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Old 01-07-2020, 04:44 PM
 
Location: Swiftwater, PA
15,352 posts, read 12,408,859 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RocketDawg View Post
Well, we know that they're real. Without a doubt aliens who fly around in our atmosphere, with no aerodynamic or gravity limitations, would be using vacuum tubes and Ray-O-Vac batteries.
Apparently our space program was doing it all wrong! All they needed were a few vacuum tubes and Ray-O-Vac batteries!

Back in the 1960s we thought there was nothing we could not do. A few of us local kids started a rocket club building our own rockets from scratch. We were buying five pounds of potassium nitrate from the local drug store and mixing it with sugar for fuel. We got pretty good at it even though our farthest launches were probably not over half a mile. But the launches were impressive with large white exhaust clouds. It was all about getting the right mixture and boiling the sugar until the little water added was boiled off. Then adding the potassium nitrate and packing it in the tubes while it was still hot and flexible. It was a lot of fun and we even had a bunker to watch our launches.

But the sky was the limit back then and everything was possible. Unfortunately today we know better!
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Old 01-08-2020, 09:13 AM
 
13,372 posts, read 3,527,729 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fisheye View Post
Apparently our space program was doing it all wrong! All they needed were a few vacuum tubes and Ray-O-Vac batteries!

Back in the 1960s we thought there was nothing we could not do. A few of us local kids started a rocket club building our own rockets from scratch. We were buying five pounds of potassium nitrate from the local drug store and mixing it with sugar for fuel. We got pretty good at it even though our farthest launches were probably not over half a mile. But the launches were impressive with large white exhaust clouds. It was all about getting the right mixture and boiling the sugar until the little water added was boiled off. Then adding the potassium nitrate and packing it in the tubes while it was still hot and flexible. It was a lot of fun and we even had a bunker to watch our launches.

But the sky was the limit back then and everything was possible. Unfortunately today we know better!
Sounds like it was great fun, I always got a headache just thinking about all the complex mathematics that were involved in launching rockets.
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Old 01-08-2020, 09:24 AM
 
Location: Swiftwater, PA
15,352 posts, read 12,408,859 times
Reputation: 11583
Quote:
Originally Posted by rstevens62 View Post
Sounds like it was great fun, I always got a headache just thinking about all the complex mathematics that were involved in launching rockets.
Heck we were 12 or maybe fourteen years old. It was that it worked or it didn't work; we watched from a safe distance in an old Army crate we used as a blockhouse. Boiling the sugar with a little water was a trial and error method that we came up with to produce a reliable solid fuel. We had many failures before we had a success; but it made it more fun that we finally achieved a great result. Some of our launches were perfect and that I wished that we had pictures of; because they looked like our real rockets to space and that is what we were trying to imitate.

We did not think to save all of our spent rocket casings and label them: "Exotic Metals from (almost) outer space"! We used copper tubing.
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Old 01-08-2020, 10:28 AM
 
13,372 posts, read 3,527,729 times
Reputation: 8695
Quote:
Originally Posted by fisheye View Post
Heck we were 12 or maybe fourteen years old. It was that it worked or it didn't work; we watched from a safe distance in an old Army crate we used as a blockhouse. Boiling the sugar with a little water was a trial and error method that we came up with to produce a reliable solid fuel. We had many failures before we had a success; but it made it more fun that we finally achieved a great result. Some of our launches were perfect and that I wished that we had pictures of; because they looked like our real rockets to space and that is what we were trying to imitate.

We did not think to save all of our spent rocket casings and label them: "Exotic Metals from (almost) outer space"! We used copper tubing.
Thats interesting about the sugar and nitro as a fuel, was it fairly powerful, last long?
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Old 01-08-2020, 11:15 AM
 
Location: Swiftwater, PA
15,352 posts, read 12,408,859 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rstevens62 View Post
Thats interesting about the sugar and nitro as a fuel, was it fairly powerful, last long?
Potassium nitrate and sugar can burn as fast as black powder. Of course we had no official testing methods to prove or disprove if this is true. You put a match to it and it goes poof! That is a little too fast for rockets; you want something that burns a little slower. Changing the proportions of sugar to potassium nitrate can change the power of the reaction. Too much sugar and it burns slower and leaves a black carbon waste. Too much potassium nitrate and it burns slower and leaves a white waste (I forget the composition of that waste).

