Estes Educator Frequently Asked Questions

Is model rocketry safe?

Estes model rocketry is one of the safest outdoor activities in the world. Over 315 million model rockets have been launched since 1958. Estes has provided over 50 years of education materials and innovative and breathtaking fun to people of all ages. Whether you are into flying rockets at school, for fun or competition, Estes rockets offer a truly rewarding experience.

Is model rocketry expensive?
The initial cost to get started is less than might be expected compared to many other outdoor activities. Once you have acquired an Estes Launch Set, which includes a rocket or two, launch pad and electric launcher, your cost for your classroom is the additional Estes rocket and engine bulk packs.

How high can a model rocket fly?
Because of the variety of rocket designs and engines used, the height of rocket flights varies. Estes has model rockets that can fly from 100 feet to several thousand feet and all are reusable. Many Estes rockets have secondary features like payloads and multi-stages.

Can I fly my Estes rockets more than once?
Estes model rockets are designed to be flown over and over. After launching and recovery, simply repack the rocket with wadding, refold and insert the parachute or streamer, remove the used engine casing and insert a new engine, igniter and igniter plug. Now you are ready for another exciting mission!

Where can I fly my model rockets?

For launch information, look at the "NAR Model Rocket Safety Code". You should always check with your local city or government for any special regulations that may apply to your area. Generally speaking, you can fly most Estes Educator model rockets on school property in a clear area the size of a football field or soccer field. Launch in little or no wind and make sure there is no dry grass close to the launch pad or in the flying field.

What should I do if the engine fails to ignite?

If the engine fails to ignite, remove the safety key and wait one minute before approaching the launch pad.

A. If the igniter worked, the igniter wasn't touching the propellant. Install a new igniter. When you insert the igniter, do not bend the wires at all. With the igniter wires sticking straight out, insert the correct sized plug for your engine (color-coded). After the plug is firmly seated, you may then bend the wires. If you bend the wires prior to plug insertion, the bending action has a tendency to draw the igniter tip up and away from the propellant resulting in a misfire.


If the igniter did not work:


Check the batteries. Weak batteries will illuminate the continuity light, but not have enough power to ignite the igniter.


Check the battery contacts in the launch controller. If the batteries rattle when shaking the launch controller, the contacts have compressed. The continuity light won't illuminate. Open the controller and spread the contacts out.


Check the igniter clips.
a. Exhaust residue will build up on the clips preventing contact. The continuity light won't illuminate. Clean the clips with sandpaper or steel wool.
b. If they are touching each other, the system has shorted out. The continuity light will illuminate. Separate the clips and launch.
c. If they are touching the blast deflector plate, the system has shorted out. The continuity light will illuminate. Separate and launch.


Check the igniter.
a. Usually a broken igniter is indicated by the continuity light not illuminating.
b. If the igniter wires near the tip touch each other, the system shorts out. The continuity light will illuminate. Gently separate and reinstall the igniter plug. You may need a new igniter.

What can I do if the rocket lifts off slowly or gets stuck on the launch rod?

For a slow liftoff or rocket that hangs on the launch rod:

A. Clean the launch rod with steel wool. Exhaust residue can build up, preventing the launch lug from sliding over it easily.
B. Check the launch rod joint. If the connecting joint has a rough edge, it will catch the launch lug and prevent the rocket from passing that point. Lightly sand the rough edge until smooth.
C. Check the launch lug(s) on the rocket.
1. If one launch lug is used and is not aligned with the body tube, the direction of the engine thrust is different from the launch rod and causes binding. Visually check the launch lug and make sure it is parallel to the body tube.
2. If two lugs are used and are not aligned with each other properly, the rocket binds on the rod and won't move. This can be checked while placing the rocket on the launch rod. It should slide easily.

What problems can happen with recovery wadding?

