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  #1  
Old 11-26-2011, 10:10 PM
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Initiator001 Initiator001 is offline
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Default Estes Dark Star # 2045 or how to get a kit discontinued

There has been quite a few threads/posts about how does one get a specific model rocket kit put into production but not many, if any, about how a kit becomes discontinued.

A kit can become discontinued due to low sales volume or a kit specific part is no longer available.

Or, a kit can become discontinued because you like it. Rather, because 'I' liked it.

It's time for another installment of "Bob's Wacky History of Model Rocketry".

The time is December 1990.

I'm working at AeroTech in Las Vegas, Nevada. AeroTech's parent company, Industrial Solid Propulsion (ISP) has brought out a line of reloadable HPR motors in 29mm, 38mm and 54mm which has made it less expensive for folks to fly larger rocket motors.

Now, attention has turned to smaller reloadable motors such as 18mm diameter.

AeroTech President Gary Rosenfield has had a prototype 18mm x 70mm reloadable case made. According to his calculations this case should be able to contain a full-impulse 'D' or possibly a low 'E' performance motor. We wouldn't know for sure until some reloads were made for the casing and fired.

Jump forward a few months.

The nozzle, o-rings, paper tubes for the 18mm reload case were now in stock along with the cast propellant. The motor was tested and it produced a full 20n-sec impulse and works out to be a D13.

Now it was time to flight test the motor. Gary asked me if I had an Estes BT-60 model like a Big Bertha that could be used. I said I didn't but I would check to see what I had that we could use.

By now the 1991 Estes catalog had been released and one model had caught my eye. It was a new kit called the Dark Star which was BT-60 body tube and 27" tall. Black and gold finishing scheme.

Thoughts of building and flying a Dark Star model had to be put on hold as AeroTech prepared to attend the 1991 Los Angeles RCHTA Hobby Show. As usual, I was in charge of all the logistics concerning AeroTech's appearance at the show.

New for 1991 at the AeroTech booth was the Phoenix RC rocket glider designed by Bob Parks. The show went well, hobby distributors placed orders, the general public asked if the rockets really flew, etc.

Estes had a booth at the same show staffed by their west coast sales representative, Bill Dilllman. Bill was a great guy and retired from Estes a few years ago.

Anyway, I stopped by the Estes booth to check out the new Estes products ands talk to Bill. Estes had a new General Manager named Barry Tunick and I was trying to get a reading from Bill about his new boss. While talking with Bill I noticed the Dark Star model on display and mentioned to Bill that I liked the kit.

"Would you like to have one that was already built", said Bill.

"Sure", I said.

It turns out that Estes asked the local NAR section (LARS or maybe it had been renamed SCRA by then) to build several Dark Star kits. It was one of these models that Bill presented to me. I thanked him very much and walked off with my new Dark Star.

(To be continued)
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:25 PM
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Upon returning to Las Vegas after the LA RCHTA Show, it was time to flight test the D13 reloadable motor.

I told Gary Rosenfield about the Dark Star model I had been given at the RCHTA Show. The model was built completely stock and would make a good test rocket for the RMS-18 motor.

The finished RMS-18 cases and closures were now in production and we could use these for testing. I decided it would be a good idea to take pictures during the flight testing of the motor for historical/marketing use.

The flight testing took place at a NAR contest launch outside of Las Vegas on May 11, 1991. While the competition events were being flown, the RMS-18 casing was prepared with a D13 reload. The motor was loaded into the Dark Star model and the rocket was launched.

Wow! That thing really took off!

The Dark Star was recovered with a minor 'zipper' to the forward end of the body tube. We still wanted to do more test flying so a quick wrap of masking tape was applied to the front of the body tube.

It was at this point that I remembered to start taking pictures so I had Gary hold the Dark Star in one hand and the RMS-18 casing in the other with the motor placed close to the aft end of the rocket.

After some more flights and picture taking, we concluded the flight testing.

(To be continued)
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:59 PM
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We were pretty impressed with the RMS-18 case and D13 reload combination.

It was decided to make a press release about the reloadedable motor and feature the picture of Gary holding the Dark Star model and RMS-18 casing. I sent off copies to both Hobby Merchandiser and Model Retailer magazine and both ran the press release but only Hobby Merchandiser included the picture.

Months later, at NARAM-33, the Dark Star and RMS-18/D13 combination had their first public showing to a large audience. We flew the rocket/motor combination so many times the RSO acted bored when announcing the model being launched. I think we flew it 6-10 times during NARAM.

After NARAM the Dark Star flew several more times but it was getting worn out. At some point, there was a shock cord separation and the model core sampled. I cut off the damaged body tube and spliced on a new piece but I never got around to painting the new body tube section.

