Estes Mean Machine (#001295)

Beginning countdown, Engines on…

The Estes Mean Machine (#001295) is a fantastic looking sport flier. It’s built up with four lengths of BT-60 body tubes, and stands 79″ tall. You’ll definitely get some attention as you approach the flight line with this rocket over your shoulder, and you’ll keep their attention with its dramatic slow liftoff characteristics and beefy sounding D/E power.

It’s got a 24mm motor mount, and flies great on D12-3 (~500′) or E12-4 (~700′) BP motors. These motors both perform extremely well in this model. Estes also includes the D12-5 and E12-6 as “recommended” motors, but in my experience these delays are way too long, and could definitely result in a relatively high-speed ejection if your trajectory is somewhat flat. The one time I flew an E12-6, the “pucker factor” was definitely high as I watched the rocket nose over after apogee and start coming in ballistic. That’s a looong 6 seconds to wonder if the laundry is gonna come out.

Rod Launch – D12-3
Rail Launch – D12-3
(Note the motor casing nearly hitting me. “Shotgun” ejection – motor issue that tore out the motor hook)
Estes made good on the warranty!
Rail Launch – E12-6 … just a bit too much delay

The Good:

If you want to go with composite motors, there are lots of option there too. I used OpenRocket to do a simulation of this rocket using an Aerotech E30-7 for a predicted apogee of over 1200′.

  • Great looking model that really has “presence”, whether it’s just sitting on the pad, arcing through the sky or on display with the rest of your collection
  • Very stable model that flies straight as an arrow, and (despite having over 10 cal. of stability) doesn’t weathercock much in the wind.
  • Dramatic lift offs and lower apogees when using BP motors make this rocket a lot of fun to watch and suitable for flying in smaller fields.
  • Many power options available if you decide to fly composite motors.
  • Kit provides water slide decals.
  • Relatively easy to build, and excellent instructions.
  • The rocket breaks into two ~3 foot sections for storage and transport. The provided “twist lock” connection works very well for easy disassembly, and flight prep. This feature makes it much easier to pack the ‘chute and load the motor, its as if you were working with two 3′ rockets instead of a 6’ beanpole. You can then put the two halves together when you reach the flight line and are ready to put it on the pad.

The “Less Good”:

  • The kit is provided with 3/16″ launch lugs, which require a Maxi Launch Rod. The sheer length of this model alone begs for more support, and if you’re going to be using E or greater you really should be using a 1/4″ rod. If you have access to one, this rocket launches even better from a rail.
  • The tubing couplers provided with the kit are only 1.5″. I feel like this is somewhat marginal, and you have to take great care to make sure you get the joints straight. A cheap upgrade for this kit is to get some of Apogee’s BT-60 couplers which are 3″ long and don’t add any significant amount weight.
  • The length of this rocket, coupled with its thin-walled tubing can lead to warping issues if left in the sun. Earlier iterations of this model showed it painted black on the package insert, the current version is sporting blue and white livery. I’m guessing in response to this issue.
  • The length and weight of this rocket also tends to take its toll on landings. This has led to frequent fin repairs. I definitely recommend adding epoxy fillets to beef up the surface-mounted fins. There’s also a significant bending moment when the rocket contacts the ground … this resulted in a kinked body tube (easily repaired by cutting at the kink and adding a coupler) after one of my launches.

I believe all of these shortcomings are easily addressed with a few modifications. During one of my launches, I had a “shotgun ejection” that tore out the motor hook. This has nothing to do with an issue with the model itself … it was a motor malfunction. I’m still flying it with friction-fit motor retention, but the upshot is that Estes gave me a new kit and pack of motors under warranty when I reported the motor malfunction.

In an upcoming post, I’m going to build “Mean Machine Mk. II” with some mods inspired by my experiences with my first one.

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