Once a year, usually during the winter, I go through all my rockets to
make sure they are still flight worthy and not in need of repair. A good
long flying season and the aging process takes quite a toll on them. This
also gives me something to do on those days that I cannot fly and makes
the rockets ready for the next flying season.
The first thing I do is gather all the tools and rocket parts I will need to do the job. I gather up a few old rags, an x-acto knife, a variety of glues, pliers, swivels, string for the parachutes, streamer material, a variety of different parachute sizes, permanent markers and/or paint pens to touch up the rockets if they need it, and anything else I think I may need.
I begin by looking in my model rocketry journal to see if there is anything in there that may be beneficial during the process. For instance, maybe the rocket normally uses an 18 inch parachute and I put on a smaller one the last time I flew it because the winds were high, or maybe I need to add some nose weight, etc.
Next, I begin my inspection of the rocket. If there are any loose stickers or decals, I re-glue them to the rocket. Then, if the paint needs to be touched up, I use one of my permanent markers or a paint pen to fix it.
I then check all the following items:
1. Fins: Make sure they are not cracked/broken and ensure they are securely attached to the rocket.
2. Launch Lug(s): Make sure they are not crimped and check to see if they are securely attached to the rocket.
3. Body Tube to Body Tube connections: Check to make sure they cannot be pulled apart easily. I always fine a couple of rockets like this and have to re-glue them.
4. Nose Cone: Check to see that the nose cone fits properly into the front of the body tube. It should not be too tight or too loose.
5. Shock Cord: Make sure that it is not burned too bad. I give it a couple of good pulls to make sure it is attached properly to the shock cord mount and body tube. Also make sure it is connected securely to the nose cone.
6. Recovery Device: Make sure it is properly secured to the rocket/nose cone. Make sure it is in good shape and not burned or does not have a lot of extra holes in it. Are the shroud lines damaged or old? Are they securely attached to the parachute? The last thing I do is to pull the parachute or streamer through the air fast and see if it opens properly and that there are no tangled lines on a parachute.
7. Engine Mount: Is it attached securely to the rocket?
8. Engine Retainer Hook: Does it need to be re-bent to hold the engine better? Then, I clean it off with my x-acto knife.
NOTE: If I make changes to a rocket (other than real small changes), I check the rocket for stability by giving it the swing test. To do this I take a piece of string about 6 feet long and tie one end of it to the rocket at its center of gravity. Then I hold the other end of the string and start to turn in a tight circle. A rocket that is stable will "fly" straight with the nose cone pointed forward. If this is not the case, you should add small amounts of weight to the nose cone and retry the swing test until it does fly properly.
After I am finished with the rockets, I inspect at my launch pads and controllers.
1. Launch Rod: Make sure it is straight. I clean them with NEVR-DULL.
2. Blast Deflector: If it is in really bad shape, I replace it. Otherwise I try to straighten them back to their original shape and clean them up a little with NEVR-DULL.
3. Launch Controller: I clean the alligator clips with a wire brush. If the batteries in them are old, I take them out and replace them.
Basically what I do is give all the model rockets and equipment a thorough inspection to see if they are in good shape. I enjoy all aspects of the hobby, but my main goal is to have fun. I do this by making it a family outing and by safely flying my rockets as many times as I can until they wear out or get lost, and by launching them as high as I can given the wind and size of the field I am flying them in.