(Contributed - by Dwayne Surdu-Miller - 05/23/09)
P.O.N.G. is a highly-detailed single-stage futuristic offered by Custom Rockets. This is an inexpensive
kit that packs a lot of fun, challenge, and parts in a small package. This is a skill level 3 rocket that won't
According to the kit label, P.O.N.G. is an (er, backronym, really) for Protector of Ninth Galaxy. There
was no background story included with the kit, which is too bad really. The look of the kit is intriguing. I would be
pretty cool to have it backed up by a little story.
My finished model weighed 1.2 ounces, but the kit's glossy claims 0.7 ounces. I'm unsure of where the additional
weight came from... paint, glue, and sanding ?
Included with the kit are:
- 1 instruction sheet, tri-fold, 8.5" x 11"
- 1 standard ping pong ball
- 2 body tubes, -5, 9" long
- 2 body tubes, BT-50, 1.85" long
- 2 tube couplers, BT-5
- 4 centering rings, fiber, BT-5 to BT-50
- 2 wooden dowels, 1/8" dia., 6" long
- 2 launch lugs, 1/8" dia., 1.5" long
- 1 , 13mm
- 1 , flat elastic, 1/8" wide, 17" long
- 1 sheet, die cut fins, 1/16" thick
- 1 , pink vinyl, 3cm wide x 60cm long
- 1 dummy engine tube, 13mm
- 1 reducer shroud sheet, printed, light card stock
- 1 decal sheet, pressure-sensitive plastic, not die-cut
- 1 decal sheet for shroud, -backed paper, not die-cut
Because I no longer have faith in the tri-fold shock cord mount when not protected by a
baffle, I added the following items for a Kevlar
and elastic alternative:
- 1 Kevlar
thread, 10" long
- 1 shock cord, round elastic, 1/16" dia., 24" long
- 1 cotton thread, crochet-style, 4" long
The body tubes have a fairly shallow spiral, so they should be easy to fill.
I found that the instructions were easy to follow and that the illustrations were clear and very helpful. The
assembly order was logical. To implement the Kevlar/elastic
shock cord, I tied the Kevlar
cord to the engine block just prior to gluing in the engine block.
When gluing in the engine block I ran into a snag. The motor tube got stuck in the body tube, and I pretty much
destroyed the dummy engine tube when getting it out with a pair of needle-nose pliers. I must have gotten a bit of glue
too close to the end of the body tube prior to inserting the block. Luckily, the main body tube was not damaged.
In general though, assembly was a lot of fun... Far more engaging than piecing together a model. Hobby knife
skills were important and were well exercised, having to separate the die-cut fins and centering rings, cut the dowels,
cut the reducer shroud pieces, cut the shroud decal, and cut the individual decals from the pressure-sensitive decal
There's so much here that you just don't get with plastic laden kits. The paper reducer needed a bit of patience
and skill to curl just right. The use of a separate tab glued to the inside edge of the shroud's adjoining ends made a
nice even seam without the uneven layers you get with a one-piece overlap arrangement.
This is the first time I've used hot-glue or a ping pong ball when building a rocket. I ran into a snag as I
wasn't satisfied with the alignment of the ball's center seam with the , and I attempted to move things
around where they were still hot... Bad move. The ball distorted badly where the glue in contact with the ball was
still hot. I replaced the ball and tried again. I had much better results this time. I had been concerned that the hot
glue wouldn't provide a strong enough joint, but this experience eliminated that concern. Hot glue is very effective in
Overall, construction was interesting, fun, and educational. There are many interesting activities involved with
building this model that made completion memorable and gratifying.
The instructions don't mention anything about sealing and sanding the exposed balsa. I can understand that, since the
decals cover most of the balsa anyway. The decals come pretty close to the edges of the balsa pieces, so you probably
don't want to round balsa edges. I didn't want any to show, so I finished the balsa surfaces with three coats of
sanding sealer, sanding between coats.
I spray painted with model with a couple of coats of last of my old-style Krylon white , sanded, and
applied a couple of coats of white satin.
