Centuri Engineering Company was a business that really demonstrated true outside the box thinking. Their designs were highly innovative and far superior to just about everything else out there. I still remember watching my rocket buddies taping their fins back together and stuffing wadding into their Estes rockets as I launched my more rugged and cooler-looking Orion, Centurion, and Taurus over and over again with no wadding at all. In today's world of cookie-cutter, ready-made rockets, Centuri designs stand out even more than they did in the 1970's. Every BAR should have a few CentRocs in his fleet.

Centuri was absorbed by Estes in the early 1980's and the world of rocketry lost access to a wonderful company. Today old Centuri kits are auctioned off for ten times their original price and Centuri plans are traded as if they were sacred texts. Every now and then Estes releases an old Centuri kit like the Black Hawk, Thunder Hawk, or Viking but the GREAT ONES are probably gone forever. Still, I believe there is a robust market out there for the old designs. Who among us rocketeers wouldn't want to own an Orion, a Mach 10, or even an S.S.V. Scorpion?

This is a poster Centuri offered to mail order customers in the early 1980's. The original size was 13x26 inches and it cost all of $1.50.

Model rocketry is the hobby of building and launching model rockets and I have been flying model rockets off and on since 1976.  Model rocketry combines aviation, electronics, and construction.  Rocket builders learn to balance power, durability, and weight to achieve desired goals and often compete with one another to get the best performance out of their designs.  Rockets were one of the first things I started building and that early experience is largely responsible for the building abilities I have now.  My level of skill is now high enough that I can make just about anything fly.

My fleet is made up of rockets both small and large, a few of which are capable of supersonic speeds.  Some are kits, some are modified kits, and some are my own designs.  I am certified for Level II high power rockets by the National Association of Rocketry (NAR), allowing me to fly rocket motors up to L size, and I have all the ground support gear required for such launches.

Model rocket people are some of the nicest folks you'll ever meet and most are geeks of some kind.  Model rockets are fun to launch, fun to recover, and, sometimes, even fun to watch crash.  And when they do crash I can be heard saying "If they didn't crash we wouldn't get to build new ones!"


My launch field is two hours north of my house.  Transporting large rockets to that field is difficult because they do not fit into the SUV very well, especially if I am also trying to transport people to the launch.  After the launch the rockets tend to smell like burned rocket fuel, black powder, and sulfer.  Passengers don't really like that very much.

The solution was to get the rockets out of the car and put them on the roof.  This eliminated the need to break them down for transport and it makes the inside of the car smell better on the drive back home.  Rockets are by nature aerodynamic and mounting them on the roof has the added effect of intimidating other drivers.

My rocket racks are modified ski attachments that can hold airframes up to five inches in diameter.  I attach them to the luggage rack when going to a launch and remove them afterward.  They are easy to mount, easy to load with rockets, and are secure enough that I've never had a rocket fly away while driving.

The Purple People Eater was a 3x upscale of the Centuri Groove Tube.  I built it out of new and spare parts and happened to have a lot of purple paint laying around from another project so I painted it purple and the Purple People Eater (PPE) was born.  The PPE had a 54mm motor mount, dual altimeter ejection with an RRC2 altimeter, and tube fins.  It stood 8.5 feet tall and served as the display rocket in my Study for many years.

On May 3, 2014 we took it to Orangeburg, South Carolina to a club launch and loaded it with a K540 sparky motor.  We also loaded the CamPod on the side and mounted another camera on the pad.  Everything was prepped and we moved away for the launch.

The PPE launched immediately upon ignition but suffered a motor tube breach just after it cleared the pad.  The motor exploded into the rear body tube, destroying the rocket in a very spectacular manner.  Fortunately the PPE had already gained enough speed that all of the debris was thrown up into the air instead of down toward the ground.  The explosion was so spectacular that the other rocketeers at the launch gave us a round of applause.

The breach occured just below the CamPod mount and the explosion was powerful enough to sever the CamPod's two 3/4" Velcro mounts.  The CamPod survived the explosion and was thrown clear of the disintegrating rocket, free falling to the ground with no damage.  The rocket was not so lucky and was a total loss.

Launch view.
Launch pad view.
Nose cam view.
Tail cam view.

The Tri Star was a Savannah/Hilton Head Area Rocket Club (SHARC, now defunct) project to build a very large rocket for the annual Savannah Science Seminar launch in Orangeburg, SC. Six 11th grade student teams in the Science Seminar each built a high power egg lofting rocket, and had to design the rocket for maximum altitude while building in enough padding for an egg to survive the violent flight.  The student rockets used I motors that produce about 150 pounds of thrust.  That's a lot of power for a two pound rocket.  The G-force of launching alone is enough to crush an unsecured egg.

Every year one larger rocket is launched as a kind of grand finale and in 2005 that rocket was the nine foot tall Tri Star.  Tri Star had a reinforced heavy cardboard airframe, carbon fiber fins, and fiberglass nose cone.  It had to be strong because it's K motor produced over 575 pounds of thrust.  The recovery parachute was a B-52 drag chute triggered by an altimeter and explosive charge.

The build went well but Tri Star suffered two issues during the launch.  We used too much black powder for ejection and while that got the parachute deployed it also damaged the forward payload bay.  Then the rocket landed on a hard patch of ground that ripped one of it's fins loose.  The fiberglass boat tail could not be removed to fix the fin so this ended up being the only flight of the Tri Star.  But it was a very fun engineering project.  As you watch the video keep in mind that this is a nine-foot tall rocket accellerating to 400 knots in less than two seconds.  The audience's reaction confirms how awesome this launch was.

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