Come Fly With Us!

Rocketship Games has expanded to a legit launch vendor! Well, as “legit” as you can be operating out of the back of a small hatchback in the middle of a cornfield…

Fancy tent’s big debut! Photo by Andrea H.

The past ~18 months we’ve been low-key manufacturing & selling kits of our own designs. Very niche micro-rockets, but there’s hundreds of them out there in the wild now, across all points of the continental US + Hawaii.

Earlier this year we wanted to start carrying Estes motors in addition to Quest’s MicroMaxx motors, to complement some new larger kits we’re (slowly) working toward. Then we figured it’d be really useful to have full lines of motors available for sale to everyone at our section launches. Beyond the convenience, shipping some of the higher thrust motors incurs hazardous materials fees that clobber the efficiency of small personal orders but a vendor can amortize over a larger purchase. And at that point we may as well go all-in, right? Obviously. So we also started stocking a solid mix of other kits along with basic construction tools and supplies. Of course then we needed a fancy tent to put it all under, and here we are!

But, seriously, one of my big goals in this effort was to create just a little bit of a hobby shop experience for the kids that attend our section launches. Realistically my daughter will not have the extremely formative experience I was fortunate to have growing up of walking to the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall hobby shop on weekends and just drinking in all of the kits, tools, supplies, and built models on display. I don’t know that there are any such shops left in our city, let alone in walking distance. She’ll have different and in many ways better experiences—between Internet forums, online shopping, and rapid shipping, let alone technical advances, this is a golden age for hobbies of all kinds. But there is something special about having it all tangibly there in front of you. So this project’s already paid off in watching the 8, 10, 12 year olds and so on at our launches agonizing about what to spend their allowance on, or doing the little kid dance of checking everything out, going away for a bit, coming back to stare some more hoping someone starts just handing you gifts, maybe doing that cycle once or twice more, and then deciding on a course of action and bringing over mom or dad to show them all the cool stuff & begin internal negotiations…

Alice deliberating on our table arrangement. Photo by Ken D.

That’s our big news this month. Recently we also concluded dramatically increasing the workshop & storage space in our basement factory warehouse and are looking forward to getting back to new kits & other projects. Come on over and say hello if you see us at a launch. We are at PARA 520 in southeastern Pennsylvania essentially every month, and are hoping to make it to MDRA and other clubs in the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions more frequently in 2023, now as a vendor in addition to flyers.

We’ll see you out there!

Open for business! Photo by Ken D.

Hats off to Al & his Allied Hobbies in the Roosevelt Mall, which I’ll never forget…​

Rocket Kids (Oct 2022)

Alice invited a couple friends to come launch rockets with us yesterday. And then she insisted they all get to build their own rockets. And then it turned out the friends had invited friends. And then some siblings came along too. So in the end we had 8 kids from 2yo to ~8yo playing with rockets, plus some spectators drawn from the adjacent playground. Within almost exactly two hours rolling in to rolling out: 6 micro-rocket kits got built, markered & stickered; we did at least 19 launches of those and some other MMX models; and then blasted off a few larger odd-rocs to cap off the day. Quite the hive of activity! I’ve always understood it, but I have a newfound love for the launch control safety key, which ensured I came home with both my eyes… Fortunately my brother was watching like a hawk to grab it any time I forgot before going to load another rocket onto the pad.

Little engineers getting down to work on their rockets.

Applying some highly technical finishing touches with permanent markers.


Tohickon Scouts Spring Camporee

This weekend the Boy Scouts’ Tohickon District  held their Spring Camporee. One of the activities was earning a “Space Exploration” merit badge and the leaders had asked PARA if we’d do some demos and help out. It was held at Tinicum County Park, about an hour north of Philadelphia, which none of us were familiar with but turned out to be very close to the farm at which we usually launch. We didn’t quite know what to expect of the event or venue going in, but it was a great day all around. Weather-wise we got bluebird skies, no wind in the morning, and just enough shade and breeze later to not be insufferably hot. Tinicum Park turned out to be a very nice launch field for small to medium rockets. PARA also had good turnout, with 8 people there to help and hang out.

The photos here are a sampling of Ken’s.

Very serious launch site!

Display tables.

Checking out Jim’s big rockets.

Ken got the scouts to change the launch site on the field to a much better one, as well as to revise their schedule quite a bit, and really enabled a much smoother, better paced day. The scout leaders were happy to use our launch racks to further streamline, and Jim kept them all flying expeditiously with waves of twelve at a time. With the racks and the safety flags and some banners and everything, the scouts clearly all thought this was a big-time serious launch. Between all of us we setup four display tables overflowing with rockets, everything from Jim’s ~14ft 40+lb L3 certification rocket, to a whole pile of micro-rockets. Walt had made some posters about different motors and other rocketry aspects, and Steve’s Saturn V was a much appreciated prop for the scouts’ lectures. The two of them had steady business all day talking about the rockets on display. Fortunately, despite some high spirits and exuberance, our collection suffered only two casualties, micro-rockets that blew off the tables and got stepped on. Chris and Bill helped with setup/teardown and pre-flight checks of all the scouts’ rockets. Alice and I worked with some scouts not enrolled in their program to launch a few of our rockets, and conducted extensive comparative testing of the several types of cookies Walt had baked.

Putting in motors.

Learning how to connect launch control.

Ready for the first wave!

Blast off!

My count was 58 launches:

  • 46x scout launches
  • 4x Steve demo launches on As and Bs
  • 7x Joe & Alice demo/spectator launches (Doorknob E20-4 x2, Sputnik A10-PT x2, Spirit C6-5, Vortico A8-3, R6 Alice’s Star Rocket Micromaxx)
  • 1x Jim spool launch, I think on an F67, which absolutely 100%, totally ensured representatives from the polo match going on in the other section of the park would come right on over and politely but firmly ask us to stop scaring the horses

Helping some other scouts that came by prep a couple of our rockets to launch.

Talking about rocket gliders.

The recovery team heading out with the lineman’s pole in search of treebound rockets.

In all those launches only two rockets got hung-up in trees. Of course they were mine and Alice’s. Her Spirit drifted too far on quickly growing winds in the late morning, and my Doorknob drifted in a totally unexpected direction and just barely snagged the tip of a tree. This cast a bit of a pallor over lunchtime as its kit, electronics, and other accessories added up to about ~$250 just swaying in the breeze. Fortunately the wind continued to pick up as the afternoon went on, meaning we didn’t launch any other big rockets, but it knocked down the Doorknob! When I checked on the rocket mid-afternoon it had fallen another 20ft or so through the trees and we were able to snag it with the club’s 40ft pole. Two fins shattered in the process of pulling it free but are repairable, and the important thing was getting back the electronics. After that success the recovery team got motivated and successfully retrieved Alice’s Spirit, continuing that rocket’s exciting life—it was built by Alice at a club launch after Mike & Andrea gifted it to her and was immediately lost amid the summer corn, but found randomly at the next month’s launch by somebody looking for a different rocket entirely.

Having both rockets back in hand ensured an upbeat ending to a good day, and at Alice’s request we wrapped it up by heading off to her favorite post-launch pizza stop.

Success! Sort of!