It was now September and AeroTech was getting ready to attend the big Chicago RCHTA Show (Now known as the iHobby Show). We wanted to display the model rocket RMS motors/casings (Which now included 24mm and 29mm cases). Since the 18mm size motor was the most familiar to hobby distributors and the general public, we needed a new 'model' rocket to display along with the RMS-18 motor case.

The answer was obvious to me. We needed a new Dark Star model.

I purchased and built a new Dark Star kit. I gave it a catalog model finish as we wanted a good looking model to display with the RMS-18 casing.

At the Show, Estes had a large display of many new concepts/products. The AeroTech booth was located on the same aisle about twenty feet away. The Dark Star was placed where it could be seen with the RMS-18 casing. Several Estes staff stopped by the AeroTech booth and saw the Dark Star model. I mentioned how much I liked the Dark Star kit.

When the 1992 Estes catalog was released, the Dark Star kit was not shown. According to Mike Hellmund who worked for Estes at the time, the kit was discontinued after Tunick had learned that 'I' liked the kit (I suspect that the AeroTech press release showing the Dark Star model along with public displays at NARAM-33 and the Chicago RCHTA Show may have also played a hand in the kits demise). Regardless of whether the story is true or not, the Dark Star kit was no more.

Today, that Dark Star model used in the PR photo and NARAM-33 demos resides in my collection along with the catalog model Dark Star I built for the Chicago RCHTA Show. I, also, have an unbuilt Dark Star model still in a sealed package.

So, I guess the moral of this story is never say you like a competitor's product because he might discontinue it.
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Old 11-27-2011, 12:40 AM
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Bob-

As usual, a great story with lots of nice history 'tidbits' in there...I enjoy those!

Gosh, hard to believe the RMS technology is over 20 years old now. I remember seeing the 18MM reload hardware in Gary's room at Bruno's at LDRS-10. I remember how young Gary's son was then (Brian I think is his name)....he must have only been 8-9 at the time. I recall him playing wth some kind of magician set or something similar in the back area of the Gerlach Community meeting house during some of the TRA members meetings in the eves at LDRS-10.

BTW, if Estes EVER re-releases the Centuri 1/45 scale Little Joe II, please don't ever let on that you 'like it'!


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Old 11-27-2011, 01:45 AM
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Glad you enjoyed the story, Earl.

Barry Tunick certainly made hobby rocketry 'interesting' for many years.

Someday I will have to post the story and pictures of what happened at the Estes booth during the 1992 Los Angels RCHTA Show!

It could have led to the downfall of civilization as Barry knew it.
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Old 11-27-2011, 03:33 AM
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Despite their claims, I have learned that marketing is backwards from conventional thought.

Sometimes they get rid of items that sell to much. Why, you might ask. Because that means the rest of their stuff is sitting on the shelf collecting dust.
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Old 11-27-2011, 08:28 AM
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Man, you make me more glad than ever that Estes is no longer under the thumb of "Mister T". Seems like there were a number of business decisions made there over the years that were totally capricious in nature with no standing in logic - just emotions (of the CEO). Having seen the same thing in the wargaming/role playing game industry, I quickly learned that it is NEVER a good idea to let the marketing department determine the direction your company's product line should go. (That's why TSR - the maker of Dungeons and Dragons - brought out a "Rocky and Bullwinkle" RPG complete with flat plastic hand puppets and a "Honeymooners" game - both brought out because the shows in question were popular and marketing thought they'd make great game titles. The games sucked, sales tanked, and TSR couldn't understand why such winning "titles" didn't sell.)

Greg
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Old 11-27-2011, 09:44 AM
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You know Bob, I recall this whole episode, just not the story behind the discontinuation of the Dark Star. Somewhere in the mess that is our basement, I think I have a VHS tape of the Dark Star's RMS flight - was it at NARAM that year? Either way, I think you sent it to me - it WAS impressive!
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Old 11-27-2011, 10:17 AM
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Thank you for posting this story, Your Stories from your time at Aerotech are really interesting I hope you keep posting them.

I recently tried 18 mm RMS for the first time, in a stock Red Max, that was probably the greatest flight ever.



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Old 11-27-2011, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl
Bob-


BTW, if Estes EVER re-releases the Centuri 1/45 scale Little Joe II, please don't ever let on that you 'like it'!


Earl


I hate it. Absolutely loathe it. Could not imagine a circumstance under which any reason to release it would come about. About the only thing that I would admit to liking less, if you were to hold my eyelids open with the beaks of decaying vultures and coat my naked torso with high fructose corn syrup and allow fire ants into the room, while I was forced to watch the original 90210 series; would be a 1/100th Saturn 1b.
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