One thing the instructions to not address is that in order to get your model to look like the picture included
with the kit, you need to paint the lower part of the upper tube orange. Using the kit's picture as a guide, I painted
the lower 5" of the upper tube with Krylon pumpkin. Oddly enough, the color matched the orange of the decals
Painting the view plate on the ping pong ball was an interesting challenge. The instructions shows what this
should look like. You are instructed to mark the shape with a pencil, but it doesn't tell how to get the shape onto the
ball accurately. I used a couple of pieces of body tube to get something close, namely a piece of BT-55 and a piece of
BT-50. I've included some pictures to give you a step-by-step.
After marking the ball, I used a superfine Microbrush to apply Testors gloss black enamel inside the lines. I'd
never used this technique before. It works very well with a steady hand, patience, and care.
I painted the dowels the same way, slipping masking tape between the body tube and the dowel to allow me to paint
the down surfaces facing the tube.
There were many, many decals to place. I tried dipping a decal tube wrap in water to slow down set up time for
accurate positioning... Don't do this! It causes the decals not to stick at all. The kit's picture was adequate for
figuring out what decals go where.
When all decals are in place, the P.O.N.G. looks very impressive. The balsa surfaces are mostly cover by opaque
parts of the decals. The decals applied to the BT-5, unfortunately, tend to lift their edges no matter what I try. I
kinda wish these were thinner, more pliable wet transfer decals instead, to avoid this issue.
Construction Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommended motors are A3-4T and A10-3T. I tried them both.
P.O.N.G. requires some to prevent the vinyl stream from melting. I used some cellulose insulation to good
effect. I spread some talcum powder on the streamer to prevent it from sticking to itself. It was tricky rolling the
24" streamer tight enough to fit into the BT-5 tube so that it would slide out easily. I might cut the streamer
down a bit in future to address this issue.
There is no motor retention in this design, so motors have to be by wrapping bits of masking tape
around the motor to make a snug fit. I need get better at this as the motor ejected itself during each of the three
I used an A3-4T for the first flight, as recommended in the instructions. Boost and coast was very straight and
of moderate height with no noticeable spin. It definitely flies like a long rocket, smooth and without wobble. P.O.N.G.
arced past and with nose down, deployed the streamer perfectly. P.O.N.G. landed gently in the grass field. Upon
recovery, I noticed that the motor must have been kicked out at deployment.
I used an A10-3T for the second flight. Boost was noticeably faster. Coast was again very straight, but the
height was noticeably lower. I suspect the drag of the nose and abrupt transitions becomes more critical with the speed
burst of the A10-3T. The slower, gentler A3-4T is a better match. P.O.N.G. arced past apogee and deployed the streamer
with nose down. Another gentle recovery, and the motor had been kicked out again.
I used a A3-4T for the third flight. I got to a nice moderate height after smooth, straight boost and coast.
Deployment happened with nose down, but the streamer didn't come out. P.O.N.G. landed in the grass without damage. I
found that the cellulose wadding had jammed up in the tube. The motor kicked out before the streamer could deploy.
The standard P.O.N.G. is kitted with a 24" elastic and a couple of tri-fold shock cord mounts. I did not use
these, favoring a Kevlar
cord with a round elastic. The Kevlar
cord and elastic were very easy to install during construction, and seemed to work well in flight.
After three flights, the streamer is undamaged. When the streamer deployed, it seemed to do an effective job of
slowing descent and being seen during descent and on the ground. P.O.N.G. survived three flights with no damage.
Having to rely on friction fit motors not being kicked out is an issue. I guess I've got to figure out how best
to tape the motors in there. Some sort of motor retention device would be a welcome addition.
Flight Rating: 4 out of 5
P.O.N.G. is a fun rocket to build, finish, and fly. This is a skill level 3 kit. I agree with that due to the number
of parts, variety of construction activities, and finishing details. It's a nice looking, attention getting model when
its all built, and it flies very well. And when you look at the price tag, wow! Big bang for the buck!
The design and instructions are very good, but I would suggest adding positive motor retention and a mention in
the instructions about painting the orange section of the upper body tube and how to accurate draw the view plate
pattern onto the ping pong ball.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5