Recovery wadding problems are:

A. Scorched parachute. This occurs when the recovery wadding is crumpled into tight little balls and then inserted into the rocket's body tube. This leaves gaps around the wadding permitting hot ejection gases to slip around the wadding. The correct way is to loosely crumple each sheet into a ball before inserting them. This fills the air gaps properly. To visually check the wadding, look down into the body tube to see if any light can be seen around the edges. If light shows through, repack the wadding.
B. Substituting tissue paper. Absolutely do not do this! Recovery wadding is specially treated to be flame retardant. When the ejection charge goes off, it produces hot expanding gases to push the parachute out. Recovery wadding provides a physical barrier between the ejection charge and the parachute to prevent the hot gas from melting it. If ordinary tissue paper is used, it will catch fire and burn as it floats to the ground.

My parachute did not deploy. How can I fix this?
There are several things that can cause recovery system failures:

A. Nose cone doesn't come off— possible problems are:
1. Too much recovery wadding or packed too tight.

2. Parachute/streamer binding in the body tube, not packed small enough.

3. Engine not tight enough in the friction fit engine mount, add more tape to tighten.

4. Nose cone is too tight. Sand the shoulder. It should slide easily. Also check that parts of the shock cord or shroud lines are not caught by the nose cone.

B. Parachute/streamer fails to open:
1. Cold weather — Plastic wants to stay in its confined shape when cold. Pack the system just prior to launch.

2. Hot/humid weather—This causes the plastic to stick to itself. Dust with baby powder before packing.

3. Insufficient amount of recovery wadding or wadding crumpled too tightly. Heat from the ejection charge melted the recovery system causing its failure.

How can I keep my rocket from drifting away?
Even when flying within the wind limits, lightweight rockets can drift significant distances. To reduce the effects of drift beyond what can be done by tilting the launch rod, the recovery system needs to be modified to descend quicker. Various methods are:

A. Cutting a spill hole: The top of Estes plastic parachutes have a circle that can be cut out. This allows air to flow through it quicker, increasing the descent rate. The drawback is that the modification to the parachute is permanent.
B. Reefing the parachute: Gather the parachute's shroud lines together at the mid-point and wrap a piece of tape around it. This prevents the parachute from opening fully, thus increasing the descent rate. For calm days, remove the tape. This modification is temporary.
C. Switch to a streamer: Streamers generally descend quicker than parachutes. If the rocket has a parachute, remove it and attach a streamer. Using snap swivels is a great way to make recovery systems easily interchangeable.

What can I do when the standoff won't keep the rocket from touching the blast deflector plate?
When this happens, the igniter will short out. Many rockets don't have swept back fins that support the rocket on the launch pad. Here's two ways to fix this:

Make a stand off: Place the rocket on the launch rod and hold it about four inches above the blast deflector plate. Take a piece of masking tape and wrap it around the launch rod just below the bottom launch lug. The rocket will rest on the tape, preventing it from bottoming out.

A. Use spent engine casings: Slide a few spent engine casings over the launch rod to create a taller stand off.

The balsa fins won't stay on my rocket when I glue them. How can I keep them on?

To keep the fins on until the glue dries:

A. The best glue to use is carpenter's wood glue. This glue will dry quicker.
B. Fin gluing techniques.
1. To create a tight bond, first apply a thin layer of glue to the root edge of the fin and work it gently into the pores and grains of the wood.

2. Repeat this for all the fins.

3. By the time you finish the last fin (1-2 minutes), the first fin has become tacky if not nearly dry. Apply another thin layer to the first fin.

4. Hold the fin's rear part of the root edge in position on the body tube and with gentle pressure, rotate the fin up until the entire root edge has made contact. Hold the fin in position for 10 seconds. This rotating action acts like a squeegee to force out any trapped air at the connection which will weaken the joint.

5. Release the fin and you'll find it secure.

6. It is best to hold the rocket vertically when the fins are drying. Stand the rocket on its nose (without the nose cone in place).
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