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Old 04-14-2009, 02:28 PM
MDorffler MDorffler is offline
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Canon City, CO
Posts: 100
Default Ask Mike

My name is Mike Dorffler. Some of you know me, or know of me. I have been a model rocket kit designer with Estes Industries for nearly 40 years. I have over these years developed three camera systems, several launch controllers and launch pads, over 250 produced model rocket kits, several rocket motors, and several rocket related electronic items, all for this hobby we collectively enjoy. I have had lunch with Buzz Aldrin, Scott Carpenter, Joe Johnson and John Dyksta, Grant McQuen, and even Lee Van Cleef and Charlie Bronson, during the course of Estes business. I have made motors for movie special affects such as Firefox, aided in FBI criminal investigations, and even designed the model rocket launch system now in use at Space Camp.

I first started at Estes when the main plant at Penrose had just been completed and the parking area was still gravel. I worked with and helped build the company with Vern and Gleda, Bill Simon, Ed Brown, Gene Street, Wayne Kellner, Bill See and several other wonderful people and close friends. Over the years I have witnessed the many changes of management and ownership, and lived through the periods of company success and those of struggle.

As the time is approaching for me to exchange my modeling knives and body tubes for a fishing rod, I felt it might be worthwhile to offer to share my many experiences and rocketry knowledge base with the YORF forum members. With this post today I am opening the ďAsk MikeĒ forum for the purpose of offering you the opportunity to ask me anything you like related to Estes model rocketry history, model rocket kit development, kit designers, Estes personalities, or what happened when. Iíll share what we found worked and what didnít, why certain black powder types work for motors and why others donít, or even what manufacturing tolerances that must absolutely be maintained for certain components.

And then there is so much to tell about the intensity and incredible work ethic of the many people who I have had the pleasure of working with at Estes. These people are the ones responsible for bringing all of you the hobby of model rocketry in a way none of you have any concept of. Many are gone now but you should know about them. And then there are the antics of the R&D guys who purposely and shamefully tested the patience of Emma, our beloved custodian.

There is much Estes history to tell and for the YORF members to learn. This forum is therefore for you, the forum members to enjoy, and I hope all members eventually gravitate to it. Because I want our exchanges to generally be light in nature, I must request the following;

This forum is for the purpose of sharing information, not for bashing Estes Industries. If you want to vent your distain or anger at Estes Industries for any reason, donít do it on my forum as I will refuse to answer. I will not answer any questions regarding any aspect of the financial operation of Estes Industries. If you want to vent your anger at the government, write a letter to your local newspaper editor, donít post it on my forum. Be civil. You will get far more information from me that way.

Okay, who has a question?

Last edited by MDorffler : 04-14-2009 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 04-14-2009, 02:38 PM
A Fish Named Wallyum's Avatar
A Fish Named Wallyum A Fish Named Wallyum is offline
BP Mafia
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ft. Thomas, KY
Posts: 6,985

We're Not Worthy!!! :d
Bill Eichelberger
NAR 79563

I miss being SAM 0058

On the build floor: Centuri Stellar Hercules, Estes - ESAM-58, Semroc Squire, RDC V-Max

Ready to fly: Estes Astron Farside X, Estes Astron Apogee, FRW Star Jart, Semroc Cherokee D, Semroc SLS Scorpion
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Old 04-14-2009, 02:39 PM
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Leo Leo is offline
German Model Rocket Builder
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Germany
Posts: 1,311
Thumbs up

Mike, welcome aboard.

I must say it is great seeing you here. I look forward to many threads relating to Estes rocketry, from the past to the present

My rocket fleet and more @ Leo's Leisure Site and on YouTube - My latest project: ALTDuino
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Old 04-14-2009, 02:41 PM
A Fish Named Wallyum's Avatar
A Fish Named Wallyum A Fish Named Wallyum is offline
BP Mafia
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Ft. Thomas, KY
Posts: 6,985

Antics. We're all about antics. How about a story or twenty?
Bill Eichelberger
NAR 79563

I miss being SAM 0058

On the build floor: Centuri Stellar Hercules, Estes - ESAM-58, Semroc Squire, RDC V-Max

Ready to fly: Estes Astron Farside X, Estes Astron Apogee, FRW Star Jart, Semroc Cherokee D, Semroc SLS Scorpion
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Old 04-14-2009, 02:52 PM
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SEL SEL is offline
Officially Middle-Aged Rocketeer
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 1,130


Thanks for joining the forum and giving us this opportunity to pick your brain.

