The Floating-Rotating Space Station


  • Part Number (PN): 05017
  • Skill Level 4: Slightly Challenging
  • Length: 14.00" (35.56 cm)
  • Diameter (Max): 0.54" (1.37 cm)
  • Fin Count: 3
  • Motor Size: 13mm
  • Recovery System: Helicopter
  • Launch Pad Type: Low Power
  • Manufactured by: Apogee
6 Units in Stock
If insufficient or out of stock, call us to order!

Slow descending helicopter; it seems to float in the sky. Great for competition flights for the helicopter-duration event, or just for WOW-ing your friends.

The First Of Many Helicopter Recover Models

I like helicopter recovery models a lot. Can you tell? You must be intrigued by them too, or else you wouldn't be looking at this web page.

Many years ago, an educator friend of mine had just written a book for schools called: "Liftoff!" The book was to be a two-part project. The first part was the typical rocketry educational stuff, and the second part was to include some more advanced rocketry projects. One of them -- of course -- was a helicopter design.

Since he didn't know too much about helicopters, I drew up a simple little design that he could use in his book. My friend's book project started rolling along, and then the publisher decided it would be cool to offer rocket kits along with the book - sort of a package deal for teachers. So my friend told me to get the model into kit form, and wait for the orders to start rolling in. I had big dollar signs in my eyeballs!

To make a long story short, the publisher got cold feet, and canceled the second book. So the helicopter kits weren't needed. I didn't blame my friend, as his book deal fell apart too.

But this Heli-Roc kit is a good design as far as helicopters go. Being an aeronautical engineer; when I design a rocket, I try to make sure it is well though-out and is easily implemented. I feel that I took the basic Rota-roc concept, and made it a little bit better and easier to put together.

I didn't make it too simple though. It was supposed to be for schools to challenge the kids. So there are still a few areas in the design that give the builder some feeling of accomplishment when they construct the model. For example, you'll have to be able to bend a piece of wire with a pair of pliers to make the rubber band hooks. This is the type of things that makes the kit a Skill Level 4 type model.

Actual Launch
Click here to watch QuickTime video (1.1 MB)

One of the spiffy things that I noticed about this particular design is that when you take it to a launch and show spectators; you really don't have to say what it does. When they look at it, you can just see the light bulb flip on inside their heads. "It's a H-E-L-I-C-O-P-T-E-R!" they shout.

Once they make this connection, they have a whole different attitude about model rocketry. They no longer see rockets as just woosh-pop, but as something with wide variation and style. They can't wait for you to prep and launch the whirly-bird. With this one rocket, you get them hooked on the hobby!

Speaking of anti-woosh-pop rockets; another thing this rocket does is to introduce newer modelers to the neat concept of a "burn-string." What's a "burn-string" you ask?

In over ninety-nine percent of designs, the rocket engine's ejection charge is used to push out a parachute, or to slide a piston forward. Hence the "pop" sound in the term "woosh-pop."

Heli-roc Descent

We're talking about a completely different way to use the motor's ejection charge. In this model, the helicopter rotor blades are held down during launch by a thin thread. When the motor fires it's hot ejection charge, it burns the thread into two - thereby allowing the blades to spring outward. It is a simple, elegant, and a "light-weight" rocketry concept. Strangely, it's almost totally foreign to most modelers.

However, if you think about it long enough, you start to wonder how else you might use the motor's ejection charge. That's one reason why the rocket kit is so educational in nature.

Although a "Skill Level 4" rocket may scare some newer modelers, those of you who are familiar with Apogee's kits know that we spend a lot of time to make sure our instruction sheets are clearly written, and contain lots of easy-to-follow pictures. I don't think I've met a person yet that wasn't able to complete an Apogee kit if they've read and followed the instructions.

I'm confident that you'll be pleased with how nicely this rocket goes together from when you open up the bag, to when the rocket is launched. The building experience is almost as fun as the flights themselves.


Learn New Building Skills

A neat thing you'll discover as you build this kit is that you'll learn a lot of new building techniques. I mentioned previously about the bending the music wire with the pliers. You'll also learn about helicopters in general, and the "trick" to make the spin properly. What "trick" you ask?

When I started out in rocketry, for the life of me, I couldn't get my helicopter models to spin. Learning the "trick" didn't come until after about a dozen pretty catastrophic launches. You've probably gone through something similar: build -- shred; build -- shred; pull hair out...It gets pretty frustrating.

But I don't want you to go through the same nonsense that I went through. So you'll learn this trick as you're building this rocket, because the instructions clearly tell you about it. I want you to have as much fun flying helicopter rockets as I do

Helicopter Launches Are Always Fun

The Heli-Roc spins much more slowly in comparison to the Texas Twister model. It is very graceful as it descends, and comes down a bit more gently. This is because it has large rotor blades, with a rotor diameter of over 20 inches. It doesn't exactly have a "whop-whop-whop" sound, but if you pretend hard enough you can imagine the sounds that other spectators are straining to hear from the model.

Heli-roc kit ready for launch.
The kit comes cool decals that make the rotor blades look like solar panels.

Occasionally, if you get the tension just right on the rubber bands that deploy the rotor blades, you can definitely hear a neat buzzing sound as the rocket takes off. With the three rubber bands, the rocket almost plays a tune of three notes as it zooms skyward.

