New Commercial Hybrid Motors or Variants

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Alan Whitmore

Well-Known Member
Aug 27, 2013
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I have a very specific question for this group. I have recently been appointed Chair of the Tripoli Motor Testing Committee, and I am trying to prioritize the upgrade of all testing equipment, including hardware and software. The question is: How many new commercial hybrid rocket motors are we likely to see come on the market in the next 5 years? This would include new nitrous tank/fuel combinations for existing commercial motor systems. I am fairly familiar with launch venues in the Southeastern United States, but I want to know about the general level of hybrid activity in the rest of the country. Is there enough activity that we are likely to see new motors, new tank/fuel combinations or new manufacturers getting into the commercial arena any time soon?
The kind of information I would like to receive is “at our launch site, over the past X years, there have been Y hybrids flown”, or “ I know that Doctor X is developing a new hybrid system and that he plans to introduce it at the Y launch at Z”. Information like “I have a hybrid motor in my basement and maybe I’ll fly it sometime” is not exactly what I am looking for.

Alan Whitmore
Chair, Tripoli Motor Testing
Prefect, Tripoli East NC

I mostly fly with Tripoli Wisconsin and WOOSH. I cannot recall the last time I saw a hybrid flight. It has to be about 10 years since I have seen a hybrid. In this neck of the wood I would say it is essentially a dead topic.

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I would agree with Mark. There seems to be very little interest in new commercial hybrids. I do detect a bit of interest from a research standpoint in older designs like the Aerotech hybrid, but nothing to drive TMT decisions right now.
And by the way, I do have two hypertek Ms in my basement along with the GSE (no nitrous oxide), but I have no plans to fly them. [emoji846]

Steve Shannon
I have only seen one hybrid flight at Manchester, TN since 2010. I will agree with the previous posters on this thread that there has been little interest in hybrids since the BATF lost its court case back in 2008. The extra equipment and supplies necessary to fly most hybrids is probably a turn off for most flyers.
We have had one hybrid flight in past 5 years at Pittsburgh, PA
It was by a college group from Frostburg, WV
Not the answer you're seeking, but I would love to do hybrids. However I have found it difficult to really learn about from a practical standpoint. It is just not ever gonna be as simple as shoving reloads in a case. I have seen one hybrid flight at Orangeburg about 3 years ago at a Freedom Launch.

I'm hoping to meet someone local doing hybrids who is willing to share the knowledge.

From a "Motor" standpoint, how does the cost of a hybrid launch compared to a solid motor launch?

I always wanted to build one of those gasoline powered hybrids but I understand those days are gone.
I would love to do hybrids, but no GSE at any of my launch sites. Chickenhorse eggcart sort of thing.
I fly at Battlepark (Culpeper, VA) and MDRA (Price, MD and the Sod Farm)
I do not remember seeing any club GSE, most are told to bring your own.

I may see one or two in a years time. MDRA flies most of the year, their Board Members would know more than I.
Ivan Gaylish in our area probably done more and knows of the folks in this area that do. He would know more, too.
I have all the stuff for Contrail Hybrids, I flew it once. See following post.

I mostly fly with Tripoli Wisconsin and WOOSH. I cannot recall the last time I saw a hybrid flight. It has to be about 10 years since I have seen a hybrid. In this neck of the wood I would say it is essentially a dead topic.


There was one hybrid flight at WOOSH last year. Doubtful it would increase much as they had their own GSE- clubs around here don't seem to have that stuff anymore.
I would love to do hybrids, but no GSE at any of my launch sites. Chickenhorse eggcart sort of thing.

I bought all I needed to do the larger Contrail hybrids. The GSE equipment is as simple as a hybrid can get, I am not interested in other brands. Some brands require a stem that goes inside the motor, Contrail does not.
The motors and reloads are easy and cheap to build, It comes with nylon hoses and igniter to light it.

I flew one Contrail once at a MDRA Red Glare event for my 1st Lev 3 attempt.
The M-1491 screamed off the pad like a banshee and echoed loudly of the tree line.
I am surprised there is little interest.
In the sixteen-or-so years that I have been doing HPR I have only seen one hybrid flight and that was probably ten-plus years ago.
Lowpuller, Johnny and a few others are heavily into the hybrids at Camden(formally Orangeburg), but 9 times out of 10 they end up dumping the NOX with no ignition. My opinion, just not worth the hassle.
Many of the local college teams are working on Hybrids.
They target them over solids because they feel there is more room for exploration/discovery.
Will they become commercialize? I don't know, but I doubt it.

The tinker/futz factor with hybrids is huge and as Steve mentioned - more attempts end in a NOX dump instead of a flight.
Those that do light often fail due to gross underperformance.

There are usually a few attempt every Balls. Maybe one/year actually flies with reasonable performance.

