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  #1  
Old 02-25-2008, 11:21 PM
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SEL SEL is offline
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Default Alpha-1

Does anyone know what was used as the 'Oxidizer' in the old Alpha-1 rocket kits?
Picked one up on ebay that came w/3 drums of 'Fuel' (baking soda ?), but I haven't been ableto find any info on the other powdered ingredient is.

Sean
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  #2  
Old 02-26-2008, 08:48 AM
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ghrocketman ghrocketman is offline
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I have one of those that my Dad gave me.
He had it as a toy in his youth.
The "oxidizer" was powdered Alum which when dissolved in water is an acid that reacts with the "fuel" Baking Soda to produce the CO2 that pressurizes & launches the rocket.
I can tell you from trying it out, it flies DISMALLY low (under 75') and makes a mess on the lawn.
A decent toy store water-rocket will fly higher.
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghrocketman
The "oxidizer" was powdered Alum which when dissolved in water is an acid that reacts with the "fuel" Baking Soda to produce the CO2 that pressurizes & launches the rocket.

Is it Alum? I thought it was maybe a powdered citric acid.
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  #4  
Old 02-26-2008, 11:23 AM
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I think Citric Acid would work equally as well (or as bad depending on your perspective).
What was with mine was labeled "non-toxic", so I tasted it MANY years ago (20 or so) and it sure tasted like Potassium Alum (used for making pickles) to me. (Foolish, I know and would never do something like that now)
Using straight white vinegar as the "oxidizer" produced flights that were consistently higher.
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  #5  
Old 02-26-2008, 09:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ltvscout
Is it Alum? I thought it was maybe a powdered citric acid.


The 'Rocketeer's Journal' called it 'citric bicarbonate'. Newer versions use vinager and baking soda.

Sean
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  #6  
Old 06-17-2010, 03:23 PM
Richard Hull Richard Hull is offline
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Default history of alpha-1

The Alpha-1 was a product of Texaco Experiment Inc. based in Richmond Virginia.

I was an amateur rocketeer (zinc and sulfur / nitrate and sugar - metal missles, etc.) from 1957 until 1966 and was a member and president of the (RARA) Richmond Amateur Rocket Association. One of our mentors and advisors was Dr. Jerry Burke, a scientist at Experiment Inc. That company produced this little alpha-1 missle not so much for money but to advance a safer venue to amateur rocketry.

The company specialized in low altitude sounding rockets and designed the pressurized CO2 "cricket" to indicate low altitude wind patterns for meterologists.

I had several of these alpha rockets in slight variants. All of them used sodium carbonate and Citric acid. Later, the cheaper bi-carbonate was used.

As near as I can recall, the rocket appeared first in the 1959 time frame and had a rather short sales life, perhaps two good years. It was a great performer going up 100-200 feet or so. I am not sure if any other company bought the rights to the missle and continued its sale beyond 1961.

Today it would be classed as extremely hazardous as the missle streamlined back to earth like a lawn dart. The missle was not a featherweight, either. It had a special rubber nose point that was carefully chosen, according to Dr. Burke. I know that I was stunned when on a few occasions our missle dove straight into the paved street near my home. It would hit nose first and rebound or bounce back up in the air fully 20 feet or more! The rocket would, often, on a soft grassy lawn, embed itself up to its fins!

This is a rather rare item today, especially if the entire kit is found intact.
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Old 06-17-2010, 03:29 PM
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I had one. Woolworth's carried the rocket and fuel reload packs. Circa 1966-67.

The instruction sheet showed a multi-stage version.

I could barely read at the time and never got it working by the time my toddler brother broke it.
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Old 06-17-2010, 03:42 PM
Richard Hull Richard Hull is offline
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Thanks for the update noting a possible variant and later production.

Apparently Texaco did sell the rights. I know Dr. Burke noted that the lawn dart aspect for the missle return caused Texaco to leave the field to avoid any liability and discontinued it in the early 60's.

The successor producer may have modified it to two stage. I am unfamiliar with any upgrades. But, to answer the original question, the original "fuel" and "oxidizer" contained in the little drums was Sodium Carbonate and Citric Acid.

By the time you were playing with your upgraded alpha-1 missle in 1967-68, I was out of college and in the air force in Vietnam.
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Old 06-17-2010, 04:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Hull
The Alpha-1 was a product of Texaco Experiment Inc. based in Richmond Virginia.

I was an amateur rocketeer (zinc and sulfur / nitrate and sugar - metal missles, etc.) from 1957 until 1966 and was a member and president of the (RARA) Richmond Amateur Rocket Association. One of our mentors and advisors was Dr. Jerry Burke, a scientist at Experiment Inc. That company produced this little alpha-1 missle not so much for money but to advance a safer venue to amateur rocketry.

The company specialized in low altitude sounding rockets and designed the pressurized CO2 "cricket" to indicate low altitude wind patterns for meterologists.

I had several of these alpha rockets in slight variants. All of them used sodium carbonate and Citric acid. Later, the cheaper bi-carbonate was used.

As near as I can recall, the rocket appeared first in the 1959 time frame and had a rather short sales life, perhaps two good years. It was a great performer going up 100-200 feet or so. I am not sure if any other company bought the rights to the missle and continued its sale beyond 1961.

Today it would be classed as extremely hazardous as the missle streamlined back to earth like a lawn dart. The missle was not a featherweight, either. It had a special rubber nose point that was carefully chosen, according to Dr. Burke. I know that I was stunned when on a few occasions our missle dove straight into the paved street near my home. It would hit nose first and rebound or bounce back up in the air fully 20 feet or more! The rocket would, often, on a soft grassy lawn, embed itself up to its fins!

This is a rather rare item today, especially if the entire kit is found intact.


they come up with some regularity on EBay.

One of the more interesting scale entries at NARAM-13 in 1971 (in Aberdeen, MD) was a full size model of a Texaco Cricket. With it's tiny fins (which I assume were fold-in's on the real one, for tube launching?) it didn't fly very well.
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  #10  
Old 06-18-2010, 08:48 AM
Richard Hull Richard Hull is offline
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I don't doubt that a model rocket of the full sized crickett flew poorly.

The real cricket was tube launched. As it was an impulse launch rocket it attained maximum speed after traveling only 2 body lengths. Thus, the tiny fins were more than enough to make it fly straight as an arrow. Model rockets are not very fleet of foot off the pad and have a protracted burn time for the most part, thus the terrible flight characteristics of an exact, full sized replica of the crickett.

Not enough air over the tiny, true-to-scale, fins early in the flight.
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