Best Estes Model Rocket Kits

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

14 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
135 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best Estes model rocket kits

Last Updated December 2019

Estes has been producing high-quality model rocket kits for 60 years and is still one of the most trusted brands. Their rockets are easy to assemble and can often be launched multiple times.

Some Estes model rockets are suitable for young children to assemble (with adult supervision) while other kits are best assembled by adults. The engine size of a rocket determines how much force it launches with and how high it can reach in ideal conditions. Some rockets come with a parachute or a streamer to help with locating the rocket. Not all rocket kits include the necessary launching equipment, which includes engines, the launch pad, and the launch controller.

While most Estes model rocket kits are fairly inexpensive, you should still carefully consider your decision before buying a model rocket, especially if it is your first. To learn more about the different types of rockets offered by Estes, continue reading our shopping guide.

Estes rockets are designed to be launched multiple times, though it is possible that a rocket will become damaged after a flight.

Key considerations

Before you buy, you should think about what type of rocket you want. Estes makes replica rockets designed to look like real-life rockets that typically do not fly very high; they also have streamlined rockets designed to reach impressive heights. Rockets have engines of different sizes and vary in their difficulty of assembly. If you are just starting out or want to build a rocket with your child, there are plenty of beginner rockets to choose from. Veteran model rocket builders may enjoy the challenge of a more involved model. (If you have a small child who insists on doing everything “all by myself,” a stomp rocket is worth a look, too.)

Engine size

Estes rockets use engines (or “motors”) that are given a letter grade corresponding to their Installed Total Impulse — an estimated number of newton-seconds that the engine will provide propulsion for. Or, to put it simply, a higher letter means a bigger engine.

An “A” engine is used in smaller rockets and provides from 1.26 to 2.50 newton-seconds of impulse, while a “D” engine provides up to 20.00 newton-seconds.

The engines can also vary in diameter, so a “D” engine cannot fit in a rocket designed to hold an “A” engine.

A rocket’s engine should be appropriate for its size, weight, and desired speed and height. In some cases, a small rocket with a “B” engine will fly higher than a large rocket with a “C” engine.”

A rocket’s maximum height can range from 100 feet to 2,000 feet. The higher the rocket is designed to fly, the larger an area you will need.

A fun replica rocket

This stunning model rocket can be flown, put on display, or both. Though this rocket presents a difficult challenge, it is very rewarding and the end result is a realistic scale model.

Assembly

When you are just starting out, the best part of model rockets is, of course, the launch.

After you have more experience, the best part is still the launch, but you may have more appreciation for the skill and tiny details involved in preparing your rocket for flight.

Some Estes model rocket kits are ready to fly out of the box, which may appeal to you. However, you may find that there is something satisfying about watching a rocket that you worked hard to build launching successfully. And let’s be honest — watching it fall apart in the sky can be fun, too.

Estes rockets have a skill level that indicates the difficulty of assembly, ranging from 1 (beginner) to 5 (master). If you are just starting out, consider a beginner rocket that requires you to glue on the fins and assemble the body tube and nose cone. For something that requires a bit more thought and skill, consider an advanced kit that needs to be sanded down, painted, and meticulously glued together for optimal performance.

Total assembly can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. Be sure you know what you’re signing up for before you purchase one.

DID YOU KNOW?

Getting into model rocketry is fairly inexpensive compared to other hobbies. In addition, the learning curve is forgiving.

Features

Estes model rockets may be large or small, and their retrieval method can vary. In addition, not all rocket kits include all necessary launch gear.

Parts of an Estes model rocket

Building an Estes model rocket may technically be considered rocket science, but there’s not much to it. Here are the common components in Estes rockets:

  • Body tube: This is the main part of the rocket.
  • Nose cone: This part holds the parachute or streamer and helps the rocket cut through the air.
  • Fins: These may be made of plastic or balsa wood and guide the path of the rocket.
  • Engine: This is the part that shoots fire out of the rocket.
  • Parachute/streamer: This part deploys to help you retrieve the rocket or to guide it slowly to the ground.


There are a few other small parts, but this is the main anatomy of an Estes rocket. Every Estes rocket kit includes assembly instructions.

