HISTORY of ROCKETRY in CLEVELAND
The Northern Ohio area has a rich history when it comes to model, High-Power and amateur rocketry. Northern Ohio's history in rocketry dates back to 1932, when the Cleveland Rocketry Society began work in experimental rocketry with liquid fueled rocket engines. In 1966 the Natural Science Museum Model Rocket Research Society or NSMMRRS was formed and run by the museum until 1972. In 1970, The North Royalton Rocket Society or NRRS was formed and operated through 1974. A year or so after the demise of the NRRS, the Society of Northeast Ohio Area of Rocketeers (SNOAR) was formed and operated until 1992. In late 1993 the Tri-City Sky Busters Rocketry Club was started as part of a Civil Air Patrol Squadron based at Kent State University Airport. Many former SNOAR members plus new members then joined the group. It later separated from the CAP group and changed it name to simply “Skybusters”. In 2003, the Northern Ohio Tripoli Rocketry Association (NOTRA) was formed and piggy-backed onto the SkyBusters organization in order to provide local Tripoli members with conventional and hybrid High-Power launch equipment and a flying field.
The first NAR chartered section in Ohio was called RETRO. Nothing else is known about them. They didnít even have a section number because the first 100 NAR sections were not numbered. Sections started after a certain date began with #101. The first section chartered in Ohio after the numbering began was CSAR, or the Columbus Society for the Advancement of Rocketry, #113, which is still an active section. There have been a grand total of 25 NAR chartered sections in Ohio. Only six of them are still active. Another interesting section was the Mentor Rocket Club, #127, which was around about the same time as the Science Museum and the North Royalton sections in the late 60ís and early 70ís. Nothing else is known about them, but they were probably out of Mentor High School. Mentor is a suburb of Painesville (birthplace of Harlan Ellison and Don Novello) and east of Cleveland.
NOTRA, or Tripoli Northern Ohio, has a long history dating back to the start of Tripoli as a national organization in 1985. Originally called “Davey and the Rocket Boys”, a loose, informal group of people getting together to fly rockets, it was one of the earliest Prefectures (#003) formed in 1986. It then became “Northern Ohio High-Power” in 1997 and finally NOTRA in 2003.
The following is a detailed history of rocketry in Cleveland as best as can be obtained from published information and oral histories.
Cleveland Rocket Society (1933-37) The brainchild of Ernst Loebell, a German-born engineer, they designed, built and tested a number of liquid-fueled rockets starting in 1933 that burned a combination of liquid oxygen and gasoline. One of the first to use the idea of selling rocket post cachets (rocket mail postcards) to fund motor development. Support also came from Marcus Hanna, a wealthy local political boss at the time, who gave them office space in the Hanna Building in downtown Cleveland, and a place to test motors at the family lakefront estate in Waite Hill, near Kirtland. After an explosion the testing was moved to Highland Heights, probably close to what is now the Cuyahoga County Airport. Interesting enough, the designs were scrutinized and approved by Robert Goddard, known as the father of American rocketry. They published a short-lived mimeographed rocketry magazine, which ran for five issues between 12/33 and 9/34. The most illustrious of CRS members was Lieutenant Commander Thomas G.W. Settle, then the world's champion ballon stratosphere flyer. Despite all their success with motor development, they never actually flew a rocket. The Great Depression and World War 2 put an end to their endeavors, and all except one of their motors were scrapped for the metal during WW2. The remaining motor and much of their papers are archived by the Ohio Historical Society at Case Western Reserve University.
Natural Science Museum Model Rocket Research Society (NSMMRRS, Section #135, 1966–72) Founded by Walter Mueller, the museum curator. Meetings were held at the Cleveland Natural Science Museum at University Circle in Cleveland. Launches were held at Hawken Upper School in Kirkland, Ohio. Primarily sport model rocketry, educational building sessions and demonstration launches. Informal competition (non-NAR) held for prizes and a yearly night launch was held each fall. Many members from this section migrated to the newly formed North Royalton club because they wanted to participate in NAR competition. This led to a steep decline in membership, causing the section to lose its charter in 1972. Walter Mueller later left the Museum and became an insurance salesman and has since passed away.
