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AeroTech Motors

Aerotech is one of the oldest manufacturers of Composite-Propellant rocket engines in the world. Apogee Components is one of their oldest customers, because we like their products. They push your rockets high into the sky with a variety of different formulations of propellants. They offer both single-use motors, which you use once and discard, and reloadable motors, which can be used again and again. If in doubt about which one to use, please give us a call here at Apogee Components.

Do You Need Help Choosing A Rocket Motor?

Don't panic! We're here to help you. 

  1. First off, take a look at your kit. Are there recommendations on the packaging?
  2. If you purchased the kit from us, or if you purchased a kit that we also sell, take a look at the recommendations on the kit's page. It's near the bottom.
  3. If your field is limited and surrounded by trees and buildings, choose a motor with a lower letter and number to limit altitude and increase your chance of recovery.

If you're still unsure about which motor to use, don't hesitate to call us at 719-535-9335 and ask for our recommendations. We're warm and friendly, and don't bite (that's a promise).


What do all the letters and numbers in the the motor name mean?

Lets take an example so you can see how to read the charts. As an example, we'll look at the "E28-4T" motor. 

Breaking it down, we have four bits of information. "E," "28," "4," and "T"

Power ClassificationThe first letter, "E," in our example, is the power level classification of the motor. If you look at the chart at the right, you can see that "E" motors range between 20 and 40 Newton-seconds of "Total Impulse". Each letter's maximum total impulse is twice that of the prior. For a full chart of impulse classification levels, check out the Wikipedia page

In our example, the E28-4T has 39.69 N-s of total impulse per the manufacturer, so it would considered a "Full" E motor since it is so close to the maximum of 40 N-s.

The first number after the power letter is the average thrust level of the rocket measured in Newtons, equivalent to 0.225 pounds of force. That means in our example, the motor has an average thrust of 28 Newtons.

The number after the dash is the length of time in which the "delay" charge burns before it allows the ejection charge, which deploys your parachute, to go off. Delay allows time for the rocket to coast and slow down so the parachute doesn't rip out of the tube at ejection. In our example, the rocket would coast for 4 seconds before deployment.

Most single-use motors give a hard number for the delay, and you will need to purchase the appropriate one for your kit. Some loadable, larger single use or reloadable motors will often have a maximum delay that, with a specially designed tool, you can use to shorten the delay to what is best for your rocket. Look at the "Max Delay" statistic for that particular motor.  If it is an N/A, or not listed, you cannot adjust the delay. A "P" stands for plugged, and requires electronics to deploy the parachute, because there is no ejection charge in plugged motors. 

The letter after the delay* denotes the propellant type, aka color, of the motor. Each brand uses a different lettering scheme. Our example is an Aerotech motor, and the "T" tells us that it is a Blue Thunder propellant. Propellant type doesn't affect the way your rocket flies, it just affects the way it looks at takeoff. See the image below to get an idea of what the flame will look like for the different chemical formulations. For more information on motor flame-color, see Peak-of-Flight Newsletter #217.


Aerotech Propellant


Note: The "T" for the Blue Thunder formulation can cause a little confusion, since Estes use the "T" designation to indicate the size of the motor as being 13mm in diameter. See Estes Items for more about the "T."

*The propellant type may also come immediately before the dash on some high-power reloads. In the example of H123W-M, the ordering goes (Total Impulse)(Average Thrust)(Propellant)-(Delay)

The following propellant descriptions are courtesy of Aerotech:

White Lightning™ (W) - A brilliant white flame, dense bright white exhaust and a throaty roar are the hallmarks of this popular propellant. Easy to track. Exciting to watch! White Lightning looks and sounds like actual sounding rockets and launch vehicles. Special effects professionals and aerospace companies specify the AeroTech White Lightning propellant to achieve realistic simulation.

Blue Thunder™ (T) - Produces a bright violet-blue flame with a minimum of exhaust smoke. These motors provide a higher level of thrust than White Lightning or Black Jack motors of the same total impulse. Blue Thunder is the perfect propellant for high lift-off acceleration.

Black Jack™ (J) and Black Max™ (FJ) - Provides the high visibility tracking of dense black exhaust. In addition to a distinctive lift off roar, Black Jack motors give your models lower acceleration and longer powered flight than White Lightning or Blue Thunder motors of the same total impulse. Black Max provides slightly higher acceleration than White Lightning Propellant.