Launch set

Many beginner Estes model rockets include launch sets, which is great if you are just getting started. If you already own everything needed to launch, however, buying a rocket with a launch set is paying extra for something you don’t need.

A launch set includes:

  • An Estes model rocket (which may or may not be ready to fly)
  • A launch pad and rod
  • A launch controller

Recovery system

Model rockets may have a recovery system to slow its landing and help you locate the rocket. The two most common devices in Estes rockets are streamers and parachutes.

Both systems are stored in the body tube with a layer of wadding between it and the engine. When the engine fires its ejection charge, the wadding prevents flames from igniting the recovery device and the recovery device is ejected.

Parachutes are primarily used in larger rockets and help the rocket glide slowly and safely to the ground. The higher a rocket flies, the more likely it is to drift away from the launch area if a parachute is used.

Streamers serve the same function as parachutes, creating drag by flapping in the air as the rocket descends. Because they allow the rocket to fall vertically, these are the best option for rockets that reach extreme heights. Streamers are more common in small lightweight rockets.

Payload

Some Estes rockets may have a payload section, which allows you to install a device like a camera, altimeter, or speedometer. This can be a lot of fun and is useful for teaching children about the science behind projectiles.

Whether you enjoy assembling the rocket, watching it fly, or both, an Estes model rocket kit provides plenty of entertainment.

Estes model rocket kit prices

Inexpensive: Basic Estes rocket kits for $10 to $15 vary in their required assembly and can be suitable for beginners or advanced users. Rockets in this range rarely include launch equipment.

Mid-range: For $15 to $25, you can find kits that may come with one, two, or three rockets. Some kits on the higher end of this range may include launch gear but most do not.

Expensive: Kits for $25 to $50 are typically either launch kits, bulk sets, or larger rockets. Though you may need to pay more for your first model rocket kit, you will save money on future rockets since you will not need launch gear. Bulk kits may include anywhere from three to a dozen rockets.

EXPERT TIP

Once you are familiar with model rockets, you can mix and match parts from Estes model rocket kits to create a rocket all your own.


Staff  | BestReviews

Launching and safety tips

Since we are dealing with rocket science, here are a few tips to help you have a successful first launch:

  • Choose an open space clear of obstacles and other people. The larger an engine you are using, the more space you will need. A space about the size of a soccer field is usually sufficient.
  • Not only is counting down fun, it’s also safe and alerts anyone in your vicinity that you are about to launch a projectile at a high speed.
  • Always launch your rocket roughly from the middle of an open area. Even if there is no wind, you cannot predict exactly where a rocket’s path will take it or where the rocket will fall.
  • Cutting a spill hole in your parachute (along the lines of the circle in the center) allows for a faster descent, reducing the chances that your rocket drifts away.

Reaches impressive heights

A fan favorite that is easy to assemble and comes at a great low price. It doesn’t include a launch set, but it does reach an impressive height.

Other products we considered

One kit that we love for its large payload is the Estes Magician Flying Model Rocket Kit. It stands an impressive three feet tall and can reach heights of up to 1,600 feet. Another excellent kit is the Estes Designer Special, which includes 100 parts that can make up to eight rockets for an excellent value. Though this may seem overwhelming, the kit is very beginner-friendly. If you want an eye-catching rocket, consider the Estes Big Daddy Flying Model Rocket Kit, which is notable for its massive size. Though it is three inches in diameter, this fan-favorite reaches an impressive height of 900 feet.

Some Estes model rockets may need to be painted, which allows you to give your rocket a custom touch.

FAQ

Q. What do I need to assemble an Estes rocket?
A.
Most of what you need should be included with any Estes rocket kit. The only thing missing is adhesive. For attaching wood fins and other porous parts, wood glue is your best option. For plastic fins or other plastic parts, a plastic cement works best. Note that engines are typically sold separately.

Q. How do I know if I am allowed to launch model rockets in my area?
A.
Your city or local government should include information on any laws pertaining to model rockets on their website.

Q. Can you launch a rocket when it is windy out?
A.
No. Not only is this a good way to lose your rocket, but it can also be dangerous as it makes the flight path of your rocket unpredictable. Wait for a day with as little wind as possible.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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