North Royalton Rocket Society (NRRS, Section #180) (1970–74) The NRRS was formed as a NAR Section in 1970 by Jon Randolph and Bob Allen. Originally called the Metro City Rocket Society, by including "North Royalton" in the name meant the city provided publicity in the local paper, the Royalton Recorder, and a meeting room in the old (and later condemned) North Royalton Junior High School. Meetings were held twice monthly. The primary reason North Royalton was chosen was the availability of a flying field which was the WJW-TV transmitter site at Route 82 and Ridge Road. On a calm day, this site could accommodate F motors, the largest available at the time. Launches were held at the base of the WHK radio tower in what was called Broadcast Park, the highest point in Cuyahoga County. The club was one of the first to purchase a complete two rail 12 pad launch system from Centuri Engineering. Initially there was a hobby shop, Breyley's (actually a slot car facility that also sold rocketry supplies) quite close to the launch site and its certain that this also played some part in the site selection. Another frequented hobby shop and the only one in Cleveland selling FSI and Centuri Enerjet motors was the Tom Thumb Raceways, also a slot-car hobby shop, located in Maple Heights. Unfortunately, as with most hobby shops that bought into the slot car fad, both were out of business by 1971. The club was quite active in NAR competition in all divisions and section co-founder Jon Randolph won the D Division National Championship in 1971, and later went on to compete in the Internats. Co-founder Bob Allen left competition after 1971 but remained in the section for a couple more years. The section folded in 1974 after many club members left the club for college and then-president Randolph left the hobby.
Northern Ohio Association of Rocketry (SNOAR, Section #337)
(1975-92). Founded in 1975 by former NRRS members Jim Gazur and Mike
Nowak. First called the “Society of Northern Ohio Area Rocketeers”
but changed some years later to eliminate the juvenile sounding word
“rocketeers.” Meetings were at the Garfield Library, which
was picked as a meeting location because one of the members, Mike Nowak,
lived in Garfield Heights and could use the facility for free. The meeting
place was later moved to the Euclid Library when an arsonist torched
the library in Garfield Heights and resident member Mike Nowak left
the club. Launches were held on a sanitary landfill, situated behind
the Mapleleaf Middle School near the library and later on the small
airplane private landing strip located on a farm owned by the family
of member Mike Wagner near Medina. There was a local hobby shop quite
close to the library that was owned by the family of a club member,
which offered discounts for club members. Jim Gazur left the club shortly
after the club was founded when he enlisted in the Air Force.
SkyBusters (Section #535) (1993-present). Originally called the Tri-City Skybusters because of the proximity of Kent to Cleveland, Akron and Canton. Founded by Captain Dan Harold who was a Commander of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron #535 and originally based at the Kent State University Airport. For the first year of existence the club was open only to CAP members but then membership was later opened to the general public. A number of former SNOAR members joined the club along with new rocketeers. It separated itself from the Civil Air Patrol shortly thereafter and in 2007 changed its name to “Skybusters”. The SkyBusters are heavily involved in educational build and fly programs with local schools, hobby shops and civic groups. The SkyBusters participate each year with local model airplane and hobby shows and does demonstration flights at the Cleveland National Air Show. They have continued the Great Lakes Regional Meet launch in the spring of each year, but it is now a sport launch. The group primarily flies conventional sport model and high-power rockets. The group launches year around, weather permitting. In 2003, the Northern Ohio Tripoli Rocketry Association (NOTRA #003) was formed by former SNOAR member Chris Pearson and piggy-backed onto the SkyBusters organization in order to provide local Tripoli members with High-Power launch equipment and a flying field.
Mantua Township Missile Agency (MTMA, Section #606) (1999-present). C/O Mark Recktenwald, 2800 Williamsburg Circle, Stow, Ohio, 44224, Rod Hilty, Advisor. The MTMA was founded in the spring of 1999 for a collection of rocketeers in the greater Kent, Ohio area who met through the Usenet User group rec.model.rockets (RMR). Tod Hilty was elected the first president and Randy Miller was the club advisor. The first launch was held on May 16th, 1999 at a former sod farm in Mantua Township and its first launch as an official NAR section was held on April 20, 2000. After a nearly silent 2004, the club re-chartered as an NAR section in 2005 with Mark Recktenwald as the President/Advisor. Gatherings, meetings and launches are informal. Meetings are held at the Twinsburg Public Library.
