(04/15/03) I decided to
do a bit of "paper building" with some of the
rockets throughout the Internet (See
my "Free" Paper-Rocket Comparison Page). One of the first that I downloaded was
FlisKits' Midnight Express. I downloaded the Pre-printed Pattern Sheet in
the PDF format from FlisKits. I printed it on 110lb Card Stock (Georgia Pacific
brand purchased from WalMart). I also downloaded and printed the instruction
set. Then got busy.
Interestingly enough, the rocket patterns
were all contained on a single page and yet there were four pages of
instructions. It is a testament to the effort put into this "free"
rocket by FlisKits. The instructions are well organized, well illustrated, and
very detailed. Excellent by any comparison.
You will need to provide a recovery system
including a shock cord and streamer. You will also need clay .
FlisKits recommends a 12-18" , 12" of Cotton Button Thread
for a streamer , masking tape to attach to the streamer, and an
18" Crepe Paper .
FlisKits also recommends that you have a
pencil, razor knife (hobby knife), white glue, an 1/8" dowel (for shaping
the launch lug), a short length of BT-5 , and 3-4 expended engine
casings (for shaping the body tube).
Without getting into all the details of
building, I cut each of the rocket pieces out of the pattern sheet and followed
each step in the instructions. The two tough points in building this rocket are
the and the fins.
The nose cone is just a bit tough because of
the point and trying to maintain a symmetrical finish. FlisKits points out that
it is common to have a gap near the point. Good because I did.
The fins are challenging because of the number of cuts
and folds. The fins are not simply a doubling over of the paper, rather, they
are built up and have a flat root and trailing edge. The is sharp,
giving the fins an finish. To accomplish this the lines need to be
scored and folded properly to make them look correctly. When finished the fins
are a little over 1/8" thick.
I liked the method for rolling the body tube.
This is accomplished by lining up 4 motors and wrapping the tube around them.
Worked great. The tube has a glue strip. It is cut out separately from the
body tube, glued on the inside edge of one side and set aside to dry. Then the
other side is glued to the tab, aligned and making the same level as the first
side. This makes the seam less noticeable.
The nose cone and the thrust ring
are essentially the same patterns with one being rolled and glued into the nose
cone and the other being positioned in the bottom of the rocket.
I used 32 inches of 1/32"
for my shock cord. It was attached using the 3-fold paper method (outlined in
the instructions) to the body tube. It was glued into the tip of the nose cone
per the instructions. Then after that was dry I added Plast-i-Clay Modeling
Clay for the nose weight. I added enough to get the (balance
point) to where the instructions indicated.
I added a 24" x 3/4"
Streamer. I cut this from a roll of Nomex
that I had purchased from the now defunct Rogue Aerospace many years
Overall, for CONSTRUCTION I
would rate this rocket
points. I understand it is "free", but with the quality of
instructions, it must be a 5.
FlisKits indicate that the Midnight Express
should weigh in at 0.3 ounces. My weighed 0.4 ounces. What's 0.1 ounce between
friends? They recommend the A6-4, A8-3, B6-4, and C6-5 for motors.
My first flight was on an A8-3. The motor is
into the motor mount until it hits the thrust ring. I added a
couple of balls of and rolled the streamer. Everything was
Trying to get a picture was funny. Even
though between my son and I we have worked out a fairly good system we still
missed it. Well, actually I got the trail of smoke. It was a good flight
though. Straight and seemingly stable. Ejection seemed early and down it
That was fun, so we did it again with a B6-4.
This time it went quite high (for a rocket this size) making it hard to see. I
saw the tracking smoke and the ejection. The ejection was clearly before
. We caught the streamer fluttering in the sky and was able to recover it
The third flight was a week later on a B6-4.
This time when it was going up, there was a very tight spiralling-wiggle. When
the tracking smoke was seen, it did seem to be starting an apogee arc.
The nose cone shoulder is showing a little
wear, but in general the rocket is holding up well. There colors on the body
tube show some stains, but this is from the snow melting on it.
For FLIGHT/RECOVERY, I would
rate this rocket
points. The flight of the Midnight Express is very good. Bring
trackers because it goes on a B motor.
I give the rocket an OVERALL rating of
points. Again, this is a "free" rocket. So as such
expectations are set a bit low. The expectations are shattered with the
exceptional 4 pages of instructions and the flight of this rocket. It provides
a unique rocketry building challenge as well. And FlisKits even allows you to
download a blank pattern set so you can "style" it your own way! Nice
(Contributed - by Elliott Bavely - 06/07/09)
Midnight Express (free paper rocket) by FlisKits.
This rocket is available as a downloadable PDF file that you print on cardstock then cut and build yourself. The
basic design is 3 fins, paper nose cone, and a paper body tube. Since this isn't actually a kit, you must provide a
recovery device (streamer is recommended), glue, and some sort of nose weight (clay, for example).
