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REV 2.4 - Tue Aug 17 00:08:31 2010

Hawks Hobby
Super Mars Snooper
13535 Sralla Rd #21
Crosby , Texas 77532
(281) 217-3217
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SPECS: 36.5" x 1.64" - 8.0 oz
ROCKSIM FILE: MISSING - please submit here
SpaceCAD FILE: MISSING - please submit here
REC'D MOTORS: D12-3, E9-4, Any Aerotech 24mm

(Contributed - by Chan Stevens [Who's Who Page] - 09/24/06) Hawks Hobby Super Mars Snooper

Upscale of the Estes classic Mars Snooper sized to fly on 24mm motors and packed with great quality components. Thru-the-wall fins and thick wall tubing make this a rugged beauty that could certainly handle the move up to 29mm if you're daring. It even flies as great as it looks!

After paying a little over $60 for this (including shipping), I was a little disappointed when the surprisingly small bag arrived a couple days later. I decided to relegate it to my build pile to age for a few months. I recently pulled it out though, and when I opened the bag to get started, I realized that this kit is well worth the money--the parts practically exploded out of the bag. There were tubes within tubes, cones stashed all over the place, and very nice laser-cut fins. All told, there were 7 balsa cones, a balsa transition, heavy wall tubes, and an assortment of other parts. I should have jumped on this one right away...

Parts list includes:

Hawks Hobby Super Mars Snooper
  • 1 1.64" x 13" body tube
  • 1 1.14" x 11" body tube
  • 1 balsa nose cone
  • 1 balsa transition
  • 3 laser-cut fin stock sheets, 1/8" thick
  • 3 wing pod tubes
  • 3 balsa wing pod nose cones
  • 3 balsa wing pod tail cones
  • 3 cardstock shrouds
  • Cardboard centering rings
  • 29/24mm motor adaptor kit
  • 29mm motor tube
  • Kevlar and elastic shock cord
  • 30" nylon chute
  • Waterslide decals

[Note: The parts list included an indexed photo of the parts layout, which is a nice touch.]

This is listed as a skill level 4 kit. I would agree with that assessment. This definitely requires above average building skills.

The instructions are just over 20 generally well written half-pages, however, the illustrations look like light copies of hand drawings. I would rate the instruction quality just a little below average.

Hawks Hobby Super Mars Snooper

Construction begins with the motor tube. You must first mark the lines where the centering rings go. Do this very carefully, as the spacing is critical for proper alignment with the through-the-wall fins. When bonding the centering rings, watch out for the first mistake I made: the first ring you bond is actually ring #2, going on the second line. You then glue a coupler to it and the second ring, which lines up roughly to the first line, anchors the back of the coupler. The rings do not fit inside the coupler as you might expect but attach to the outside edges instead. The other little adventure I had with the centering rings is that there are three different sizes, although they are described in the instructions as "small", "large", and "large". Personally, I think this would have been a lot easier if the smaller of the larges had been described as "medium" (or dub the largest large as 'grande'). The photo of the motor mount shown used the wrong "large", and I wound up having to swap it out later. For the record, the largest ring goes on the aft end of the coupler and the medium ring (with motor hook notch) is saved/used for later. The rest of the assembly is fairly straightforward with two more centering rings bonded and the Kevlar looped and anchored around the forward ring.

There is also a Semroc 29/24 adapter kit included with this. At first I thought this was so I could switch from 29 to 24mm motors, but it's actually to be bonded inside the 29mm motor tube. I'm not sure I get this though as I think friction fitting this would be a bit risky and there's no very good way to make positive motor retention work on the 24mm adaptor with the tail shroud in place. I'm not sure why they didn't just go with a 24mm tube and eliminate the 29mm tube altogether...

The pod assemblies are pretty simple: glue a nose cone in one end of the tube and a tail cone in the other. The fit was snug and virtually no seam between the cones and the tubes.

Hawks Hobby Super Mars SnooperHawks Hobby Super Mars Snooper

There are a total of 3 cardstock shrouds used on this build. I'm pretty anal retentive on shrouds and went to great effort to hide the seam. Rather than go the glue tab/overlap route, I chose to cut off the tab, glue it to the backside of the edge (with white glue!) and then glue the other edge to the exposed tab. After everything dried, I coated it with thin CA, sanded everything down, then filled in the seam with a little microfiller. Perfect. Not worth the effort though, as the shrouds are cleverly designed so that the seams serve as fin bonding lines, so they are almost completely covered anyway.

