Newbie recovery question: streamer vs. chute vs. spill holes....

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

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


Jul 22, 2004
Reaction score
Just started getting into rocketry last weekend. Bought a RTF starter set from Estes for the kiddos (yeah, nice excuse) and headed out to a decent size field. First 3 flights (Estes Patriot Missle thingy) were on A8-3's I believe and probably didn't break 100 feet. Recovery was simple; almost caught one from where I was kneeling.

Stuck a B6-4 in next and the kids and the Mrs. were amazed as it easily doubled in height (yes, I thought it was cool too). Only problem is the wind must have been a little gustier up high and I misjudged the distance to the tree line. I think I'll be able to get it back tomorrow.

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out how to avoid the downrange drift yet not decend to quickly. My many nights of reading have got me thinking about streamers or cutting a hole in the top of the chute. Any advice on these techniques? What about streamer size and materials?

Thanks for any help!

Welcome aboard!

One of the easier ways to combat drift is to aim the rocket slightly into the wind.

Your other ideas of a spill hole, and a streamer are classic ideas. Another you may want to consider is a technique called reefing. This is where you tie a knot or use a piece of tape to effectively shorten the shroud lines and thus keep the opening smaller. I prefer this to a spill hole as it is adjustable.

As to altitude, keep in mind that as motor letters go up the motor doubles in power for each successive letter. So your B was twice the total impulse of your A. A C-motor would be 4X your A.

I'm not a streamer fan, however I have heard that a streamer stops getting more effective once it is 10X the lenght of the rocket. I only have one streamer recovery and that is a small 2 stage.
Good question and Hospital_Rocket gave you some good answers. To get a bit deeper into the subject:

First, when ;you get a chance, do a search on "parachute" and/or "recovery" and/or "streamer". You will find a wealth of information.

Angling into the wind: This is somewhat of an art form. You are trying to gauge the wind not only at ground level, but up above the tree tops. My experience is that after a few flights, you will have a good idea on what angle to use. NOTE: Never tilt it more than 30 degrees and also take into account "Weather Cocking". Weather cocking is an effect where the prevailing wind will alter the trajectory of your rocket upon leaving the launch rod (the rocket will *turn* into the wind). So on a breezy day a 20 degree tilt *could* result in a 30+ degree flight path, depending on the rocket (bigger fins cause larger weather cocking, for example). If you get the hang of it, this *is* the best way to go.

Spill Holes: Great tool/concept. Simply cut out the manufactures logo from the chute (I have GOT to come up with a new location for that logo... :p ) This has the effect of giving the air that is supporting/filling the chute a place to go. The model will come down quicker and with less drift. I've even seen spill holes that were 80+% of the chute diameter (leaving effectively a para-*ring* recovery :) )

Reefing: Another quick and simple method to reduce drift. Gather up the shroud lines and tape them together near the canopy (keeping the parachute from fully inflating). The closer to the canopy the tape, the less the chute inflates. This gives you great control based on current weather conditions. When I use chutes, I typically use both reefing and spill holes.

Streamers: Streamers are great but you have to take a few things into account. Mainly, the rocket will come down MUCH faster. For large rockets streamers are not recommended. They can also cause problems if your landing area is pavement or hard-pack dirt as you can easily have fins snap off. The best streamer size is the largest you can pack into your rocket that maintains a 10:1 ratio (meaning the length of the streamer is 10 times the width of the streamer) Making it longer or wider will not help slow the model.

Hope this helps!
No parachute (at all), no streamer, just . . . nose blow.

Yeah, that sounds kind of gross, but in rocketry this refers to simply popping the nose cone off (it is still connected by the tether/shock cord) and letting the pieces tumble down. They will descend quickly, with minimal wind drift. If you are flying one of the Estes 'ready to fly' rockets, it is built like a tank anyway, and if you are flying over a grassy area your rocket will probably land undamaged.

Nose blow was one of the original recovery systems documented in the early editions of 'Handbook of Model Rocketry.' Subsequent variations include 'breakup' recovery (the rocket separates at the front of the motor mount), 'tumble' recovery (the motor either shifts position or completely separates at ejection, leaving the rocket unstable), and 'featherweight' recovery (a.k.a. 'lawndart' recovery, not recommended for anything pointy or of any significant weight).

I would recommend playing with a streamer to see how you like that option. You can get usable raw streamer material locally by buying a package of crepe party streamer (lots of colors to choose from, but the color gets all over your fingers). You can cut one long, then trim it shorter, and it's dirt cheap. If you like streamers then you can order some fancier rocketry streamer material later.

Welcome to TRF!

(forgot to add this)
When you go looking for more motors, look in your Sunday newspaper for an advert for Michael's MJ Design-----there is often a '40% off any one item' coupon. Many of the Michael's stores carry rocket supplies, and some carry the Estes Flight Pack: 24 motors (A, B, and C), igniters, and wadding. These packs normally retail for around $45 to $50, but with the coupon they can be had for more like $25 to $30 (making the motor costs almost as low as $1 each, about as cheap as you will find anywhere).
And when you want to go looking for more rockets, wait a bit and Hobby Lobby will run a half-price sale on their rocket kits. They have a sale about every two months (literally!) and it is worth waiting to find before you stock up on kits.
Nose blow is a very good idea for one of those rockets. It is one of my favorite recovery methods(as I do overpower many of my rockets). I have landed many without ANY damage, AT Mustang and Estes Stormcaster(from probably close to 2000 feet!). I highly suggest it.
me and my dad talk about recovery every time we go out. as much as we want our rockets back, we love to see the slow drift down of a nice full parachute. we just can't help it, we love to see the rockets launch into the sky but almost half of the fun is the seeing those mylar parachutes fill up with air and SLOWLY descend down. it's a beautiful thing! we just point into the wind and cross our fingers. :rolleyes: