Copyright © Thomas Fetter
I first started flying model rockets when I was in junior high.   It was an article in the July 1967 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine that introduced me to the hobby.  I ordered an Estes Alpha starter kit, and I was hooked.  I still remember pressing the starter button for the first time.  After the 10 count, the rocket just disappeared - we weren't ready for that!   I built mostly Estes and Century kits and flew them with friends at the large athletic field of the university in my town.

Shortly after, I found an ad in Popular Mechanics for a new magazine call Model Rocketry.  I subscribed to the charter, October 1968 issue.  It was published by members of the MIT model rocket society, and contained a wonderful mix of design and technical articles.  Model Rocketry magazine served as a window into the world of model rocketry beyond just flying with friends.

I enjoyed the technical aspect of the hobby as much as the design, building, and flying.  I was fortunate to live only 80 miles from Boston, and I had the opportunity to attend the MIT Model Rocketry convention (MITCON) for several years while I was in high school.  There I met many of the notables who were contributing to the advancement of the hobby.  I especially enjoyed the R&D papers, and, when I was a senior, I won the junior R&D competition with a paper that analyzed the Freon model rocket engine that was manufactured by Vashon. 

Even though I went on to attend MIT, I dropped model rocketry.  I attended one meeting of the Model Rocket Society, but studying and other activities took priority.   I had thought I would study aero/astro engineering, but it was 1973, and the Apollo program was over, the shuttle has not really geared up, and future job prospects did not look good, so I choose electrical engineering.   I worked for Agilent Technologies, now Keysight Technologies, the largest electronics test and measurement company as an an R&D engineer and manager for 38 years before retiring.

Fast forward to the mid 90's, and I happen into a local hobby store.  There, on the magazine rack is a copy of High Power Rocketry magazine.   Things had certainly changed in 20 years!  The hobby had grown up.  I picked up a copy and read it with great interest.

I joined Tripoli in 2000, and went to my first high power launch in 2001.  I also re-joined NAR, getting my old membership number back.

I particularly enjoy building rockets with a high degree of "hot rod" quality finish.  I have built a spray booth, and I use professional quality automotive spray guns and paints.  I enjoy working with composites and fabricating many of my own parts, as well as the tooling to make the parts.

I also enjoy rocket science.  As an engineering manager, I don't get much of a chance to practice engineering, so the rocketry hobby gives me a chance to do real engineering work.  About the same time I was re-discovering high power rocketry, I had a couple weeks of recovery time from knee surgery at home to fill, so I took a closer look at my copy of Advanced Topics in Model Rocketry that I had bought at an MIT Press overstock book sale for $0.50 in 1976 (a used copy sold for over $300 before it was re-published).  That started me down the road of exploring the modeling of the dynamics of model rocket flight.  I have built a built a complete flight simulator for the purpose of exploring and understanding the dynamics of flight (I still use RockSim for actually predicting the altitude of my rockets).   I probably spend as much or more time doing "rocket math" late at night as I do building and flying.

You can reach me at
Tripoli #5934  Level 2
NAR #15551
Aeropac # 697
Lunar #1545
Amateur Radio KI6SNN


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