J P L - Mojave

              Jetex 50 Rocket Motor (approx actual size)

The Jetex Propulsion Lab was organized in early 2014 to develop very small rocket motors to propel model airplanes, racing cars, boats, and other action models. We're situated near the Mojave Air & Space Port, not far from Edwards AFB, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, the Skunk Works, and Navy Weapons Test Center, China Lake. This is the world's leading civilian air and space test site, and home of both Voyager and SpaceShip One. SpaceShip Two is being tested just a few blocks from our lab.

Hundreds of model airplane designs have been flown propelled by tiny rocket motors (mainly Jetex or Rapier), including aeromodels made of balsa wood, balsa-and-paper, and plastic foam. Model airplane enthusiasts have also devised contest classes for international competition with rocket-propelled planes using Jetex or Rapier. 

Since 1950, Jetex motors have captured the imagination of model builders--including racing cars, boats, and flying saucers--worldwide. The company that invented and made them is long out-of-business, making the motors and fuel collectors' items.

Jetex microrockets to propel model airplanes were invented in England in 1949. These reloadable rocket motors produce around an ounce of thrust for about 15-seconds. They're well-suited to power free-flight aeromodels, safe to operate, and fun to use and watch. Each motor can be reloaded with fuel pellets and flown many times.  Ignition is either electric or by fuse.  Jetex fuel is slow-burning, low-temperature, gas-generating pellets based upon guanidine nitrate. 

L to R: Jetex 50, Rapier L1, Rapier L2, Rapier L3, Rapier L4, Spadroon, Estes B4-4,
Jetex 150 PAA-Loader, Jetex 600 Scorpion. Click to see full size.

Rapier single-use rocket motors produce thrust and duration similar to Jetex, and are likewise designed to propel free-flight models.  They're made with cardboard tubes and clay nozzles, similar to the standard Estes-type motors, but with a very different propellant burning zinc powder with ammonium perchlorate. Rapier motors produce from about 0.2 to 0.5-ounce thrust for around 20-seconds.

Rapier motors are available in the Czech Republic, where they're made, but they're not exported due to international restrictions.  Recently, for a few years, many American model builders flew Rapier-propelled planes with great success and wide-spread interest and enthusiasm, but the supply of motors to USA has ended.

The ingredients to make both Jetex fuel pellets and Rapier-type rocket motors have become available in USA, though ever-tightening restrictions will likely soon make even these basic ingredients impossible to come by in small quantities.

Jetex Propulsion Lab has created a small facility in Mojave, California, to develop limited-edition batches of both Jetex pellets and Rapier-type long-burning motors.  The Rocket Science Institute has provided space for that small desert laboratory and static-test facility. Virtually unlimited flight testing is available year-around in this clear-sky desert rocket-science community.

Dr. Edward Jones, a retired rocket scientist and propellant chemical engineer, has extensive background with slow-burning, low-temperature, gas-generating propellants, dating to his work at Aerojet-General's solid-rocket plant in the 1950s and 60s.  His experience with rocket design and testing also includes several years at White Sands Proving Ground and Missile Range, and includes field engineering at NOTS China Lake (Ridgecrest CA).  

In 1997 Dr. Jones established Jetex.org as the leading reference resource on these unique rocket motors, building models for them, and flying them successfully.  He likewise opened the popular "Jet-Ex-Press" eGroup in 1998. That group now has over 600 subscribers.

He cofounded the Rocket Science Institute in New Mexico (1999), and is the RSI director emeritus and chief scientist.  Now he operates this small laboratory for ballistic testing, and propellant selection and characterization.

JPL has collected and assembled many of the necessary supplies, reagents, and tooling for these experiments.  Several key tools remain on our "wanted list."

Funding is needed to continue research and development testing.  At least $2,000 is needed to complete the project, with safe, flight-tested motors available to experienced aeromodellers. 

We anticipate and hope for widespread financial support from the free-flight aeromodelling community.  Two or three dozen contributions will empower this project to fly.  

Donors of $100 or more receive our test reports, and have first option to receive prototypes for flight testing.  

Dr. Edward Jones

Jetex Propulsion Lab is sponsored by the Rocket Science Institute, Inc., a non-profit science and education foundation.