We have Ignition – Short History and Use of Igniters

ignite1 ignite2

#3 – I will launch my rockets with an electrical launch system and electrical motor igniters.

Note: It is illegal in every state to ignite a model rocket with a fuse.

Sometime in early-mid 1957 both Orville Carlisle and G.H. Stine developed forms of electrical ignition for model rockets. I believe that both were attempting to further separate model rockets from fireworks. Originally the Carlisle model rocket patent, as seen here, used a fuse type ignition. Neither Carlisle or Stine filed for a patent, however there were many earlier patents(see at bottom of article) that hinted at this process. It wasn’t until 1965 that Vernon Estes applied for a patent in which he received, as seen here, in 1968 specifically for model rockets.

Igniters are based on the method of converting electric energy to heat energy by resisting the free flow of electric current. When the electrical current is applied to a metal conductor it encounters resistance. The resistance is then converted to heat. a common ingredient in igniters is nickel-chromium, or as it is better known, nichrome. Nichrome heats up easily but doesn’t melt. The tips of these type of igniter usually contain a Squib. Squibs are materials that ignite and burn.
Copperhead igniters
(from Aerotech) use carbon fibers as did the Quest Tigertails. Estes and Quest now use igniters with propritery formulas for their Squibs. I personally love the new Quest Q2 igniters.

Visit my Igniter Gallery here 

other related patents

Patent Number Title Issue date
1935495 SLOW MATCH COMPOSITION Nov 14, 1933
2437153 (unknown) Mar 2, 1948
2712270 (unknown) (unknown)
3363559 RESISTANCE FUSE WIRE Jan 16, 1968
3422763 ROCKET ENGINE IGNITER Jan 21, 1969
3447416 ELECTRIC INITIATOR Jun 3, 1969
4584925 Underwater rocket launcher and rocket propelled missile Apr 29, 1986
4951570 Electrically activated detonator with pyrotechnic device receiving terminals and method of making Aug 28, 1990
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3 Responses to We have Ignition – Short History and Use of Igniters

  1. R2K says:

    Hey just visiting. Feel free to check out my rocketry blog. It is a slow posting page, so if you ever have something you think I should post (or want me to share one of your posts) feel free to send me material.


  2. Steven says:

    “Note: It is illegal in every state to ignite a model rocket with a fuse.”

    I am surprised at this. The local hobby shop sells green fuse right next to all the model rocket kits.

    • rocketry says:

      yes sale and use are both illegal as per NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) code 1122-ROP-2002.
      And from the NAR we have this statement:
      “The NAR safety codes and the NFPA Codes both require that rockets be launched from a distance by an electrical system that meets specific design requirements. Ignition of motors by a fuse lit by a hand held flame is prohibited, and in fact both NFPA Codes prohibit the sale or use of such fuses.” -Laws, Codes, Regulation and Sport Rocketry

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