Estes Rockets

Estes Riptide Model Rocket

Estes solid fuel rockets are suitable for everyone, no previous experience required. Sold as complete starter kits, just rockets or build your own kits all with differing levels of difficulty. We started with a basic starter kit that had everything needed to get started other than the solid fuel motors that have to be purchased separately. We still have and use the basic kit all be it with replacement rockets.

The height These rockets can attain is impressive, so you must have a large clear area to launch them. Different rocket designs and engine sizes dictate what hight is achievable. Most rockets detail the achievable height on the packing along with the size of motors required.

The kids always enjoy the excitement of the launch process along with the sound of them shooting into the sky. The tricky bit is recovery as if you dont have a perfectly calm day they can drift for a long way on there recovery parachute. We have lost some in the past.

The motor / engine used

Powered by a single use solid fuel rocket engine that can be easily purchased and are not that expensive, especially when bought in bulk.

They are ignited by a small electrically energised fuse that allow the children to play rocket control with a countdown and simple button press to launch the rocket.

Preparing to Launch

The Launch pad

The launch pad is a simple plastic stand that slots together with a long guide rod and launch plate.

Set up the launch pad ensuring you don’t accidentally bend the guide rod. Making sure the guide rod is vertical and the launch plate is in place.

The launch controller comes pre-wired with a length of cable and clips. This needs to be fully unwound and laid out away from the launch pad. Once the controller and launchpad a correctly setup attention can be turned to arming the rocket ready for launch.

Top Tip – Please take the firing key with you, this prevents you from having to worry that little hands aren’t playing “launch the rocket” too early while your messing with loading the rocket motor.

Loading the recovery parachute.

First ensure the rocket has some recovery wadding pushed into the top of the rocket body, this prevents the hot gasses from the ejection charge from burning/melting your recovery parachute. Fold the recovery parachute wrapping the cords loosely around it and neatly slot this into the rocket body and attache the nose cone.

Warning – Ensure the elastic band holding the nose cone and parachute to the body doesn’t get trapped when sliding the nose cone on, I think this may have been the case of one of our failures in the past.

Arming the rocket.

Now the rocket motor can be loaded into the rocket, this is usually held in with a plastic retaining collar or metal clip. Next a single igniter should be pushed into the small hole in the end of the rocket motor, don’t push to hard as to damage the tip but the tip must be touching the end of the hole for it to ignite the motor material. Next a small plastic bung needs to be pushed in to ensure the igniter doesn’t come loose.

Top Tip – Don’t peel away the small tag of paper from the igniter, this is there to keep the two wires separated to allow the igniter to work when the power is sent to it.

The rocket can now be carefully slid onto the launch pad down the guide rod, slide the rocket up and down a few times to ensure nothing is binding.

I found that my rockets sat too far down onto the launchpad, to make then sit slightly higher (1 -2 cm) I wrapped a few turns of masking tape onto the guide rod to allow the rocket to stop slightly off the pad.

Attache the two crock clips to the igniter wires ensuring they aren’t touching each other and walk back to the launch control panel.

Estes Rocket on Launch pad

The Launch

Before you launch please ensure you have checked the surrounding area and there aren’t any people or animals around, also ensure there isn’t anything passing buy overhead (obvious I know but it has to be said). I then allow the selected child or “Launch commander” to perform the countdown and press the launch button while I depress the safety key.


The next stage after your successful launch is recovery, never ever take your eyes off the rocket for a second, as soon as you do you will find it very difficult to find it again. We have spent many good hours trying to find a rocket that has caught the slightest of breeze and drifted off, and you will be surprised as to how hard a brightly coloured rocket is to find in long grass.

Recovery wadding

To prevent me covering the place in pieces of recovery wadding I updated my rockets to have a fire resistant blanket instead of the wadding. This material is called Nomex and gets attached to the elastic band holding everything together. You just need to make sure you get the correct size of blanket for your rocket or cut it to size.

Estes has a great walk through and information on everything you need to know here ESTES Rockets

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