Richard Nakka's Experimental Rocketry Web Site

Early Rocketry Experiments

I spent an enjoyable summer and fall of 1971 building and flying model "kit" rockets powered by commercial model rocket motors. This was my first foray into rocketry and I soon found that this hobby was an exciting and challenging one. I learned the basics of aerodynamics, stability, motor ignition, safe recovery, tracking and organizing. There was, however, one facet of rocketry which eluded me. I was fascinated by the rocket motor, and although the Estes and Centuri catalogues showed neat cutaway views and thrust curves, these were not enough to satisfy my curiosity and desire to know more about the workings of this technological marvel.

At the end of flying season, when the weather got too cold and winter was settling in, I turned my attention to this particular attraction. I had dozens of spent motor casings. Being somewhat of a pack rat and perhaps possessing more than a bit of insight, I kept most of the used motors. It was around this time that I had come into possession of a copy of Brinley's book on Amateur Rocketry. I began doing ad hoc experiments with the intriguing sugar-based propellant that was briefly mentioned. Needless to say, it didn't take long for me to come to the realization that these spent model rocket motors were begging to be reloaded with this curiously energetic concoction.

Knowing that I was unlikely to meet with immediate success, I kept a record of all the attempts in order to tackle this challenge in a more systematic manner. The TE series of static and flight tests were the outcome of my particular melding of amateur and model rocketry. As expected, this undertaking proved to be challenging and eventually I realized that a better approach to achieving eventual success was with the creation my own rocket motors built from scratch. This endeavour culminated in the creation of my first scratch-built rocket motors, which led to the breakthrough in rocket performance and reliability that I'd been seeking.

Experiments with reloading commercial motors:

TE-3    TE-3 was my first successful attempt at flying a rocket powered by my own self-made propellant.

Experiments with self-made motors:

TE-1B Motor
TE-1B Tests #1 to #3    TE-1B was my first completely scratch-built rocket motor. Manufactured from a piece of aluminum round stock using only the rudimentary tools I had available at the time. It was not particularly successful due to the overly large throat, which was a conservative safey measure.
TEC-1 Motor
TEC-1 Motor Tests #1 to #2
TEC-1 Motor Test #3    TEC-1 was the "breakthrough" I was seeking. Not only did the motor perform very well, producing a thrust level far beyond any of the model rocket motors that I had used (or was available at that time, in fact), but it perfomed consistently and reliably over three firings. Made from 1/2" EMT, a stretched version of TEC-1 was subsequently made and went on to power my first amateur rocket flight on February 26th, 1972.

Box of Centuri motors
An original box of Centuri rocket motors from 1971. Price tag $1.65 (CAD) for a box of three.

First self-made motors
Call me Mr.Sentimental, but I'm still proudly in possession of my two first rocket motors, TEC-1 and TE-1B.

Created  July 1, 2007