I had started a thread to post this, so here it is here:
It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of a rocketry legend.
Irving Wait, formerly of Rocket Development Corp., passed away on Monday, December
18 in his home in Seymour, Indiana. He was 88 years old. Many, including myself,
considered Irv to be the true "Father of High Power Rocketry" for his development
and sale of the first commercially available composite model rocket motor.
Old time rocketeers will remember RDC as one of the small model rocket companies
that competed against the "Big Two", Estes and Centuri, during the 1960's. In
reality, RCD was a professional rocket company that sold model rockets as a side.
His company marketed A & B class black powder motors as will as rocket kits. He also
sold the "Ignitrite", a novel igniter design incorporating Jetex wick and advertised
for use in clustered motor kits. In 1968 he introduced the "Enerjet 8" motor. It
was the first commercial APCP motor sold to model rocketeers. The "8" was the peak
thrust in pounds, with a total impulse of 7.5 pounds which comes out to about an 33
n-s E21 today. RDC also sold other motors in this line ranging from an Enerjet 40 to
and Enerjet 336, which, of course, were not available to modelers. The propellant
had an Isp of 170 (not bad for the time) and cost a whopping $2.75 each! For those
of us who were used to paying 35¢ for an A motor, this was a lot of money.
Enter into the picture Lee Piester, of Centuri Engineering Co. Lee, to his credit,
understood that as rocketeers advanced in the hobby that they would eventually want
to fly larger models with motors more powerful than a B or C. In the mid-60's he
purchased the Coaster Corp. which sold D-G black powder motors. These motors were
incorporated into the Centuri line-up as "Mini-Max" D, E and F motors. There was
also a line of large scale kits. However, Lee realized that large black powder
motors have their limitations, and were labor intensive to produce and expensive to
ship. He purchased RDC outright to get the composite motor technology which became
the Enerjet line of E and F motors in 1971. The large scale kit line was also
upgraded for the more powerful composite motors. The RDC "Ignitrite" evolved into
the Centuri "Sure-Shot" igniter. Irv then went back to producing professional
commercial rocket motors.
Other professional rocket engineers also entered model rocketry as a side business
in the '70's, notably John Rahkonen of Pro-Dyne, George Roose of FSI, Frank Kosdon,
John Davis and Scott Dixon. John would later team with Gary Rosenfield to form
Composite Dynamics. Gary would later start Aerotech. Other non-professional
rocketeers would also start motor companies in the 70's, such as Mark Mayle of
SSRS/Crown and Randy Sobszak of Plasmajet. They all owe a nod of gratitude to Irv
In the late mid-80's,long before the introduction of modern "effects" propellant,
RDC produced the first truly smokey composite model rocket motor, which was sold by
North Coast Rocketry as the "Whirlwind" E motor until about 1990. It used a novel
propellant containing potassium perchlorate instead of AP.
Online condolences may be given on the funeral home website at