Being a motor junky, I would love to see photos and hear about motors that you've designed
and tested, what propellants were used, what worked and what didn't, and why the ones that worked and weren't produced weren't produced.


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Old 04-14-2009, 03:02 PM
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mycrofte mycrofte is offline
Trust me, it'll work!
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Illinois
Posts: 1,691

I would like to know why R&D takes so long. Kinda makes it hard to jump on some things doesn't it?!?

P.S. When you do trade it all in for the fishing pole, can I have your job?
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Old 04-14-2009, 03:13 PM
foose4string foose4string is offline
Master Modeler
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 1,019

Mike, welcome. I look forward to reading this segment of the forum.

With over 250 of your designs that went into production, what was your favorite? Which design was the most successful in terms of numbers? What was your least favorite design(or one that came back to bite you in the rear?)
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Old 04-14-2009, 03:13 PM
rstaff3 rstaff3 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: MD
Posts: 175

I too will thank you up-front for taking away from your valuable fishing time here!

I'm also interested in motors, mostly the ones we can't buy (at least currently ) at our friendly neighborhood hobby store.

Oh, I'm also curious whether you will fly any rockets after you retire? I.e. is rocketry both a hobby and work or has the latter beat the prior out of you?
- Dick
NAR L2, member of MDRA and NARHAMS
*** My Rocket Dungeon ***My Our Planet Page***
Co-moderator of the MicroMaxRockets, microhybrids, and OddRocs Yahoo groups
Volunteer compiler of product news for ROCKETS Magazine
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Old 04-14-2009, 03:19 PM
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DeanHFox DeanHFox is offline
Incurable Model Rocketeer
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
Posts: 470
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Default Dang!

I was gonna ask what your favorite design was, but foose beat me to it...

So, I'll go in this direction...of all the "personalities" or "celebrities" you've met in your tenure at Estes...which one inspired you the most? And why?

(and, if you don't mind this question...of everyone you met, which person was most unlike what you expected them to be?)

Thanks for taking time to share your memories with us. Your efforts at Estes gave me a wonderful lifetime's hoping that spending a little time in our corner of the Web will enrich yours a bit, too!
Dean Fox
NAR #53946SR

---- "Wherever you go, there you are"
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Old 04-14-2009, 03:36 PM
Jerry Irvine's Avatar
Jerry Irvine Jerry Irvine is offline
Freeform rocketry advocate.
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Claremont, CA "The intellectual capitol of the world."-WSJ
Posts: 3,646

I have an actual question. When Gary R and I visited Estes on the way to NARAM PA you rushed out to give us news about 110 film availability for the Astrocam that was "incorrect". What's up with that?

Am I correct a 24mm E case D20-0,3,6,9 is practical?

There is a feature on this site that records the original designer for Estes kits. Would you please commit an hour a month for three months to composing an email clarifying as many of those as possible?

May I take you fishing during the next five summers? I would ask Mary Roberts to join us, but she scares me. She can totally handle a gun and dress her prey, and I'm not so sure she considers me human.

Exemptions not regulations. Please support DOT treating slow burning solids as not subject to HMR. 2015 NAR President declines!
U.S. Rockets instaship. Please buy some rockets.
The O administration believed in tax, spend, borrow, fine, mandate, monologue. D voters will soon be very happy with the election outcome!
Model rocketry is as safe as safe can be defined in human existence. Bow and pray: GH Stine, Orville, Vern, Lee, Lonnie, Carl, etc. No, really.

Last edited by Jerry Irvine : 04-14-2009 at 04:05 PM.
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