There are lots of reasons you might decide to buy this kit. A high-power rocketeer might like it for its "something different" approach. You don't often see helicopters at local launches, so this will be something unique when it is flown.

Educators will like this model because it teaches new skills, new techniques, and how to look at rockets from a different perspective. It goes beyond simple parachute and streamer recovery models. And it has just enough complexity to show that attention to detail is important to the rocket functioning properly.

The Heli-roc is something you should try if you're tired of same-ole, same-old small rockets. Even though it is an older Apogee kit, it is still refreshing, unique, and does -- "something!" It is a model that spectators love to see you fly.

The model comes with light-weight die-cut balsa fins and rotor blades; which makes it light weight and competitive in rocketry contests. And if you paint it like the futuristic rendering shown here, you'll find that it looks like a neat floating space station. How's that for something out-of-this-world - give it a whirl!

Questions You Might Have

Q. What will it be like for you to build the Heli-Roc?

A. Check out this build experience on Chris Michielssen's Build Blog

Sky Launch SystemQ. What launch pad should I use to launch this kit?

A. We recommend the Sky Launch System. This rocket flies just fine off this inexpensive launch pad.


Pick your own motors - Part 1Q. I need help selecting motors. What should I do? Can you teach me how to select them myself?

A. Watch this YouTube video - How to Select Model Rocket Engines

We encourage you to learn the proper motor selection technique. Please watch our YouTube video that will walk you step-by-step through the process

Other Helicopter Supplies

Texas Twister Helicopter Kit

Helicopter Construction Supplies - Replacement Rubber bands for the Heli-Roc kit. Also, if you like to build your own helicopter models, we've got the items to make your job quicker and easier.

Recommeded 13mm Engines for the Heli-Roc

Use the chart below to help determine which motor to use for this kit.

Estimated Altitude Predictions generated using RockSim

Not All Data Shown. Expand your browser or select options above.
Motor Manuf & Type/ Casing Color Comment Alt. Delay* Price Buy Now!
Single Use
Not Yet Tested
See Motor
4 pack
Single Use
Not Yet Tested
See Motor
4 pack
Single Use
Not Yet Tested
See Motor
4 pack

Rocket motors are sold separately from the kit. For more help in selecting rocket motors, see our video tutorial. If you're unsure, start with the "First Flight" recommendation or the one with the lowest altitude, then go up from there.

For other motors that are not tested or not listed here, download the Heli-Roc RockSim file and load it to see if it will work in this rocket kit. See also Technical Publication #28 for guidance on selecting appropriate rocket engines other than those listed in this chart.

RockSim File

Heli-Roc RockSim File To see how the Heli-Roc looks and performs with each motor configuration, download the FREE RockSim design file.

This file can be opened with the FREE demo version of RockSim. Both Windows and Macintosh versions are available.

What is a RockSim Design file?

The RockSim software gives you a lot of information about the flight characteristics of this rocket: how high, how fast, where it will land, how will it react to wind, etc. The "design file" is intended to save you time. All the parameters (size, shape, weight, fin design, etc.) of this rocket have already been entered into the RockSim program, and saved as an electronic database file. You can just open it up in your copy of RockSim and start loading different rocket motors to run launch simulations. It's fun and educational to see the rocket zoom skyward, even before you built it. For more information about RockSim and to download a FREE 30-day demo version, click here.

Tools needed to assemble the Heli-Roc
Basic Construction Tools:
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Hobby Knife - X-Acto with #11 Blade
  • Adhesives - Wood Glue or White Glue
  • Finishing Supplies like sanding sealer, paint and sandpaper (200 and 400 grit).
To Launch This Rocket Kit, You'll Also Need
  • Launch Pad & Controller - See FAQs tab for recommended choices.
  • Recovery Wadding - Disposable | Reusable
  • Rocket Motors - See the motor selection tab.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Heli-Roc
Get the Sky Complete Launch Pad and Controller here!
Q:What launch pad should I use to launch this kit?
A: We recommend the Sky Launch System. This smaller rocket flies just fine off this inexpensive launch pad.

Learn how to select rocket motors
Q:I need help selecting motors. What should I do? Can you teach me how to select them myself?
A: Watch this YouTube video - How to Select Model Rocket Engines

We encourage you to learn the proper motor selection technique. Please watch our YouTube video that will walk you step-by-step through the process

Reviews for the Heli-Roc

Talk to a Real Person!

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Fax: 719-534-9050

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QuickStart Guides:

I'm new to Model Rocketry!I'm new to Model Rocketry!
How rockets work and what should you fly.
I'm on or mentoring a TARC TeamI'm on or mentoring a TARC Team
Team America Rocketry Challenge deals and supplies.
I need info on Rocket Motors.I need info on Rocket Motors.
Differences in motor types and brands.
I want to fly bigger rockets!I want to fly bigger rockets!
Setting up to fly rockets on E, F or G motors.
I'm looking to get High Power Certified.I'm looking to get High Power Certified.
Find out the process and our recommended kits.
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See what it is, how it works and what you need.
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Trial version and tutorials for our simulation software.
I'm a student or educator!I'm a student or educator!
Teaching resources.


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