Then you have the problem that both potassium nitrate and sugar are granular and don't make good rocket fuel. You need to make the mixture a solid so that it will stay in the rocket and burn progressively till it runs out of fuel. Boiling the sugar until it started to caramelize was the answer. Caramelize it too long until it got dark brown and it did not work for us. We would caramelize the sugar on the stove and then move outside to mix the potassium nitrate (just in case; but we never had that kind of accident). We had to pack the tubes quickly while the mixture was still hot. Spaces in the tubes could lead to pauses in the flight or short flights.

Typically, on a good launch, we could send a 3/4"X6" copper pipe about a quarter mile. Larger and longer we could send farther. We used guide sticks for most rockets; but we also tried fins. This was all about trial and error and there was no internet to tell us how to do this. Perhaps we pictured ourselves more like Salvage 1 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_1). Of course we never went that high; but that movie was 15 or 20 years after our experimentation.

We stopped testing as Estes rocket motors became easily assessible. But it was a fun time and we accomplished what we set out to do and most of it on our own. Except we had a long ways to go before we hit the moon!

Maybe RocketDawg can tell you what he thinks of our old experimentation? However our work might be 'classified' today!
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Old Today, 07:51 PM
 
Location: Madison, Alabama
4,065 posts, read 2,133,144 times
Reputation: 3108
Quote:
Originally Posted by fisheye View Post
Potassium nitrate and sugar can burn as fast as black powder. Of course we had no official testing methods to prove or disprove if this is true. You put a match to it and it goes poof! That is a little too fast for rockets; you want something that burns a little slower. Changing the proportions of sugar to potassium nitrate can change the power of the reaction. Too much sugar and it burns slower and leaves a black carbon waste. Too much potassium nitrate and it burns slower and leaves a white waste (I forget the composition of that waste).

Then you have the problem that both potassium nitrate and sugar are granular and don't make good rocket fuel. You need to make the mixture a solid so that it will stay in the rocket and burn progressively till it runs out of fuel. Boiling the sugar until it started to caramelize was the answer. Caramelize it too long until it got dark brown and it did not work for us. We would caramelize the sugar on the stove and then move outside to mix the potassium nitrate (just in case; but we never had that kind of accident). We had to pack the tubes quickly while the mixture was still hot. Spaces in the tubes could lead to pauses in the flight or short flights.

Typically, on a good launch, we could send a 3/4"X6" copper pipe about a quarter mile. Larger and longer we could send farther. We used guide sticks for most rockets; but we also tried fins. This was all about trial and error and there was no internet to tell us how to do this. Perhaps we pictured ourselves more like Salvage 1 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_1). Of course we never went that high; but that movie was 15 or 20 years after our experimentation.

We stopped testing as Estes rocket motors became easily assessible. But it was a fun time and we accomplished what we set out to do and most of it on our own. Except we had a long ways to go before we hit the moon!

Maybe RocketDawg can tell you what he thinks of our old experimentation? However our work might be 'classified' today!
I think what you did as kids is fantastic. Maybe a bit dangerous, not only fun, but educational too.

Have you ever read "Rocket Ship Galileo" by Robert A. Heinlein? It's about three teenage boys who experiment with rockets (on a bit larger scale than you describe) and wind up going to the Moon. It's the first of the Heinlein "Juvenile Series" published in 1947. I grew up reading that book and many others like it.
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Old Today, 08:02 PM
 
Location: Swiftwater, PA
15,352 posts, read 12,408,859 times
Reputation: 11583
Quote:
Originally Posted by RocketDawg View Post
I think what you did as kids is fantastic. Maybe a bit dangerous, not only fun, but educational too.

Have you ever read "Rocket Ship Galileo" by Robert A. Heinlein? It's about three teenage boys who experiment with rockets (on a bit larger scale than you describe) and wind up going to the Moon. It's the first of the Heinlein "Juvenile Series" published in 1947. I grew up reading that book and many others like it.
I do not remember reading that book; but I will check it out.

In HS there was a kid senior to us that built a liquid fuel rocket that was, if I recall correctly, about fifteen feet long. His father was a machinist and I am sure that helped! I really do not know if he ever launched his rocket; but it did take the top spot in the Science Fair!
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