The Year is 1992, The Place is AeroTech
The year 1992 was a pivotal time for hobby rocketry.
How so, you ask?
Welcome to another installment of "Bob's Wacky History of Model Rocketry".
Let me go back one year.
1991 had started out rough for AeroTech/ISP but the year ended very positive, financially, for the company.
To celebrate, the company had a paid dinner for the staff at a fancy restaurant in Las Vegas. It was during this dinner that something I had said months earlier would come back to haunt me.
For several months, I had been pushing for the the development of new rocket kits. When we had pitched the AeroTech product line to distributors back at the 1990 Chicago RCHTA Show, we had been told that we needed to have a least twelve rocket kits before any distributor would pick up the product line. However, the response to the AeroTech product line had been so strong, the distributors had purchased the line with the understanding that additional kits would be released 'soon'.
I had developed some ideas for new kits but had been stymied by a lack of interest and $$$ for product creation. The Reloadable Motor System (RMS) was now available in 18mm, 24mm and 29mm sizes along with HPR versions. Sales were good.
AeroTech would be exibiting at the Los Angeles RCHTA Show in the Spring of 1992. The LA RCHTA Show was considered a low key affair with the Chicago RCHTA Show held in October being the location for new product announcements.
AeroTech was about to think outside the box, again. ;)
As the AeroTech staff enjoyed their expensive, free meal, Gary Rosenfield and Paul Hans were having a quiet discussion. Paul was a old-time NAR member from the early 1960s who had been 'B' Divison NAR National Champion and flew the first movie camera in a 'model' rocket (See the 7th Edition of "The Handbook of Model Rocketry", pages 238-239). Paul had been a major investor in Enertek and when that company folded, he had bought up that company's assets at auction and transferred them to AeroTech/ISP for interest in that company.
At a point during the meal, Gary and Paul wanted to talk with me. I was asked if I had any ideas for some new rocket kits. I told them I had several concepts in mind.
Then the bombshell dropped.
"Could you have prototypes ready for photography in two weeks?"
(To be continued)
"Could you have prototypes ready for photography in two weeks?"
I was taken aback. Why the sudden interest and the rush?
Gary and Paul explained. They wanted to make a big splash at the LA RCHTA Show. This would catch the competition off-guard plus renew interest in the product line prior to the Chicago RCHTA Show. Spring and Summer were the big rocket 'seasons' for the hobby distributors and by exhibiting and making new product available would get AeroTech additional sales.
Why the rush for new kit prototypes? AeroTech would have a new catalog available for the LA RCHTA Show and the lead times required that photography happen as soon as possible due to production and printing lead times.
It was up to me.
"Okay", I said.
The next workday, I met with Gary. I had ideas for five new kits. If the Astrobee-D was finally put into production, that would make six kits. I asked if I had any budget for new parts (Nose cones, fins, etc.).
I was informed there would be no new money for nose cones or fins (The Astrobee-D was the exception but it would be the last of the kits put into production). Some money would be available for small parts. Body tubes were no big deal because they were relatively inexpensive. Decals, instructions and packaging was going to be the major expenses but even those had to be kept as inexpensive as possible.
With those groundrules, I went to work.
I lucked out on the 'no new fin design' issue. When the fin mold for the IQSY Tomahawk was designed, Dan Meyer had designed the fin mold so the trailing edge could be changed out. Also, the Tomahawk and HV Arcas fins had been designed so that both fins could be used with 1.9" and 2.6" diameter body tubes. The bad news was the Tomahawk and Arcas fins were in the same mold base so every parts run consisted of both fin types. The HV Arcas sold much better than the IQSY Tomahawk so we had boxes of Tomahwk fins stored at the shop.
Okay, what if the trailing edge mold piece of the Tomahwk fin was rotated 180 degress to give a straight, cut-off edge to the back of the fin? Could that be done. A called to the plastic mold shop informed us that the trailing edge could be turned around. This fin design would come to be used for the Cheetah kit.
As I was thinking about the Cheetah fin, I asked if there was room in the mold for a different trailing edge insert for the Tomahawk fin. I was told yes and it wouldn't cost much. I asked the AeroTech management if I could have funding for a new trailing edge insert for the Tomahawk fin mold. It was approved. Dan created a new trailing edge insert which made the fin look somewhat-like an Aerobee-150A fin. This would become the Barracuda kit fin.
I still had many, many, many IQSY Tomahawk fins. I would have to come up with a kit which used four of those fins to use up the inventory. I decided to resurrect the Enertek Strong ARM model. The Enertek Strong ARM had been designed by Bill Stine and had a boat-tail on it. If I eliminated the boat-tail and used the Tomahawk fins, I would have a new kit. The plastic strakes could be made by extrusion and those types of molds were not expensive. The extrusion mold was approved.