Hawks Hobby Super Mars Snooper Next up I attached the fins to the pod tubes using a wraparound guide to mark the lines. It's a bit of a pain, but you have to sand a taper to the root edge of the fins in order to fit to the taper of the nose and tail cones. As precisely as everything else seemed to line up on this kit, I was a little surprised the laser pattern didn't at least make an effort to come close. After about 20 minutes of fiddling to get the fit about right, I applied a little wood filler and three generous fillets to each joint.

The lower body tube is not pre-slotted, so I got to do that on my own. I carefully marked the tube for the slot locations and cut them out accordingly. Once you start trying to align all the components, you'll find that either the centering ring location dimensions or the fin slots are off by about 1/8", and when you insert the motor tube, the centering rings don't quite make it to the top of the fin slots. I wound up having to extend my fin slots a bit and patching up the exposed slot on the other side.

As the shrouds are glued in place, orientation and sequencing is very important. Orientation because the launch lugs goes through the shrouds (and a hole in the large centering ring plus a notch in the medium ring), and sequence because the forward shroud covers the rear shroud, which is slightly oversized and needs to be trimmed for fit.

The upper body assembly is a simple one--the fins are 2-piece bonded on a flat surface then attached to the tube (using a wraparound guide). The transition is glued in place. Do not glue the forward cone in place until you've finished the rocket and checked the CG. While there is no nose weight included in the kit, you might need some depending on your motor selection and a removable nose cone makes it easy to add/remove weight. Just make sure it's a very tight fit.

Once the upper and lower body assemblies are done, it's time for the tail. This is accomplished by sliding the third (smallest) shroud in place then gluing 6 ribs/fins that fit extremely well onto the two rearmost shrouds.

With all the balsa on this, plus a couple feet of tubing, there was plenty to fill in terms of grain and spirals. Two applications of diluted wood paste and about 6 hours of work later, I had a rocket ready to accept a nice paint job. I went with two light coats of Krylon primer followed by a base coat of white gloss. I topped it off with Rustoleum white gloss, which tends to produce a better gloss for me than the Krylon although it goes on a little bit thick and takes much longer to dry. After allowing a couple of days to cure, I masked off the fins and lower body area to paint the shroud area gloss black.

The instructions call for masking off a tapered area on the upper body and painting a dark blue. I looked at the cover art and really wasn't sure I could make that look anything other than weird or ugly, so I decided to just mask and paint the fins blue.

The waterslide decals to finish off the job are excellent quality. However, be careful when applying them though, as they have a strong bite and don't really want to move around once they touch paint.

Construction Rating: 4 out of 5

One thing you will need to consider before flying this is the amount of nose weight needed based upon your motor. The kit comes without any weight whatsoever, but notes that you might need to add accordingly to bring your CG 25.25" aft of the nose with the heaviest motor you intend to fly. Considering my empty weight was 8 ounces, versus the manufacturer spec of 9oz, I figured I'd better check into this a bit more carefully.

My CG with a D12 and no nose weight was right at the 25.25 mark. With an E9, I was a bit aft. With an Ellis F20, I was quite a bit off. I added 4 washers (about 0.8oz), which made me stable on the F20.

Launch day was pretty breezy with winds steady at 10mph and gusting to 12-13mph. I had intended to start out with an E9-4, but the prospect of tracking a 30" chute in those winds made me wimp out and start with a D12-3. It weathercocked a good bit, arced over, and deployed right at apogee. The altitude was a bit wimpy, maybe 200-250 feet, and the 30" chute was actually about right as it came down a bit hard.

I was a bit worried about how well the pods/fins would hold up to hard landings, but this one fared well and the rocket suffered no damage (it landed on hard grass).

Given the short walk, I loaded her up again with an E9-4 and took out two of the 4 washers. It was a much better flight--I could see it trying to weathercock a bit, but the nose held straight up. Another perfect deployment and this time I got plenty of drift--about 500 yards, landing within 50 feet of the end of the park and a major road.

Not one to press my luck, I put this beauty back in the box for another day.

Temporary/adjustable nose weight is an excellent idea for this kit, allowing me to "tune" the rocket for the flight conditions. The chute is also a beauty.

The only con I could offer up on flight/recovery is a longing for 29mm option along with the 24mm adaptor.

