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Model Rocket Range Boxes

Article by Paul Nortness

You've built your model rocket and have it all ready for its maiden flight. You've watched the weather report and have a good day for launch. In order to launch a rocket, you need to gather your range box. A range box is a fancy term for "the box you put all your rocket stuff in".

It can be anything from a cardboard box to a fancy plastic tote. Regardless of what your range box is made from, you should always have some key pieces of equipment. Today we will discuss what every range box should have.

First and foremost, let's talk about size. Your range box should be big enough to fit most of your equipment. I found my current range box at Wal-Mart for $15.00. It is has a large compartment on top that can fit an Estes "Port-A-Pad", launch controller and all my various supplies. The cool thing is it also has a sliding door on the bottom section that opens up to a compartment large enough to fit several rockets.

range box
range box supplies

For small rocket launches, my range box contains a launch pad, launch rod (Estes provides a two piece launch rod with its pad), deflector plate, launch controller (with key), igniters, motors, wadding, masking tape, needle nose pliers and small metal can. For larger rockets, I built a custom rocket launch pad that will not fit into the range box so I pack it in a separate duffle bag I can sling over my shoulder.

range box supplies 2

Rather than using the two-piece rods from Estes, I purchased my own steel rods from Home Depot. You can find them at any home improvement/hardware store between two to five dollars. I find the two piece rods hard to assemble and they are a little too short for my liking. I use a 36 inch rod for standard 18mm motors and if I am launching bigger motors I use a 48" rod. Being steel, these rods are prone to rust which will cause your rocket to "jam". To combat this, keep steel rods well oiled. I spray mine with WD-40 before I leave and when I return from every launch. The deflector plate is an important part of your range box as it deflects the hot gases and flame from the ground below. The Estes provided plate will work fine for standard size motors, but they take a beating with larger motors. If launching D size or larger, I recommend a larger deflector plate. I use a clay planter plate. This is the plate that a pot sits in so the water doesn't leak out onto your carpet. It does an excellent job of deflecting the blasts from larger motors and can even stand up to repeated composite motor launches.

range box supplies 3

Some rockets do not have a hook for motor retention. You never want your rocket to come down without its motor. It is dangerous to have hot motor casings falling out of the sky to smack people in the head. If your rocket does not have a hook, you can use the friction method. Wrap masking tape around the motor casing so it fits tightly into the mount. This will prevent the motor from shooting out of the back of the rocket. Masking tape can also be used to tighten the fit of a nose cone by wrapping a length of tape around the shoulder of the cone. Never use masking tape for spot repairs though. Masking tape is not strong enough to endure the rigors of flight. The needle nose pliers are used to help pull out motors that might have a tad too much tape around them.

Finally, we have the small metal can. This is probably the most important piece of equipment in your range box. I use this can to toss out all my spent motor casings, igniters, igniter plugs, etc. A lot of rocketeers fail to realize how privileged we are to use some of the fields and parks we fly at. Many times, these are public parks or soccer fields that are used by many other people besides rocket enthusiasts. In many cases, these fields are actually paid for and maintained by the youth sports leagues in the area. All it takes is one youth soccer player sliding and catching the metal wire from a rocket igniter in the knee to have our flight privileges suspended. Fill your metal can up with your spent supplies, leave the field in better shape than you found it. If you happen to stumble onto a motor casing, pick it up and add it to your collection. Then dump the can into the garbage on the way to your car. It takes a few extra minutes, but it makes all the difference in the way people perceive our hobby.

Have fun and happy flying!

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