Okay, now I had a different fin problem. Remember, the Tomahawk/Cheetah/Barracuda fin was in the same mold as the HV Arcas fin. Now I was going to have a bunch of Arcas fins from all the runs of fins for the Tomahawk/Cheetah/Baracuda kits. I needed a kit to use the Arcas fins. This kit would become the Wart-Hog. An extrusion mold was needed for the conduit tunnels on the kit and this was approved.
I needed one more kit. The Astrobee-D was going to be an expensive kit to produce with all the small scale parts needed. The fins were going to be big and expensive. Scale kits historically did not sell as well as sport kits. I needed to get more usage out of the Astrobee-D fin mold to increase the part run numbers and thereby lower the individual part cost. I decided to make a tall sport kit using three of the Astrobee-D fins. This would become the Mirage kit.
These new fins would not be ready for me to use to make my prototypes so I made the fins out of plywood or G-10 fiberglass (Miriage).
After ten days I had five new kits built and painted but no decals. In three days the models would be photographed. Since photography would take place in Phoenix (Paul was handling the picture taking) I figured I might as well drive to Phoenix, stay with Paul for a few days and the two of us could finish up the models.
Off I drove to Phoenix with my models. Paul and I hit art stores and bought all sorts of decals, sitckers, color sheets, etc. to apply to the models. Paul had come up with names for all the new kits and I had some ideas on how each model should be finished. It was a race against time but we finished up at 2:00 AM and we had to be at the photo shoot at 8:00 AM that morning. :eek:
(To be continued)
Great stuff, Bob. Keep it coming!
-- Gene Shalit, Today Show
Mesmerizing! Thumbs Up!
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
I agree, great inside information! Pls. continue!
Thanks for the history.
I'm all eye's
I am glad you can remember all of that! As I am pulling stuff together for the NCR website, I realize how much I have forgotten until I find a photo or a plan.
Thanks for all the positive comments, folks!
Origianlly I had planned to only discuss what happened at the 1992 Los Angeles RCHTA Show but I felt more background was needed.
If my scanner continues to co-operate, my next post in this thread will have pictures. ;) :D
Great stuff, Bob!
Where was I?
Welcome back to "Bob's Wacky History of Model Rocketry". :D
When we last left our hero, he and Paul Hans had finished working on five new AeroTech kit prototypes.
Running on four hours sleep and adrenaline, Paul and I packed up our cars and drove to the photography studio on a cold Saturday Phoenix morning, arriving just before 8:00 AM.
This was a pretty good sized building. It had offices in the front and a large studio in the back of the building. I was told that auto makers would bring their cars here for photography.
The studio had a twenty-foot ceiling and no windows. It was also freakin' cold inside there!
It was a pretty neat place. The 'stage' area was raised off the ground about one foot and supported by an assembly of struts and supports. The backdrop was a single sheet of heavy paper ten feet wide and running from the back on to the stage platform and secured to the front of the platform. Flood lights, mirrors, filters were positioned around the stage. The photographer had about four/five assistants to help him and he shot the pictures while standing on a ladder or movable platforms.
Paul had assembled a group of friends to act as 'models' to pose with the rockets (They were all paid the going rate). One of the models was Paul's oldest daughter, another was a former military special forces member and one was our graphic design artist. I think there was six/seven of them.
One thing the photographer admonished us about was not to walk on the paper. A 'walkway' would be laid out for the models to get on the stage and into position and then the assitants would remove the walkways before the picture taking began.
Much time was spent getting the lighting just right. Mirrors, flood lights would be moved and repositioned for each picture.
After a few pictures were taken, the photographer decided he did not like the backdrop color. The stage was cleared and the assitants immediately begin to paint the backdrop and stage a different color. The staff worked fast and photography resumed in less than thirty minutes. :eek:
One neat photography trick I learned was that just before all the strobe/flood lights fired to take the picture a pre-strobe would fire to eliminate the 'red-eye' effect on the models. I had brought my personal 35mm camera to take pictures and ruined a shot by taking a picture with my flash just seconds before the actual picture was taken. I was told not to take pictures when the photographer announced he was ready.
The hardest part of the picture taking was getting all the models (people) in position and holding still for the pictures. The photographer was always calling out to the folks on stage where to look and what not to do, etc. With four or five people on the stage it could take awhile to get things right. It was not a job I would want to do.
Things moved along and by noon the building had warmed up enough so everyone was now in shirtsleeves (The models were always in shirtsleeves when on stage. Brrrr).
Photography went on until about 5:00 PM that afternoon. There was still a few pictures that needed to be taken so everyone had to go back to the studio on Sunday morning to wrap up the photography.
Things were just getting started and the race was on to see if everything would come together in time for the LA RCHTA Show! Stay tuned.
Attached are some behind-the-scenes pictures I took at the studio.
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