Want to add some extreme zip into your next model airplane project? Try converting a glider into a rocket-powered NASA research aircraft. In this case, the glider is an Aero-Graphics Messerschmitt Me-163B “Komet” kit. Originally designed for the hard-to-find Jetex-50 rocket propulsion system, our “Pocket Rocket Komet” is powered by a single A3-4T Estes model rocket engine. Although we won’t be launching our Komet like a conventional aircraft (that would be far too dangerous with model rocket engines), you should be able to achieve an altitude of 30 feet followed by a slow gentle glide back to your launch pad.
If you’d like a little more control over the flight path of your Pocket Rocket Komet, try adding the receiver/motor from a RadioShack ZipZap. The front steering motor can be salvaged from one of these micro RC cars and connected to the Komet’s rudder. Simply slice the kit’s rudder in half, attach three sets of alternating fabric hinges to both the movable rudder and the fixed vertical stabilizer, connect a wire control linkage from one of the ZipZap’s moveable steering wheels to the rudder, and mount the micro receiver and battery in the Komet’s cockpit area. Just be sure to mount the receiver/battery directly over the center of balance point that is indicated on the kit’s plans and route the receiver’s antenna outside of the Komet.
All set? OK, let’s punch some holes in the sky.
TIME: 7 HOURS
- Aero-Graphics Messerschmitt Me-163B kit (Shorty’s Basement; $25.50)
- Estes Industries Quark rocket kit (local purchase #EST 802; $5.89)
- Estes Industries A3-4T engines for model rockets (local purchase #1507; $7.69)
- 1/8 x 36-inch wooden dowel (local purchase; $0.25)
- Scrap aluminum foil
- Optional: RadioShack ZipZaps Barricade (RadioShack #600-0181; $6.97)
1. Assemble the Messerschmidt “Komet” according to the kit’s instructions. You will make three alternations to the stock plans.
1a. Line the Jetex-50 motor trough with the scrap aluminum foil. This will protect the balsa and tissue from the hot exhaust gases produced by the rocket engine.
1b. Use the rocket motor body tube from the Quark rocket kit as the motor mount for the Komet (we are eliminating the Jetex-50 motor from the kit). Assemble the body tube and nose cone from the Quark kit. Next, measure the exact placement for the body tube/nose cone inside the Jetex-50 motor trough. Refer to the Komet plans for this placement. Also, maintain the same center of balance point that is illustrated on the Komet’s plans. Now, cut off the nose cone that is in excess for this placement. Thoroughly glue the body tube/nose cone into the Komet’s motor trough.
1c. Insert the launch lug from the Quark rocket kit into the tail of the Komet. This lug will guide the Komet on the wooden dowel during launch.
2. Finish the Komet and test its airworthiness. Use the test gliding procedure that is indicated in the kit’s instructions. This step is vital for achieving a flight worthy glider.
3. Select a suitable launch site. A large open area with limited trees and no dry grass is ideal.
4. Stick the wooden dowel into the ground. Use a level to ensure that the dowel is perpendicular to the ground.
5. Insert one A3-4T engine into the Komet. Follow the Estes Industries’ instructions for proper igniter insertion and safe launch controller operation.
6. Clear the area of the Komet launch pad and blast off. The Komet should streak upward, eject the spent engine, and glide in a lazy spiral back to the ground.
Please watch this short video of an improperly balanced Pocket Rocket Komet launch, flight, crash, and burn. Remember kids, DON’T try this:
This project is excerpted from _101 Outer Space Projects for the Evil Genius, by Dave Prochnow (McGraw-Hill, 2007)._
Join PopSci as we celebrate NASA’s 50th anniversary!