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From the Ashes: A Shadow Reborn

The Shadow was one of the largest kits produced by Estes. It was also one of the best looking. I flew mine on D12 and E15 motors serveral times. But on a D12, the rocket didn't go very high and there often wasn't time for the parachute to fully deploy. I repaired many broken fins. After one hard landing, however, I realized it was time to retire the Shadow.

But the rocket had become a favorite of mine so I decided to clone it. I started with an Aerotech kit which was about the same size as the Shadow and included a nose cone that looked like the Shadow's.

I replaced the kit's fins with new ones cut from 1/8" plywood and cut one of the body tubes to a shorter length to match the Shadow's size.

The Shadow Clone

I launched the Shadow clone many times on F and G motors. It was one of my best performing rockets. I even launched it once at night using a nose cone modified to carry a flashlight.

After about a dozen flights, the paint job was starting to get scuffed up. So I re-painted the rocket a metallic blue color and kept flying it.

At Bennell Blast 2006 I launched the Shadow on an F motor.

The flight was perfect and there was no wind that morning. So I loaded a G38 motor into the rocket. The LCO counted down "3 ... 2 ... 1 ...." The motor ignited and immediately the top of the rocket popped off and fell to the ground. The bottom of the rocket sat on the pad as smoke plumed out of the body tube. Soon flames appeared. After a few seconds, the flames went out and the smoke cleared.

When I was able to recover the rocket, I found the inside of the rocket totally charred. The epoxy and the plastic "fin lok" guides holding the fins melted so the fins were loose.

When I removed the motor, I saw that it had burned from the top.

Aerotech replaced the failed motor with one of their new G77 RedLine Loadable Motor System motors. They also sent a new body tube and motor mount.

I used the new Aerotech parts along with some of the surviving parts to rebuild the Shadow.

My first thought was to reuse the fins, so I removed them from the old rocket. I just used an Xacto knife to score a line through the fillets on each side of the fins. After that it was easy to pry the fins from the old body tube.

I cleaned up the fins and test fitted them. I found that the rear fins didn't fit well and it was hard to get the epoxy off. So I ended up making new fins.

I used the motor mount, "Fin-lok", and baffle from Aerotech, but left out the engine hook and thrust ring since I prefer to secure the motor with a ring of tape.

The tabs I included on the 1/8" thick fins fits into the Fin-Lok guides. I used epoxy to glue in the rear fins. I then used clamps and a metal ruler to position the front fins and hold them while the glue dried.

I painted the rocket using the original silver and black scheme. I didn't realize until I put it together for the above photograph that I had forgotten to shorten the new body tube. But I like the result - a stretched Shadow.

[Posted: 2007-01-01 | Updated: 2007-01-01]

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