Redline™ (R) - Distinctly different from its propellant relatives, Redline provides unique visual and thrust characteristics for larger airframes and performance oriented flyers. The proprietary AeroTech formulation imparts Redline with its signature vivid scarlet flame. Redline's burning rate lies midway between that of White Lightning and Blue Thunder. Photos don't do justice to the "laser-beam" intensity and color of Redline… you have
to see it to appreciate it!

Warp-9™ (N) - If you blink you'll miss it! Displaying a prominent yellow-orange flame studded with "mach diamonds", Warp-9 is AeroTech's fastest-burning propellant. Originally developed for Orbital's Pegasus® fin motors, Warp-9 is perfect when you need the highest thrust possible from a given motor size. Alternatively, when used in an "endburning" grain configuration, Warp-9 delivers unique thrust curve profiles such as that produced by the new G69N model rocket reload.

Mojave Green™ (G) - Mojave Green™ is one of AeroTech's newer propellants designed for its single use and RMS reloadable motors. Named for an infamous green rattlesnake with two types of venom that roams the Mojave desert, Mojave Green produces a brilliant green exhaust plume with a moderate amount of smoke. Mojave Green's high density and specific impulse delivers a higher total impulse in each motor size than any other AeroTech propellant. Motor burn times using Mojave Green are similar to those produced by Redline™.

Metalstorm™ (M) - Metalstorm has completely different visual, audible and performance characteristics than the other sparky propellants currently on the market. Metalstorm ignites easily and produces a large, brilliant white exhaust plume, a much longer yellow-orange dense spark tail, plentiful white sparks that fan out in flight and an ample volume of white smoke.

Metalstorm’s high density and relatively high specific impulse results in a higher delivered total impulse for a given volume than some other sparky propellants. This characteristic makes Metalstorm "the performance sparky". Motor burn times using Metalstorm propellant are slightly longer than those produced by White Lightning™, but the total impulse is only slightly lower.

Metalstorm motors assemble in an identical fashion to other AeroTech reloads fitting the same hardware. Cleanup is easy with none of the problems plaguing earlier sparky motors.

As with all rocket motors using spark-generating propellants, special precautions must be taken to avoid fires around the launch pad by clearing the immediate area of all combustible materials in accordance with
applicable fire and safety codes.

Dark Matter (DM) - Dark Matter is a sparky propellant but unlike Metalstorm with it’s higher ISP and white smoke, Dark Matter is the black smoke sparky. These remind me of the old black powder Rocketflite Silver Streaks, which were legendary in the early days of high-power rocketry. As with all rocket motors using spark-generating propellants, special precautions must be taken to avoid fires around the launch pad by clearing the immediate area of all combustible materials in accordance with
applicable fire and safety codes.

Propellant X (X) - Proplellant X is a new high ISP propellant. It is a fast burning propellant with a long yellow/white flame and low smoke.


What Does "Composite Propellant" Mean?
White Lightning Flame

Right: Apogee Saturn 1B model lifts off on an Aerotech Econojet F20-4W motor. Photo by Tim Doll

Composite Propellant -- in general terms -- means that the propellant is a mixture of ingredients (fuel and oxidizer substances) that when mixed together, solidify by means of a chemical reaction. By chemical reaction, it is similar to mixing up epoxy; when Part A and Part B are mixed, the chemical reaction causes the mixture to harden. By contrast, "Black Powder" propellant is a powdery substance that is "pressed" into a hard slug.

The reason composite motors cost a little bit more than black powder motors (such as the Estes or Quest motors) is because of this chemical formulation of the fuel inside. These motors use a high-energy propellant formulation; very similar to the type of propellant used in the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) of the Space Shuttle. What this means to us modelers is that when it burns, it gives off much more thrust per weight of the fuel. Composite motors are more than two times more efficient than black powder propellant rocket motors. They are smaller, and produce much more power!

But to get this extra power and higher efficiency, the ingredients that make up the propellant are more expensive than black powder. Not only that, but the case that holds the propellant has to be much stronger to contain the higher pressure the gases create as the propellant burns. So there is also the expense of this extra-strong case to hold it all together. You wouldn't want your motor to burst open because of a flimsy case, would you?


