04-09-2016, 09:40 PM
Too Many Initiators is Never Enough
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: San Diego, CA
Time Frame: 1998-1999
Product: Zenix SSRV Rocket Kit
By the late 1990s Estes management was interested in sales beyond those to hobby distributors/hobby shops. There was no bigger outlet for product than Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart was/is a mass-merchandiser and it’s customers are not necessarily hobbyists used to working with traditional model rocket materials (balsa, unpainted body tubes, water-slide decals). Products for the Wal-Mart consumer needed to have quick assembly times so the rocket can be launched as soon as possible after purchase.
Along with this the product needed to have a ‘toy’ appeal in that it had ‘play value’, that is, the rocket had to do more than just go up and come down.
This lead to such models as the Astrocam RTF (Camera), Shellshocked/Omloid (Egg carrier), Bailout/Free Fall (Ejects an action figure), Mach 12 (Change fin styles), Manta (Glider), Skywinder and Turbo Copter (Helicopter recovery).
There was one more model announced in this trend for 1998 and it was named the Zenix SSRV. The Zenix was a large rocket over thirty inches tall and nearly one-and-a-half inches in diameter (BT-55). The big feature of the Zenix is that it would drop three simulated external boosters upon ejection of the recovery parachute. These boosters would return to the ground under streamer recovery.
The Zenix SSRV was shown in the 1998 Estes catalog and some marketing fliers but never made it into stores.
Rumors for why this happened discuss initial problems with the three external boosters not reliably falling away from the model. Sometimes all three boosters fell away and sometimes none of them came off. This required more R&D effort and additional work done to the mold for the plastic parts.
Eventually, the problem was resolved. A production run of many thousands of kits were produced and made ready for delivery. According to unsubstantiated stories Estes took the Zenix SSRV model to the Wal-Mart buyers who showed no interest in the kit.
One would think that Estes would still ship the Zenix model to hobby distributors without an order from Wal-Mart. That’s not what happened. For unknown reasons Estes management decided to scrap all the finished Zenix SSRV kits. Some parts were salvaged from the kits but the rest (Packaging, instructions, decals and plastic parts) went to the landfill.
The pictures attached to this post display the packaging and parts for a Zenix SSRV kit. This is the only one of these kits I have ever seen but it suggests that other examples may exist.
(Note: The pictures did not display in the order I wanted)
S.A.M. # 0014