I first heard about this paper rocket from another review here on EMRR then visited the FlisKits site to take a
look. Sure enough, everything was there: downloadable parts sheet in the stock design, blank or "Tour de
Deuce" scheme, instructions, and even some photos of completed rockets.
I have to admit that I had never built a paper rocket before and was somewhat skeptical that the parts/fins would
hold up. I had heard good things about FlisKits in the past, and my 11 year old and I were up for the challenge. I
printed the parts sheet on 65lb cardstock that I found at a local hobby store.
The instructions were very easy to follow and coached me through the different techniques needed to build this
rocket. FlisKits includes two nosecones on the sheet in case the first one doesn't turn out, but I managed to make a
pretty good one on the first shot.
The fins were more challenging to do correctly, but I found that the "scoring" technique really helped,
especially if you use a straightedge like they suggest to make the lines exact. Pay special attention to the
fold as that needs to be relatively flat in order to glue it correctly to the body tube. I didn't really pay much
attention and ended up having one that was a bit tricky to glue on the tube.
The hardest part for me in building this model was the body tube. I used empty engine casings as suggested but
couldn't really get the body tube as tight as it should have been the first time. I scrapped that tube and printed
another. This time I took my time in rolling the tube, placing it in a BT-5 tube to "form" it and then gluing
it tightly. Not perfect but it worked. I had to make minor adjustments on the nosecone shoulder and
accordingly (the ID of the tube was off), but it wasn't a showstopper.
The instructions call for a length of shock cord plus some button thread to hold the streamer onto the
nosecone/shock cord assembly. Unfortunately, I used the wrong type of elastic (too bulky) and that made for some
challenges afterwards (more on that later). If I had it to do over again, I'd probably use something much thinner and
easier to pack.
Adding the weight to the model was easy thanks to the instructions. I added a little clay in the nosecone until
the model balanced near the 6.5" mark on the body tube (incidentally, very close to the X in Midnight Express).
My 11 year old son loved the project because of the challenge and the "oddity" of making everything out
All in all, I'd say I probably spent close to 2-3 hours assembling this rocket. It's great fun for an evening's
I liked the purple and red finish on the components and no real finishing is necessary. Doing a blank one could be
fun (especially for younger enthusiasts) because you could do whatever scheme you wanted. I'm not sure if spray
painting would be the best idea, but you could definitely do some neat stuff with markers or colored pencils.
Construction Rating: 5 out of 5
For our ME's first flight, we decided to load up a A8-3 to see how the model would perform. Since I used the wrong
width shock cord, the mount made packing the wadding and streamer difficult, but it all went in fine.
When I went to put the ME on the launch rod, I immediately noticed a problem...somehow the (hand
rolled per the instructions) was somewhat distorted and kept the rocket from sliding freely on the rod.
I think the launch lug's diameter was circular when I glued it, but somewhat went oblong when the engine was slid
in. The engine had drawn the body tube tight and caused the lug to pull flat a bit. This is probably my fault as it
would have been a better idea to have an engine in the tube to serve as a support while adding the lug in the first
I managed to work the launch lug back into shape and the rocket had a great flight...straight up, very stable.
Since the rocket is so light, it scooted right off the pad and probably soared 300-400 feet or so (just a guess). The
streamer deployed fine and the model was recovered in great shape.
The second flight was also on an A8-3 and went very much like the first. The wind had picked up and as a result
the rocket came down a bit harder than the first time and bent a fin slightly. I straightened it out (maybe soaking the
fins in would help) and then repacked it for a third time.
The third flight was on a B6-4 and for whatever reason, I had real problems packing the streamer and wadding this
time. I made the mistake of putting in a few squares of wadding pretty low in the tube then trying to fold up the bulky
shock cord to make it all fit.
The rocket launched fine and went straight out of sight. Impressive (600-700ft?) and I didn't actually
see anything until I heard a louder-than-normal pop on ejection. I then saw the rocket coming in nose down about 200
feet from the pad. Yikes...Lawn !
I thought my free rocket was done for sure. It came down in some long grass and I walked slowly over to
investigate the damage. I expected to see the seam blown out on the body tube or an accordion, but to my surprise, the
model was 100% fine.
The bunched up shock cord didn't allow for the streamer to deploy but also caused the engine to spit. I believe
that the ME without the engine came in pretty lightly (despite coming in in mode) and simply stuck in the
grass. We were all amazed but the Midnight Express will live to fly again...that is, of course after I alter the shock
Recovery was fine on the nylon streamer I had (from an old Estes kit). I'm going to redo it and use crepe paper like
the instructions show and also change the shock cord for something more suitable.
Flight Rating: 5 out of 5
The highlights of this rocket are that it's 100% free and it's a challenging fresh project if you've never done a
paper rocket before. The very idea of making the entire model from cardstock (except the recovery system) is very
The only drawback (and this only comes from my own inexperience) I can think of on this model is that you have to
be mindful of the delicate folds and parts. I think it's a good beginner kit and it's excellent for teaching some of
the paper building techniques.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5