As TMT chair - I would skip hybrids for now with the clear statement that any manufacturer wanting to certify their motor give you a several month heads-up so you can prepare.
The last time I saw a hybrid at Tripoli Houston was some years ago.

Unless something negative happens on the regulatory front for AP propellant (or the AeroTech manufacturing facilities had a problem), I would think that hybrids would at best be a static industry.

The tinker/futz factor with hybrids is huge and as Steve mentioned - more attempts end in a NOX dump instead of a flight.
Those that do light often fail due to gross underperformance.

I doth protest at that broad generalization. Anyone who has seen my flights a Geneseo over the past 10 years can attest I have had 100% success with my hybrid flights and many die-hard AP motor guys are often left shaking and wimpering after the raw display of sight and sound.

Now of course its granted that only the most intelligent and most good looking slice of the rocketry community is capable of being successful with hybrid motors. But that is no reason to hate us.

But that is no reason to hate us.

No Hate....just observations about time spent at the pad which stalls launches and subsequent success rate.
When you can get out to the pad and get ready in a couple of minutes, the stall part will become a none-issue.
When you spend 10's of minutes tinkering, everything comes to a stop.

Hybrids are cool - when they work.
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I'd love to learn to fly hybrids. For some like me, the challenge is the attraction. But when it's bring your own GSE, the entry price point keeps people away. What you should be trying to figure out is how many clubs have GSE readily available.

But yes, now that AP has been deregulated to a large extent, hybrid interest has subsided. I'm also told that nitrous production has taken a hit recently and prices will be going up in the short term.
Have a few flights a year at bunnell field flying with NEFAR of hybrids. College teams like them. Had a g motor hybrid in a minimum diameter just the other month.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
People ask me why I launch Hybrids, my standard answer is 'Geek Masochism', yes there are easier ways to launch but i like the 'challenge' of it. AT ROC there are a few hybrid flyers, yes a small percentage of the total number of flyers.

I have suggested that Tripoli take a look at hybrids differently than solid motors, even look at certifying the case/tank, and then certifying the 'operator' for creating the loads for simple plastic tube designs. This would open things up a bit for basic UC plastic tube reloads, or even for 3D printed grains. For different reloads and more advanced stuff, Contrail is supporting the hybrid flyers well with off the shelf hardware and reloads. I don't know if Tom is going to certify anything new but he is continuing to support hybrids. Additionally I have purchased reloads for RATT from Black Dog (Ron M), these are still available.

Hybrids is/will be a niche within rocketry, I do think keeping a active (albeit small) Hybrid community is healthy, it does feed science / STEM programs, and adds another twist to rocketry. Keeping this certified as opposed to EX keeps them accessible.

As far as the test stand goes, one suggestion would be for Hybrid Manufactures to self test (in conjunction with a test/qual plan submitted to Tripoli) and submit the results for review. There could be a third party witness to the testing if needed. This is similar to how commercial aircraft parts are certified. This also eliminates the need for Tripoli to have all the different combinations of hybrid GSE, tanks, nos, etc. Certification, even if it is limited, simplifies launching as opposed to EX for many locations (including mine).

Alan, contact me offline if you want to discuss it further.
Certifying a motor is certifying it as a system. Certifying a hybrid without certifying it with a specific fuel grain makes no sense.

Also, in general certifying hybrids is problematic. With large variation in nitrous load/ pressure with temperature comes fairly serious variations in performance. Say a motor is tested at 70 degrees f. You fly it at 70f you performance should be pretty much as expected. Do the same at 35 f and what happens?

Simulation is also tough. All motor files are sans oxidizer as they stand. I wanted to change this, but tell me how I get data for mass if not included in the cert docs. How do you adjust for different temperatures- different files for different temperatures to better model nitrous load? Then the thrust curves are different.
I'm the only hybrid flier in both clubs I'm part of (Northern Colorado Rocketry & Tripoli Colorado). I've never had to dump a tank full of nitrous oxide on the pad, I've always had successful firings. I typically fly 2-3 hybrids a year - mostly because our club has waivers for 35,000' three times a year and I require that for the hybrid rockets I fly.

I haven't seen any interest in the clubs I'm part of for hybrids in 6-7 years.

Mike Kramer's dual hybrid RATTworks K240 flight at last year's LDRS 35 was outstanding.


The sound that Mike's flight made was absolutely unforgettable... it was even cooler than the Nike Smoke K2045 drag race that I saw at TCC about two years ago (maybe about 8 of them... before the new rules kicked in). Hybrids are definitely not dead, they're just a niche.
I've flown one hybrid in the last several years at MDRA; commercial Contrail. This coming weekend at Battle Park there should be 1 EX hybrid burned (mine) and from the sounds of it, one Contrail commercial by another flier.