a recipe for disaster as rushed people make mistakes...
 
Obviously.

It would probably be a good idea to have the launchers set up with the protective caps on the end, ready to go, at the start.

And DQs scored if the flight is not nominal for any reason.
You could have a few people tasked with a standardized inspection for satisfactory completion as a requirement for proceeding to the launch.
 
I just had a brainstorm for a new kind of drag race:
Each contestant is handed a sealed Mini Alpha kit* (when the stand-alone kits become available), a sealed bag of wadding, and a sealed pack of motors. The first one to launch it wins.
So, the person using CA instead of white glue wins.... unless he or she glues their fingers together instead!
 
Estes needs to upgrade that horrible Launch controller, 4 AA batteries only work a few times before failure and dissapointment, and has resulted in countless disapontments to new Rocketeers. I got 3 good launches on new batteries last time I tried using one. Meanwhile, my controller that uses 6 C batteries has over 400 launches, is on it's 2nd year, and istill works great. Maybe add a 5th or 6th AA battery?
Something is very odd about this. I don't keep count on the number of launches per set, but I've certainly been out to the park multiple times with my son on the same set of batteries, easily doing 10+ launches in a session.
I'm more with @CalebJ here with respect to the Electron Beam controller, but it does matter a great deal which AA cells you use. I guess I'm just going to have to go down that rabbit hole and see what the current state of things here is. But before I do, it's "don't get your cells at a dollar store or Harbor Freight, use high quality alkalines such as Energizers or Duracells." Of course lately this has not been true with respect to 9V batteries.

Rechargeables are a whole separate rabbit hole.

But a four-AA-cell launch controller has been a viable alternative for single motors (vs. clusters) since the Solar Launch Controller and Solar Igniters first appeared in the early 1970s.

However I absolutely agree with @PDawg about the PSII controller and six C cells as a far superior, albeit much larger/heavier option. Part of it is the C cells and part of it is the much larger wire used on the PSII controller. Which makes one wonder about the E Launch Controller, which is an Electron Beam but with the wiring of the PSII controller....

All of this is relatively off topic for the Mini Alpha, though.
 
I just had a brainstorm for a new kind of drag race:
Each contestant is handed a sealed Mini Alpha kit* (when the stand-alone kits become available), a sealed bag of wadding, and a sealed pack of motors. The first one to launch it wins.

Estes is about to release models called Cosmic Ray and Cosmic Cargo which come in bulk boxes of 12 models each. These go together very much the same way but have the little knot-through-the-side-of-the-tube shock cord retention like the AstroCam or the Ghost Chaser. They would provide a way to do this with a group.
 
Back
Top