Rocket Grave Robbing (aka Dumpster Diving)

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Cyborg Rocketeer
Staff member
Global Mod
Jan 5, 2009
Reaction score
Alliance, Ohio
At NARAM last year in Missouri I found the remains of this rocket in the dumpster. Obviously the victim of angry rocket gods, late deployment, or separated parachute. I pulled it out of the dumpster, threw it in the back of the minivan, and later it collected dust in my garage.


But then this weekend, with the kids all away at college, my wife off taking in a seminar out of state, and me alone with no meetings or special projects at church, I thought that this was a marvelous opportunity to get the Dremel out and make dust in the living room.

And so it was.

First I cut out the conformal launch lug, removed the half nosecone used as a camera enclosure, and then cut the tube off so I could get to the fins, which had been reinforced with layers of fiberglass internally.


Next, I made a small cut through the outside tubing above each fin which allowed me to simply pull the remaining pieces of the exterior off.


Next, I cut the fiberglass at the root of each fin, and pulled the fins off, and took the stuffer tube, centering ring, and motor retainer to the garage. Two or three firm smacks to the stuffer tube were sufficient to get them all separated. I cut the stuffer tube just a hair above the motor retainer and removed the rest with a pair of pliers. Few seconds with the Dremel drum sander attachment and whatever glue remained we history.

So now these nice things have been added to my parts box. The biggest rocket I've built (or in process) to date is only four inches, so I don't know when some of them will be used, but the 38mm retainer could be handy on a couple of birds I hope to fly in the next year.

And yes, I already cleaned up most of the dust and ran the vacuum. My wife will be home tomorrow. :wink:
I know I reconditioned many unwanted rocket remains back in the day. Some were just a coupler and new section of body tube away from a functional rocket (well and nosecone + chute).

Worst case improving your parts inventory is usually a good thing.

Never tried it, but I heard of heating larger LOC nosecones in an over and using an air compressor to pop out some major dents.
I used to do that as well, collect trashed rockets and recover parts. A good heat gun will soften any glue (even JB Weld) and paint. I've scraped all the paint off of G10 fins very easily without any apparent harm to the G10 itself. Likewise I have recovered several aluminum retainers. But I now have a drawer full of recovered fins and other bits I'll probably never get around to using. Worse, I finally realized that for some parts it was more time and effort to reuse them than to just buy new. And since I'm generally short of time it was worth the expense to not have to clean up a part to use it.

I do have at least one rocket built from all salvaged parts except the body tube. It was a PML kit that used Quantum tube. The tubing peeled easily away from the centering rings and the fins were G10. The motor mount was even reusable once I removed the fins.

I unashamedly scrounge any rocket parts I can find. Last summer I pulled some wreckage out of the (unlit) fire pit to salvage the SS bits. At our last launch Salvage-1 (appropriate name, although "Crazy British Dude" is more accurate) had a hay day with the junk bucket he found in the club trailer.

This rocket is made entirely from scrap except for the body tube and canopy.

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