The sky’s the limit for hobbyists with a propulsion compulsion at Whalan Reserve
“TWELVE, 11, 10, nine, ignition sequence start, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero. All engines running, lift-off, we have lift-off.”
Everyone knows what it sounds like when a famous rocket, such as Apollo 11, launches.
But some people like to get a step closer to the action.
Members of the NSW Rocketry Association enjoy a version of their own launch countdown twice a month at Whalan Reserve.
Rocket hobbyists across Sydney converge on the reserve to launch their model rockets up to 500m every second Sunday and fourth Saturday of the month.
Association president Tim Banicevich, 43, from Panania, said people loved it. “The spectacle of it is great; when a flight works really well it’s a lot of fun,’’ Mr Banicevich said.
“And who doesn’t like a bit of noise and smoke and flame as well? Let’s say, controlled combustion.”
It isn’t quite Apollo 11, but rocketry enthusiasts buy model rockets or designs and construct their own.
They are launched into the air with various motors that determine the height and speed the model will reach.
“At Whalan the biggest that we’ve seen is 1.8 metres tall,” said Mr Banicevich, who works as a fibreglass and composites scientist.
“The biggest restraint is that if we want to use a bigger motor we have to build a larger rocket because we don’t want it going so high it ends up in someone’s yard.”
The association follows strict guidelines to prevent the rocket landing somewhere unfortunate, and bring the rockets back down safely, as per aviation rules, so they can be reused.
“Without getting too technical, air traffic control lets us go to 4000 feet but because of the drifting we can’t go above 1500 feet – which is still half a kilometre up,” said Mr Banicevich, who has been with the association since 2003.
David Cumming, 60, from Castle Hill, has been with the association since 2007.
He said his background was as an industrial chemist, but people from many walks of life were rocketry enthusiasts.
“We want to attract kids to it because there’s not many of that sort of activity you can do without sitting in front of a computer these days,” Mr Cumming said.
“Like any hobby, it’s easy to get into and then you can make it as simple or complicated as you want.”
Mr Cumming focuses mostly on small- to mediumsized rockets, usually
The biggest restraint is that if we want to use a bigger motor we have to build a larger rocket because we don’t want it going so high it ends up in someone’s yard Tim Banicevich
weighing between 500g and 1.5kg.
“I really like making my rockets,’’ he said. “But it doesn’t matter what size rocket or size motor. But it’s always great seeing one launch. It’s just a buzz.”
Both Mr Cumming and Mr Banicevich started out buying cheap model rockets to build.
They then started designing and constructing their own models as they grew in experience.
Mr Cumming said the group was grateful for the support of Blacktown Council. The council has been proactive is assisting the association to secure a launch site.
More information about the association and launch dates is available at: www.nswrocketry.org.au/.
Left: Spencer Allen sets up his scale rocket BBX ready to launch; top right: Members of the NSW Rocketry Association meet at Whalan Reserve twice a month; middle: the five-year-old Axion 2 rocket being set up ready to launch; bottom: Norman McGeoch, Tim Banicevich and David Cumming. Pictures: Jess Husband