Flight Rating: 5 out of 5

This is an excellent kit, great looking rocket, and top quality materials. It was a pleasure building and flying it, and I look forward to many more flights.

On the con side, the illustrations were a little weak compared to some of the other larger players (FlisKits and Semroc) but were adequate for a small vendor trying to make a little money off his hobby.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

(Contributed - by James Gartrell [Who's Who Page] - 05/12/08) Hawks Hobby Mars Snooper

I received this as a Christmas present from Hawks Hobby. The Snooper really takes me back to my early days of rocketry, and Hawks' upscale has excellently reproduced this rocket with lots of upgrades to go with the larger size. This is their latest version with through-the-wall basswood fins and is one huge, fantastic rocket. It flies on 24mm motors and recovers by parachute. A spacer is included in the motor mount kit to allow the use of either Estes D or E motors. The rocket stands 35 ½ inches tall and has a fin span of 13 ½ inches!

The first thing you'll notice is the kit is jam packed with a ton of high-quality parts. Also, all of the small parts are contained in plastic bags, which I greatly appreciate. A Fin/Pod Marking Guide is included to assure proper alignment of those items. The instructions are very straightforward and include lots of helpful illustrations. Although the normal "dread" with the Snooper is making those three card stock transitions, the larger size of the Hawks Snooper makes this much easier. Follow their helpful illustrated instructions and I think you'll be surprised at how well these will come out. Mine are the best I've ever done. An ST-16 is used for the main tube, a 29mm heavy-duty motor mount tube is used for the upper airframe, and ST-8 is used for the pod tubes. An internal heavy-duty 29mm tube is also used to house the motor mount and then centered inside the lower airframe with the centering rings attached to align with the fin slots and support the card stock shrouds. I filled the grain in the nose cones (all seven of them!), fins and transitions, and the seams in all of the tubes with Elmer's Fill ‘n' Finish. The nose cone and transition are very nice balsa, except the shoulder of the transition in my kit was way too short. I recommended to Loretta to use a longer shoulder in future kits. The fins are basswood and laser cut which also makes for a much sturdier rocket than the balsa used in the earlier kits. The "radiator" fins at the rear are still balsa, but that is actually helpful by keeping weight down. The 24mm motor mount fits the longer Estes "E" motor. The centering rings used to support the card stock transitions and to center the internal tube are all laser-cut light-ply, and the motor mount kit includes a 3.75" engine hook. A Kevlar/3/8" elastic shock cord combo is included, along with a big 3/16" launch lug, a hefty eye screw, and some really nice waterslide decals. The enlarged decals match the original perfectly and are exceptionally reproduced. The shock cord was super long as I modified the way it is installed. The instructions indicate to attach the Kevlar cord to the motor mount and then attaching the elastic cord to a loop at the end. I used my standard tri-fold shock cord attachment to allow inspection of the shock cord. I do love it though when the manufacturer puts Kevlar in the kit! The pre-assembled, 30" rip-stop nylon parachute that is included is an excellent plus, too, and exhibits the same level of quality as the rest of the kit--top notch!

I pre-sanded and prepped all of the parts before starting construction, which is my usual routine. That way I am sure to have sanded any attachment points and minimize any sanding in tight places that might otherwise be required in the final finishing steps. Similarly, after making the card stock shrouds, I sanded those to a smooth finish. After gluing the pod cones to the pod tubes, I also prepped those to fill the joints and sanded them for a smooth transition between the cones and tubes. Except for having to cut the fin slots, aligning the motor mount centering rings with the fin slots, and the alignment of the centering rings for the shrouds and launch lug, construction of the rocket is pretty straightforward. I read through those sections of the instructions several times and test fitted everything to make sure I knew how it all fit together. Also, don't do too much sanding on the radiator fins since they need to fit seamlessly at the attachment points on the three shrouds. I used yellow glue for all of the construction except I smoothed in JB-Weld for the fillets on the three main fins due to the slope of the transition. Using the "double-glue" joint method makes attaching the pods and outer fins a lot easier to manage. The double-glue joint attaches must faster so the parts are much less likely to "un-align" while drying. As is usual on any rocket I build, I installed a length of Kevlar, which was provided, in a paper shock cord attachment (not provided) with a loop at the end to attach the elastic shock cord. To minimize abrasion from the Kevlar against the body tube, I soaked in CA around the top 1/2" of the body tube and tied a knot in the Kevlar to meet the lip of the body tube. As I noted earlier, the parachute is already assembled and it has small grommets holding the shroud lines. It's a very nice parachute!

