Verna & Randy's Rockets

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May 2021





Jonathon Wilkins', Trident Arrow.

Everyone knows we love building and flying clustered rockets, for many years it's been all we do, so naturally, when we see anyone doing the same, we stop and take notice.

How could you not notice Jonathon Wilkins', Trident Arrow? Obviously, he put a lot of time into the build and we love the red, white and blue paint scheme.


I'm not sure if Jonathan has more than one Trident Arrow or if the photo above is of the same one dressed in white but either way, we love it and the shot of it frozen it time.


I've been flying since July of 1968, just a few days short of 53 years. While I have no real data to support my estimate, I'd say the percentage of flyers who ever clustered a rocket, is about the same today as in 68.

Speaking strictly from personal experience, I'd guess-timate the number of flyers who regularly cluster is below 10 percent. I've been to more launches than I can remember and with many individuals and clubs. In all that time, Verna and I have usually been the only flyers at most launches to fly a clustered rocket for the day. Once in a blue moon there might be 1 flyer to make a single cluster flight the entire launch.

Why clusters are so rare has always been a mystery to me. Yes, I know there are others who fly clusters but to do so is far and away a minority activity. If you think of the number of clustered kits that have been offered by Estes, I'd say it's roughly the same ratio of cluster flyers. SMALL.


Black powder clustering isn't all that hard, most existing kits are easily modified for clustered flight and that to me is part of the mystery of why there aren't more flyers who cluster. We like clusters because they can be more challenging to build and fly; more fire and smoke! And no, because most people don't cluster doesn't make us better than other flyers, just different.

I will say one of the biggest cluster mysteries to me is how and why people are certified Level 1 who have never clustered (just 2 engines) or even staged a black powder rocket. Don't get me wrong, we have nothing but respect for TRA, NAR and HPR flyers. We enjoy HPR as spectators very much, but I've always been mystified how merely assembling a H motor gives anyone a higher qualification in rocketry when many people tell me they certified Level 1 after having built 1 kit and assemble one motor.

As we move on, please allow me to challenge you; if you've never built a black powder cluster, try it. I think you may discover you've been missing out on a building and flying experience you never imagined.

Our thanks to Jonathon Wilkins for his great photos!



Looking for something entertaining and fun to read?

If you'd like something entertaining and fun to read, get your copies of the entire Rocket Babe series, paperback or Kindle. Here's how...

Get The Entire Series On Kindle!

Just click the Amazon links below:


Rocket Babe: Reflection


Prefer Paperback? No Problem!

Signed / personalized paperback copies of Rocket Babe - Dust Storm, Rocket Babe - Fallen Angel, Rocket Babe - Ant Men and Rocket Babe - Reflection are all available directly from the author!

Books are great gifts for any occasion! Holidays, birthdays or just because!

Dust Storm $10.00
Fallen Angel $12.00
Ant Men $13.00
Reflection $13.00

Standard book rate shipping: $4 for 1st book; $1 for each additional book per address in the same order. Please allow 7-10 days for shipping, longer during the holidays.

*Special "Set" pricing! Get all 4 books for $46.00 includes shipping within the continental U.S.! Saves over $10 off the regular price and shipping!

*Shipping outside the USA available. Contact us for a postage quote before placing your order.


Send your email order to Verna at: with BOOK as the subject.

List each dedication separately and clearly. Be sure to include the full shipping address.

Verna will reply with how to send in your money order. Sorry, money orders only.

If you have any questions PLEASE email us:


Above you see a rare photo of Dave Miller, appropriately dressed in black as owner of the clandestine black ops organization known as Sirius Rocketry! What does he do in his spare time? He reads Rocket Babe, what else?

That's a nice looking Cestris Fighter he's holding too! Get yours from


Verna Starr Cestris Fighter!


This is our favorite Sirius kit, the Cestris. The kit is intended to fly on a single engine but it was easily modified to a 3 engine cluster complete with Verna Starr fighter decals, also available from Sirius.



Just click the BLUE link below the banner!




She'll go with you anywhere! Kevin, owner and moderator at the Alien Soup  sci-fi forum, enjoys Rocket Babe - Dust Storm between innings at a recent ballgame!


Visit Kevin at Alien Soup and tell him Verna sent you!


Mach Diamonds


Have you ever heard of Mach diamonds? Mach diamonds, or as some refer to them, thrust diamonds, are a formation of standing wave patterns that can appear in a supersonic exhaust plume.


The first two photos are courtesy of Ben Jarvis.

Because most hobby rockets are launched during daylight and happen so quickly it can be very difficult to see the diamonds in real time. Usually they are only detected photographically after the fact, as we see in the first two photos taken by Ben Jarvis.

The diamonds are most easily seen in the after-burner exhaust of fighter jets when they first begin to roll because the diameter of the exhaust is much larger, the exhaust continues for many seconds and the jet is almost stationary. 

Now that you know what to look for you can see them as the small stacked bright spots in both photos and yes, even a small black powder engine can have a supersonic exhaust.


The photos above and below were taken by Pete Barrett. The diamonds are visible in both photos but were probably missed by those watching the launch. Yet another reason to remember your camera when you attend a launch.


If you have photos of past launches stored away, you may want to check them to see if you have a few that show Mach diamonds; there is a good chance you do. I had to use a magnifying glass on mine that had been printed but if your photos are digital you can easily enlarge them to check for supersonic diamonds you never knew you had.






Bones says...

"Mach Diamonds!" 


Verna & Randy's Rockets is proud to have been featured by:


Darrell Mobley's Website Review on Rocketry Planet


Dick Stafford's The Original Rocket Dungeon


Apogee E-Zine Peak Of Flight issue #155


April 2006  Finishing Touches
And Virally In Ezines Like:
Hobby Media Italy


You never know who will show up on Fire & Smoke!


Imperious Leader never misses Fire & Smoke!


Who do you fly with? Fly with family!




Graphics by Doc's Patriotic Graphics

Thanks for stopping by! Check back soon for a new feature on FIRE & SMOKE!
Verna & Randy

*Don't miss Verna's Photo of the Month


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