Reasons To Use Composite Propellant Motors

I know what you're thinking. You don't care about high-efficiency. You just want a cheap motor. Since black powder propellant is cheaper, why not use it to make big motors to save money? That is a great observation, and shows you're thinking like a true rocket scientist. But unfortunately, there are two problems: technical and economic.

Technical Reasons

On the technical side, black powder when pressed into a rocket motor is very very brittle. In other words, it cracks easily. The bigger the motor, the worse the problem becomes. So if you dropped a large black powder motor on the ground, or it got really jiggled during shipping, it could easily get a hairline crack in it. That means when you launch it, the motor will burst open, and cause the model to crash and break. Would you want your bigger, and more expensive rockets to be destroyed on their first flight?

This is the main reason you don't often see black powder rocket motors larger than a D or E size. Bigger than this, and the failure rate increases to the point where you destroy too many good rocket models.

By contrast, composite propellant is actually rubbery. It has the consistency of a pencil eraser. It doesn't crack or break like black powder propellant. So it can take a lot of abuse that the shipping companies usually seem to subject packages to. Your success rate increases exponentially. This is the reason that it is actually cheaper to use composite motors on mid-size and larger rockets. You won't be replacing the rockets because the motor burst open.

Economical Reasons

The bigger the black powder motor, the more difficult it is to make. The machinery is bigger and more expensive. Whereas, in composite motors, the production equipment doesn't change between smaller motors and bigger ones. So it becomes cheaper to make big composite propellant motors than making an equivalent size black powder motor.

These motors have many advantages. Serious modelers love them because:

  • The high thrust gives you the extra oomph to get those big rockets into the air.
  • Small size - when used in smaller models, they really scream out of sight.
  • Brilliantly colored flame color, and loud roar make them a crowd pleaser when you launch them.
  • Anyone can use them. They are legal in all 50 states and USA Territories!
  • No Federal nor State Explosive Permits needed to possess or transport these motors.
  • No "explosive storage magazine" required to store these motors in your house.


Size Comparison
size comparison versus the D12

How do the sizes of these motors compare to the classic Estes motors? Check out the picture above!

Aerotech D motors are the smaller than the Estes D motors. They are actually 18mm, the same size as the Estes C, but go much higher! 

Aerotech E motors, and some F are 24mm and will fit in the same mount that an Estes D does. Check the length, as the F32, for example, is longer, and will need a longer engine hook (Estes E-Size).

Most Aerotech F motors are 29mm, the same diameter as an Estes E. Aerotech G motors are 29mm, but longer than the F, so make sure your motor mount will accomodate them!

If you need help designing and building engine mounts, see our e-zine newsletter #104, or check out our motor mount kits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why don't you ship rocket motors to countries outside the USA?
A: There are too many shipping regulations. We're a small company, and we don't have the manpower to track the regulations for each country in the world. So to keep our prices as low as possible, we only ship to USA customers.

Q: Can you ship this item to me by this weekend?
A: All motors (including kits that contain rocket motors) must be shipped by surface transportation (truck). While we usually ship this item the same day the order comes in, you should plan extra time for the postal service to deliver them via third class mail (Parcel Select).

To expedite your order, you can request that the order be split, and the motors ship separately from the rest. This will incur a fee of $6 for standard motor shipping (not hazmat) to cover the additional cost of two shipments.

Q: How is maximum lift-off weight determined?
A: The maximum recommended lift-off weight for each delay depends on the size of the rocket, its drag coefficient, launch angle, and the wind conditions at launch. We recommend running a RockSim computer simulation for each rocket design and launch conditions to select the proper motor delay. For help selecting the correct delay time, see Apogee Technical Publication #28. For additional information on maximum lift-off weight, see our FREE newsletter article on this subject. Click here to download Issue #214.

Q: I had a motor CATO with my Aerotech motor, and I would like to submit a warranty claim. What do I need to do?
A: Aerotech handles warranty claims directly. Please see their warranty page for their policies and instructions.

NOTE: Apogee cannot answer "why did this happen" questions. We are not pyro-technicians nor chemists, and so do not know why a motor may have failed. Only Aerotech can determine (or make an educated guess) why a motor may have failed.

Learn how to select rocket motorsQ: 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

New Products For August - AeroTech Motors

Sat, 01 Aug 2015 07:48:06 -0600GMT
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