Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Modest Proposal

Continuing on the theme of an earlier post, this is an open letter I plan to send to Estes. Any comments are welcome and will be integrated into the letter.

A Modest Proposal for Estes Industries

I recognize a number of needs - gaps in current motor selection - in the realm of low power motors, where Estes is the primary force and largest producer of motors. These include more booster motors, particularly in the type-A range; longer delays available on certain motors for use on very small and contest rockets; the return of smaller 24mm motors, larger booster motors for heavy model rockets and smaller mid-power rockets, and a greater variety of 1/2A and A motors. I also recognize that Estes has a unique position: the ability to introduce more varied, and perhaps less popular, motors while still turning a healthy profit, but also a need to produce motors that are popular and profitable. I believe that the suggestions I have here strike a healthy balance.
Stage 1: Replacement of Mini Motors.
The A10-3T and A3-4T are almost identical; of all current Estes products, only the Lucky Seven can use one (the A10-3T) but not the other. Instead, one, preferably the A3, should be replaced with an A10-0T booster motor, which from my experience is the single most-wanted non-production motor. It allows fliers to fly both 13mm and, with a simple adapter, 18mm rockets with 2 or even 3 stages in much smaller fields than with the current booster motor selection. In addition, the A10-0T uses the same propellant and nozzle configuration as the currently produced A10-3T and would be fairly easy to certify.
Additionally, the 1/2A6-2 motor is an almost useless and rarely-used motor. Very few 18mm kits use it; all that do are minimum-diameter models which would fly equally well on the more-common A8-3 and/or 1/2A3-2T. It should either be supplemented with the currently-OOP 1/2A6-0 and 1/2A6-4, which together make a useful set, or dicontinued entirely to open a slot in production for another motor - preferably an A8-0. Like the A10-0T, the A8-0 is extremely desired, useful for smaller fields, and will be easy to certify with the A8-3 and A8-5 already in production. These two changes would make many rocketeers happy, particularly the BARs desiring the smaller motors of their youths, and yet keep the current number of motors the same.
Stage 2: Booster Motors
Besides the two type-A booster motors already mentioned, several other booster motors are also highly desired, especially by the BARs who make up an increasingly large segment of the model rocketry market. These include the B6-0, C11-0, and E9-0.
The B6-0, similar to the A booster motors, is desired for small rockets and large fields. The C11-0 is also good for rocket like the Comanche-3; I would far prefer to buy a pack of C11-0s, a pack of B6-0s, and a pack of A8-5s and fly it thrice than only flying it on two stages for fear of losing it, or flying it on a D12-0 / C6-0 / A8-5 combination and standing a high chance of losing the upper stage.
The E9-0 is desired for a different reason: lifting larger and heavier rockets, particularly those with payloads. Currently, the D12-0 is the largest production booster motor, but is is limited to just 14 ounces at liftoff. An E9 or even E15 booster could lift far more and help narrow the gap between the current D12 and the F and G motors required for electronic staging.
Stage 3: The return of the C11s
The C11s are a sorely missed motor set; they were excellent for flying 24mm motors - which require larger rockets and therefore generate more profits - in smaller fields. Almost any rocket short of a heavy mid-power rocket will be lost from a football field on a D12 in even light winds, whereas it would be recoverable with a C11.
Stage 4: More Upper-stage Motors
With Quest having a limited selection and Apogee no longer producing its 10.5mm and 13mm micro motors, Estes is the primary source for 1/4A to D contest motors. However, for very light rockets for events like Altitude, Streamer Duration, and Parachute duration, the current upper-stage motors have insufficient delays. On a B4 or B6, an 18mm model with low drag may require as much as a 7.5-second optimum delay; using a B6-6 may rob it of up to 100 feet of altitude at ejection. On a C6 or D12, some require as much as a 9-second delay; for an E9, up to 10 seconds. I do realize, however, that for C6, D12, and E9 motors, the delay is already the largest that fits in the casing. However, were it available, I would happily buy a D12-9 in a 95mm long case or a B4-6 or B6-8. I also realize that contest-type motors like these are not Estes's specialty and would not be particularly profitable.

Update: I'll also add a suggestion to include 5 igniter plugs with the 4-packs of mini motors. It's nice to have an extra plug - it's easy to lose them - and currently 18mm and 24mm come with 4 - 1 extra, but mini motors do not.

(Insert obligatory salutory remarks here)

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