Hawks Hobby Mars Snooper The instructions note the position of the CG and explain how to modify the rocket to add variable weights to the nose cone depending upon motor use. Supplies for this modification are not included. Hawks suggests installing an eye screw in the upper nose cone that may be removed and then weights added as necessary. I used a length of all-thread instead with nuts and locking washers. That way, the all-thread can be permanently glued in, which works better in my opinion. Removing and re-installing the eye screw will eventually wallow out the hole, which could cause the weights to drop down into the tube upon the force of take-off.

As I noted earlier, all of the pre-finishing was done up front before anything was installed. Only a light coat of filler was used on the fins as the basswood was very smooth after sanding with 400 grit sandpaper. Due to the paint scheme I chose, I painted the radiator fins separately and then added them after painting the rest of the model. Be sure to mask off where they will attach to assure a good bond. The finish is from the front cover of the 1966 Estes Product Catalog. I used this same paint scheme on a regular size model that was entered into the DARS Annual Fall Classic contest, and it won first place! I'm hoping to be able to enter this one into this year's contest in the "Open" category. I sprayed the entire model with a light coat of Kilz to seal off the glue and provide a solid base coat. Next, I lightly sanded the entire model with 240 grit sandpaper and then sprayed on a coat of primer. Next, sand and primer and sand and primer again, sanding with 400 grit sandpaper. Painting the rocket with this paint scheme takes a lot of masking and waiting for paint to dry before masking and painting the next set of colors. Paints used were Krylon for the yellow and blue, Valspar's Restoration Series Allis-Chalmers orange, and Rustoleum's Metallic silver. I initially used Rustoleum's Bright Metallic silver but something went wrong there, and I had to strip it off and repaint. It just never dried. After putting on masking tape to paint the orange after three days of drying, the paint lifted or there were impressions of the tape after removal. Anyways, after drying for a couple of days after repainting I applied the decals. The decals went on much easier and laid down much better than I anticipated. The main decal is fairly big for waterslide! It went on easily enough though and looks fantastic! I didn't install the "1 2 3" fin decals due to the paint scheme I chose. Once complete, I put on a thick coat of Future Floor Finish to protect everything.

Construction Rating: 5 out of 5

Hawks Hobby Mars Snooper

My first flight was on an Estes E9-6. The face card indicates to use the Estes E9-4, but the winds were really light so I decided to use the 6 second delay. That may have been a mistake. The up part was fantastic, straight, and true.

Ejection didn't occur until after the rocket was heading down and when the parachute came out it got caught up in one of the fins. The ground was pretty soft so not much damage occurred, although one of the pod tube/outer fins broke off on landing. There were also some cracks in the paint along a couple of the fin joints. George Sprague, a fellow DARS member suggested putting on a round key holder around the shroud lines to allow the parachute to open slower. Good idea! Too bad he didn't suggest that before I sent it up. I've since fixed everything and touched up the paint. Hopefully it will still be nice enough to win the contest!

Flight Rating: 5 out of 5

Hawks Hobby Mars Snooper

The Super Mars Snooper is a fantastic rocket. It is hugely impressive on the launch pad and beautiful in flight. The through-the-wall basswood fins are solid and are much better than the previous surface mounted balsa fins. Recovery on the large, 30-inch rip-stop nylon chute is a big plus for a soft landing with the big fins. When you consider that the kit has seven balsa nose cones, a huge balsa transition, and a big nylon parachute, the pricing is excellent. I highly recommend this kit.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

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[Enter Flight Log]
Date Name Motor Ejection/
Wind Notes
04-19-2008 James Gartrell Est SU E9-6 Just Past (1-2sec) 0-5 mph winds Flight PictureEvent: Frisco Field
- Didn't have the recommended 4-second delay, so opted to use 6-second delay since winds were very light. Parachute ejected almost a second past apogee and parachute got caught in body and didn't open. Broke an outer-fin/pod.
09-24-2006 Chan Stevens Est SU D12-3 Apogee - NC Up 10+ mph winds - Slight weathercock, used 1 oz nose weight
09-24-2006 Chan Stevens Est SU E9-4 Apogee - Perfect 10+ mph winds -
10-08-2006 Chan Stevens Est SU E9-4 Apogee - NC Down 0-5 mph winds - Weathercocked a bit in 5 MPH winds

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