The first unconventional scratch-built rocket that Brad ever built, inspired by a jack-o-lantern and a discarded carpet tube. It has been rebuilt several times and the newest version has only a couple of minor components in common with the first. But is is still fun.
At first glance, one might get the impression that members of our rocket team are obsessed with Halloween. Eh. Personally, I find the day a little annoying. But the annual rocket event that the Vatsaas boys get together for -- the G. Harry Stine Memorial Launch -- is held in late October. The discount stores are packed with cheap plastic objects suitable for oddroc designs, so we just can't help ourselves.
The rocket is still cool and Brad is still a stud.
The Mk3 taking off on an I211 at GHS05.
The Halloweener Mk3 has fiberglass fins that are made from a two-part mold. Brad sculpted the fins with modeling clay, both halves separately, on melamine whiteboard. Then he applied fiberglass, let it set, and removed the clay.
A close up of one of the main fin plugs.
A close up of one of the canard fin plugs.
These are the main wing molds. I didn't have any gelcoat the day I made these molds, so I improvised.
I got a bit more creative with the 3/8" plywood dorsal fins on Mk3 by creating this gargoyle silhouette.
I suppose that means that this isn't exactly a fire breathing dragon....
The upgraded Halloweener Mk2
on the pad at GHS02
The aft fins
The odd fin tab was shaped this way because the
fin can was really short, made from scrap parts
The Halloweener, flying in it's fourth year, underwent a face lift -- or rather, a 'wing-lift'. Mark decided over the past year that he could improve on the quickie fin design on the original, and boy was he right! His new fins were awesome, and he also texturized all the fins and the entire airframe. The Mk2 Halloweener and the Mk1 compared this way; think of the Saturday morning cartoon Batman and the feature-length Batman movie. There.
The installed wings. Yes, that is another
sneaking into the frame.
The Halloweener MkII in flight on an I161!
The Mk2 fins had 'bone structure' and 'joints'. The center stock is 1/8" masonite, and 1/8" dowels marked the 'bones'. The 'joints' were light spackle. The texturing was light spackle mixed with latex enamel, applied by dabbing with a stiff brush.
The Halloweener flight at GHS 2002 on an I161 was awesome. It rushed beautifully up a vertical path, and leaned upwind as it reached apogee. For a moment it seemed to soar on its bat-like wings. Then it ejected its chutes, and the head and body floated back separately on a Rocketman R4 and R7 parachutes.
I've made a lot of scratch rockets that I'm extremely proud of - but of all the designs I have created, few bring more attention or compliments than a rocket I whipped together on a Saturday afternoon as a joke. I don't quite know what to make of that, except it shows that just about everyone appreciates a sense of humor - or proof that everyone appreciates knowing that you don't take yourself too seriously.
Click [HERE!] to download a RockSim 7.0 file of the modified Halloweener. This simulation features an accurate modeling of the bat wings and the trapezoidal dorsal. It can also be viewed on earlier versions of RockSim!
The Original Halloweener
There are two main reasons why I like to build rockets from scratch:
- I like anything unique
- I have a wife and three kids who require all my money.
There is one question I seem to encounter frequently when it comes to
building rockets that are both unique and cheap, and that is this - what
do I use for a nose cone? There are relatively few options when outfitting
a tube with a diameter over 2.6". Shape, symmetry, and materials are
always at issue. I don't have a lathe. I hadn't made the big leap into
fabricating cones out of Fiberglas yet. Big nose cones are expensive. 'Twas a puzzlement.
So imagine walking through Target one evening in September and finding
a lightweight plastic jack-o-lantern lamp on sale. Instant nosecone! I
then remembered that 4" diameter carpet roll tube I had rescued from a
neighborhood Dumpster a few months earlier. Being the crazy, madcap loony
that I am, I immediately had a vision for a high-powered rocket that could
potentially run me only a few bucks.
My rocket club, the Superstition Spacemodeling Society, had scheduled
for October their most noteworthy launch of the year - the G. Harry Stine
Memorial Launch. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to unveil a
slightly offbeat and altogether goofy looking rocket to the public,
especially one with a theme related to Halloween.
