Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Semroc - Golden Scout

When buying some parts and supplies, I decided to go ahead and grab a Golden Scout to commemorate Vern and Gleda Estes' 50 years of contributions to this educational and fun hobby. Without their efforts, sport rocketry might not even exist today. To celebrate this anniversary, Semroc organized the Sky of Gold program.  Under this program, participants would fly their Golden Scouts during the month of July, 2008 and preferably at NARAM-50.  Participants received, along with the satisfaction of saluting Vern and Gleda, a certificate and a replica of the original kit.  The certificate was mailed from Vern and Gleda's post office in Penrose.

There were already several good reviews on EMRR, so I'll assumed you had read them. There's no reason to repeat everything.

The parts list:

* 1 balsa nose cone (BNC-30DE)
* 1 body tube (BT-30AP)
* 3 laser-cut fins
* 1 engine catch hook
* 1 retaining wire
* 1 Tyvek reinforcing strip
* 1 launch lug

This is about as easy a kit as you will find. I built mine leisurely in one afternoon, less finishing. The parts are the typical quality you get from Semroc. The fins are perfect, balsa cone's grain is shallow, and the tube is precision marked and pre-punched. The fins are relatively thick for this size kit, which made them really easy to attach (I did all 3 of mine in one step) and should help with recovery. I don't know if the fins on the original were this thick?

The one step that may have proved slightly challenging was the attachment of the Tyvek strip over the motor catch hook. Nope, I found that was simple also.

After hearing the model's flight history (charred fins, broken fins, etc.), I decided not to spend a lot of time on finishing. (I'm sure anyone who knows me is shocked--NOT.) I filled the balsa with one coat of Elmer's Fill 'n' Finish and shot a couple of coats of primer, sanding in between. The Tyvek kept fuzzing up, but I eventually got it smooth. I painted it gold as specified using Testor's Gold. It came with a serialized decal.  Mine was #0869. That's a lot of gold in this July's skies!

Here are some preflight observations:

* For a rocket that should be a no-brainer, this kit has generated a surprising amount of discussion.
* The BT-30 tube is a little bigger than the standard BT-20 so the motor is quite loose. The instructions recommend that you shim the motor on the side opposite the motor catch hook with 1/32" balsa. This will ensure that the ejected motor will firmly catch on the hook and also not bounce back into the tube. I don't have any thin balsa so I tried a strip of 1/64" ply. This seemed too tight so I tried a strip of thin cardboard. This seemed to work and there should be an ample supply. Whatever is used, the engine needs to slide easily back and forth. This also needs to be checked prior to each flight as residue can build up in the tube.
*Another issue is the length of the body tube. It's longer than an 18mm motor so the motor is recessed into the body by 3/8" during the boost phase. I've heard reports that this can toast the end of the rocket a bit. I understand wanting to be true to the original, but it made me wonder what a thin tape thrust ring wasn't specified on this re-release. It seemed it should be stable given the swept fins. Also, an examination of the RockSim file here on EMRR seemed to confirm that it would.

Flights on S/N #0869
My first flight was on an A10-3. I used a bored-out 18mm case as an adapter and used a strip of packaging cardboard as a shim. It was a fast flight and everyone lost it in the haze. The second flight was on an A8-3. I used a 3/8 tape thrust ring. I could have sworn that I checked stability with this overhang. Evidently, I didn't. Flight number three, also on an A8-3, was more successful. There was no thrust ring this time. I used a cardboard shim and it tumbled as it was supposed to. There was more scorching on the fins and some around the vents. The fourth and final flight was at NARAM-50 (A8-3, again). Nice boost into the sun. Lost.

S/N #1199:
I reported on YORF that I had lost my Golden Scout and Carl McLawhorn from Semroc replaced it for free. I built it pretty much as before, but I have retired it flightless. So, it joins the Red Scout that I also received for participating in the Sky of Gold. The latter is a replica of the original and will remain in its tube.

I applaud Vern and Gleda for their contributions, the folks a Semroc for releasing the kit, and everyone else involved in the event. Semroc gets an extra thumbs up for replacing my lost Golden Scout. Thanks Carl! I'm was proud to add to the Sky of Gold!

As for the kit, it has its quirks but is a great piece of rocket history.