What is Research Rocketry

Research rocketry, sometimes known as amateur experimental rocketry or experimental rocketry is a hobby in which participants experiment with fuels and make their own rocket motors, launching a wide variety of types and sizes of rockets. Amateur rocketeers have been responsible for significant research into hybrid rocket motors, and have built and flown a variety of solid, liquid, and hybrid propellant motors.

 

Interest in the rocketry hobby was spurred to a great extent by the publication of a Scientific American article in June, 1957 that described the design, propellant formulations, and launching techniques utilized by typical amateur rocketry groups of the time (including the Reaction Research Society of California). The subsequent publication, in 1960, of a book entitled Rocket Manual for Amateurs by Bertrand R. Brinley provided even more detailed information regarding the hobby, and further contributed to its burgeoning popularity.

 

At this time, amateur rockets nearly always employed either black powder, zinc-sulfur (also called "micrograin"), or rocket candy (often referred to as "caramel candy") propellant mixtures. However, such amateur rockets can be dangerous because noncommercial rocket motors may fail more often than commercial rocket motors if not correctly engineered. An appalling accident rate led individuals such as G. Harry Stine and Vernon Estes to make model rocketry a safe and widespread hobby by developing and publishing the National Association of Rocketry Model Rocket Safety Code, and by commercially producing safe, professionally-designed and -manufactured model rocket motors. Model rocketry by definition then became a separate and distinct activity from amateur rocketry.

As knowledge of modern advances in composite and liquid propellants became more available to the public, it became possible to develop amateur motors with greater safety. Hobbyists were no longer dependent on dangerous packed-powder mixtures that could be delicate and unpredictable in handling and performance.

The Reaction Research Society conducts complex amateur rocket projects, utilizing solid, liquid, and hybrid propellant technologies. The Tripoli Rocketry Association sanctions some amateur activities, which they call "research rocketry," provided certain safety guidelines are followed, and provided the motors are of relatively standard design.

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