Building the Estes The Dude

There may be room for dispute as to what the silliest rocket I own is, but The Dude has to be a contender.

The body is a balloon, made of what Estes describes as nylon with a chrome coating. The fins are the same stuff attached to a plastic frame, and they mount on a skeletal fin can with a 24 mm plastic motor mount. There’s also a plastic ring to go near the top of the rocket, containing nose weight and acting as an anchor point for a parachute. The one cardboard part is a tube mounted at 90° to the motor mount which is where the chute gets packed.

You start by gluing together the cage that forms the basis of the fin can.IMG_7019 This is the step that took me the longest, because I had trouble getting the plastic pieces to adhere to one another using the Testors tube glue.IMG_7034 Eventually I switched to what I should have used in the first place, Tenax 7R. Even with that I’m not entirely confident everything will stay together.

Separately you glue the fins to the motor mount, and then you put everything together. Well… that’s what the instructions say. The root edges of the fins are supposed to go through the same slots as the vertical pieces of the cage. That was okay at the top of the cage, but the cutouts on the bottom of the cage are shaped to wrap around the fin roots, and they were just not big enough to accommodate both pieces.

IMG_7037I had to just carve away the wrap-arounds to get the two assemblies together.IMG_7043IMG_7044Next steps are to inflate the balloon, mount it in the fin can, and attach the launch lugs. For the latter two, you use transparent vinyl tape supplied with the kit.IMG_7047 Then more clear tape is used to attach the top ring. Next they tell you to tie a loop in the parachute line… which is some stiff, springy plastic stuff that doesn’t take a knot very well. I used a piece of electrical tape to try to stabilize things.IMG_7052 Then I tied on the 12″ Estes parachute, which looks fairly ridiculous on a 7 foot rocket. wile-e-coyote-300x225Wait, wrong picture. I figure the parachute is not so much for deceleration during recovery as for stabilization… either that or comic relief.

Anyway, that’s The Dude.IMG_7058 This is actually a launch set. It comes with an ordinary Electron Beam controller, and a less ordinary launch pad consisting of a spike to drive in the ground, a blast plate to go over it, and a 3-piece screw-together 1/4″ launch rod.IMG_7061

Which I don’t expect to be using.



3 thoughts on “Building the Estes The Dude

  1. Oh, I get it. Without the chute the rocket would come down nose first, ballistic. The chute’s drag pulls it into a tail first configuration, which is unstable, so it should come in quasi-tumbling (and hit the ground on its fins, making it less likely to puncture itself).

  2. I’ve seen two Dude launches. Everybody at the club launch stops what they’re doing to watch.
    SLOW off the launcher, not a big altitude. The parachute does slow the recovery and stabilize the angle of descent. Always good for laughs and applause.
    The problem seems to be melting of the Mylar skin at the low end.
    I wouldn’t recommend flying it in wind.
    When you look at it from a design standpoint, it’s a well designed model.
    If you can, videotape the launch.

  3. From a review on
    “Estes recommends tapping the launch rod 19″ up from the blast deflector. They don’t say why but it is to position the rocket high enough off the pad.”
    “On the second flight I removed the tape wrapped on the rod at 19″ because I felt it was holding the rocket too far up on the rod, causing the rod to bend even more than what it could handle. Removing the tape was a mistake. Because on the second flight with the engine almost sitting on the deflector, the engine blast deflected off the deflector and hit AND MELTED the balloon. Even before the rocket clear the rod, the rocket was deflated enough to make it go out of control and crash right near the pad.”

    Anyway – raise the Dude above the blast deflector so the engine blast won’t deflect back up onto the Mylar balloon.

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