Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)

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Amateur Construction Of Rockets

On 09 June 2016, a man was seen unloading various dangerous-looking projectiles from the back of a car in Newbourne. But no need to worry, it was only Rod "Rocket" Stevenson arriving to give a talk to OASI about the activities of the East Anglian Rocketry Society (EARS), of which he is secretary, and his own experiences in the field.

Rod is part-time teacher and part-time rocket man. He is lucky enough to have been invited to visit NASA to learn principles of rocketry and to visit amazing places such as the vast build hanger for the space shuttle. He now passes on his enthusiasm for the subject to school children and to the public in general.

Rod related some of the history of amateur rocketry in the UK, including the enterprising nature of the Paisley Rocketeers, founded in 1935, who went on to send mail by rocket as a way of raising funds! He described how common rocket motors work, based on either "slow"-burning gunpowder or ammonium perchlorate plus aluminium in a tube with a nozzle. There is a rating system for motors, based on a grading of A, B, C,... with the power of the motor power doubling for each successive letter of the alphabet.

Rod showed several great videos, some of his own and some showing the activities of other amateur societies. Take-offs shown included an amazing 1/10 scale replica of a Saturn V5 from the USA, and a Reliant Robin converted into a space shuttle look-alike for a Top Gear programme! After Rod's presentation, there was a lively question and answer session. Judging from the detailed questions about DIY nitrous oxide hybrid rockets posed by some members of OASI, I wouldn't be surprised if we see in the future a few rocket launches from Newbourne!

In summary, it was a very interesting evening and, as EARS allow free entry to monthly launch days near Cambridge, there was considerable interest in organising an OASI outing to view some launches.

Images of the Workshop:

  1. General view. (Martin Richmond-Hardy.)
  2. A range of rocket motor sizes (from A upwards) are on the table, with two standing in front of it. (Mike Whybray.)
  3. A scaled-down V2 rocket which Rod has successfully flown. It uses an on-board computer to manage the flight; this includes taking continuous air pressure measurements to monitor and record progress and deploying the parachute at the end of the flight. (Mike Whybray.)

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Mike Whybray