Davey and the Rocket Boys (Prefecture #003) (1986-94) Started by David Stevens, along with Ron and Debbie Schultz, who were the founders of Lots of Crafts, which later became LOC/Precision. Created in 1986, shortly after Tripoli became a national organization, it was never a real organized club, but more of an informal group of rocket people/friends/customers who gathered around Ron and Deb at their house in Macedonia, which was also the home of LOC. Flying was done almost every Saturday during the summer, weather permitting, with dinner and discussion afterwards at a local restaurant. Motor size was restricted to no more than a G because of field conditions. Flying was informal, launches scheduled by word-of-mouth, and done at one of two nearby flying fields, Longwood Field, which was next to a church and later the Macedonia City Park. LOC, North Coast Rocketry and Ravenna Rocket Research (later Synerjet) did much test flying at these launches. The club never had meetings or officers, except for Dave, owned launch equipment (it was “bring your own”) or sponsored any sort of organized launch. As is very common, urban growth pushed them off of both fields, and a new one was never located. Ron eventually sold LOC/Precision and got out of the hobby. Later, the Northern Ohio High-Power group took the Tripoli Prefecture number.
Northern Ohio High-Power (NOHOPE, Prefecture #003) (1997-2000) Started by Mike Fraley several years after the demise of the Schultz/LOC group at the urging of the Schultzs’ and Bruce Kelly, then the president of Tripoli. Mike was the new groups only Prefect, and primarily composed of a large number of very enthusiastic adult High-Power flyers, many of who were in the old Prefecture. Unfortunately, the group had trouble finding a good flying site and bounced from field to field. A location at the Summit County Fairgrounds was semi-permanent but it only had a 3500 foot waiver. Their last sponsored event was a launch sponsored by the Akron Children’s Invention Museum (part of Inventure Place) at the fairgrounds and attended by two of the original “Rocket Boys.” A duplicate of the “Miss Riley” rocket flown in the movie “October Sky” and built by Ky Michaelson was flown. The group broke up because of member apathy right after that. In 2003 the Prefecture number #003 was given to the new NOTRA group.
At present, there are only two active Tripoli prefectures in Ohio, those being Tripoli Mid-Ohio #31 and Tripoli Northern Ohio (NOTRA) #3. There was a prefecture near Findlay, Tripoli Southwest Ohio, but they dissolved the group and sold their launch equipment after they lost their flying field. T-Town Tripoli in Toledo also dissolved after a membership decline.
The launching site for the North Royalton section was at Broadcast Park in North Royalton, which was the highest point in Cuyahoga county. Several radio stations had their transmitters there and it was a good place to launch model rockets. However it was a bad place to be during a lighting storm.
Garfield Heights was the first launching location for the SNOAR section, behind the Mapleleaf Middle School, on a sanitary landfill which was later to become the site of a shopping center. Launching rockets on this site could be rather explosive due to the methane coming out of the ground from the landfill. The site was later closed because of the danger of fire.
Medina, Ohio was the second site for SNOAR after they outgrew the Garfield landfill. Actually located in the town of Mallet Creek outside of Medina, it was a private airplane landing strip/unused farm field belonging to the family of on of the sections club members. It was the first site of the original Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships launch, first flown in 1982. LDRS 1-5 was held on the same field until after the 1986 launch and then was moved to Hartsell, Colorado.
The Skybusters currently fly from a private farm field in Amherst. They have a one mile waiver both in Amherst and Middlefield and are limited to L motor flights and belows.
OHIO ROCKET COMPANIES
Lots of Crafts/LOC Precision
North Coast Rocketry
Reaction Technology Inc.
Whirlwind Rocket Motors
Ravenna Rocket Research (R3)
Propulsion IndustriesOrion Rocket Supply