I created a RockSim file to emulate my design concept to see if this
thing would really fly. The size and shape of the 'nosecone' moved the
center of pressure quite far forward, but according the simulation the
design was stable.
Download the RockSim 4.0 File
The first construction step was to treat the tube to make it slightly
more usable. After trimming it to the desired length (48") I treated the
ends with CA. That carpet tube was REALLY thirsty stuff! I soaked the
outside of the tube with Elmer's polyethylene wood glue, believing the
promise on the bottle that it was extremely sandable. This proved to be a
lie, but I was able to smooth out the tube enough to be a reasonably
Inserting the really bright, short, stubby, and sturdy
flashlight into the coupler. Also visible are the details of the coupler
assembly, the aft bulkhead, and the lovely manicure on the nail of my
Next was the conversion of the jack-o-lantern from a lamp to a nose
cone. I removed the electrical innards and measured the opening on the
bottom - 4.25" inches - the same as the outside diameter of the carpet
tube! This is going to be easy! All I had to do was make a coupler tube
section to join to the pumpkin.
Since the G. Harry Stine Memorial Launch was scheduled to include a
night launch, I decided that the coupler would be a great place to hold a
flashlight. I had a really bright flashlight that was short, stubby, and
quite sturdy, so I designed the coupler around that.
To create the coupler section I cut two short pieces off of the carpet
tube, one 6" long and one 1" long. I slit the 6" tube down the center and
slit it again about an inch over, saving the 1"x 6" strip. Joining the
edges created a coupler with an outside diameter of slightly less than 4"
(the inside diameter of the carpet tube). I epoxied those edges together
and also epoxied the 1"x 6" strip along the inside of the joint for
The coupler was inserted flush inside the 1" tube section and epoxied
in place. This whole assembly was impregnated inside and out with CA and
then sanded smooth. I'm still impressed with how solid this piece turned
The forward end of the coupler needed a bulkhead (with a center hole)
to hold the flashlight in place. The aft bulkhead needed to be removable
to access the flashlight. I made the forward bulkhead out of 1/4" plywood
and cut a 2" hole in the center to allow light to pass through. I then
drilled 1/4" holes on opposite sides of the hole and mounted threaded
inserts. Into each of the threaded inserts I installed 7 inches of
threaded rod. The forward bulkhead was then epoxied in place.
The aft bulkhead was constructed of two disks of 1/8" plywood, one to
fit inside the coupler and one to sit against the end of the coupler flush
with the edges. They were glued together to form one piece. I drilled a
hole in the center and mounted a screw eye for the recovery harness. I
like to use fender washers for strength. Holes were drilled opposite the
center hole for the threaded rod to pass through. The aft bulkhead was
then fastened into place using washers and wing nuts.
The 1" section at the top fits snugly into the opening at the bottom of
the pumpkin. I flowed a lot of epoxy in through the mouth because I wasn't
sure how firmly it would hold. It does.
Peering down the gaping throat of the Halloweener
look at the parachute bulkhead.
The symmetrical hole pattern is a
tribute to my sense of order.
I added one more bulkhead about 18" from the top of the tube to keep
the parachute from shifting during the boost. I drilled it full of holes
for the ejection pressure to pass through. I also installed the shock
The fin shape was my brother Mark's idea. Only the two lateral wings
are bat wings - the 'dorsal' fins are trapezoids that I had left over from
something else I don't remember. After I had installed the fins I felt
like the Halloweener was 'just missing something...' Those ridiculous
little dragon wings at the top were the finishing touch.
I'm not going to bore you with details about the motor mount (38mm) or
the parachutes (two - one 36" for the pumpkin and one 48" for the airframe
- only because that's what I had, and remember, I'm cheap). It has flown
on an Aerotech H123 and an Aerotech I164. It's next flight will be at the 2001 G. Harry Stine Memorial Launch on a Redline I - at night, of course.
When the motor is assembled properly the Halloweener flies beautifully,
and the more skeptical or curious among you may download the video of a
successful flight here:
When the motor is not assembled properly, well, anything can happen,
an embarrassing feature photograph in Extreme Rocketry Magazine.
The more heartless and cruel among you may download the video of an
unsuccessful flight here: Download