Rocketry Works is Closing

I started Rocketry Works five years ago, with a vision to promote and support educational model rocketry in the Tucson community and across the country.  It's been five wonderful years of rocketry: teaching, designing, building, and flying rockets. I've loved helping fliers certify to fly high power, supplying TARC teams, and helping school and community groups build and fly their first rockets. Running a business can be incredibly rewarding, and I would often marvel as I realized that I was able to spend my morning flying rockets with a school group--it was a dream job! But the time has come to move on, and I'd like to share with the Rocketry Works community the Rocketry Works story,  and what comes next.


Like many of us, I first got hooked on model rocketry when I was 11 years old, through a school build and fly program. I flew as a kid, and again during summers in college, and then I took a 15 year break until my oldest child was 5, and he spotted some of my old rockets in a box. We started flying rockets together, and before I knew it, I was teaching rocketry at his school, and then at other schools, and scout groups, and so on.  After a 25 year career in Information Technology, I founded Rocketry Works because I wanted to help others teach model rocketry in their communities. So we set out to create a line of model rocketry products that helps make teaching model rocketry in classrooms easier and more repeatable.

Over the next 5 years, we taught in schools, scout groups, 4H, TARC teams, and birthday parties. We created our launch equipment, classroom model rocket kits, TARC supplies, and our 3D printed and laser cut parts. By "We," I mean a host of family, staff, and friends and other volunteers who wanted to help Rocketry Works succeed. The list is too long to share here, but I truly appreciate everyone who helped make Rocketry Works possible.  It has been an adventure that I have enjoyed tremendously. But it hasn't been without its challenges. We started in our garage, and in time, moved into retail and warehouse space here in Tucson, where we inaugurated our community build space with a scout group...the very same day that a little thing called COVID closed the schools. 

That changed a lot for an educational model rockery company. We spent the next 2 years more focused on the hobby rocketry space, which was not exactly the original company vision. But it was fun designing custom 3D printed and laser cut parts for hobbyists--the ideas people in this hobby have are amazing and it's been a joy to be a part of that. But COVID impacted more than just our business focus.  Vendors in our supply chain struggled with the impact of COVID's global supply chain issues. Those were tough times, never sure when we will receive an order of motors or altimeters or kits. But coming out of the COVID years, we got back to teaching in classrooms and scout groups and the business headed back onto its original mission of supporting educational model rocketry.

But would you believe that this story touches on Russia's invasion of Ukraine?  As it turns out, most Baltic birch plywood--a staple of the laser cutting industry--is produced in Russia, and with sanctions on Russian products, the cost of plywood skyrocketed, while the quality--particularly the flatness--plummeted.  So we now need to severely limit the size of laser cut parts we make from 1/8 inch plywood, and even 1/4 and 3/8 inch plywood is seldom as flat as we need it to be. And honestly this issue was pretty much the last straw--the factor that caused me to decide to close the business.  The laser cut and 3D printed part design work was fun for me, but the supply chain difficulties in the laser cutting business increased costs and stress, and reduced my enjoyment.


The final chapter of this story is a family connection. My oldest child--the one whose enthusiasm inspired me to get back into rocketry 15 years ago--is now away at college. Before he left in the summer of 2022, he encouraged me to work together to complete my unfinished Level 3 Certification project. So we put in a few evenings to revisit the ejection charge calculations and finish the rest of the planning, and we drove out to LDRS at Lucerne Dry Lake and successfully completed my L3 certification.  It was great closure to our 15 years of rocketry adventures before he left for college. But his departure caught me by surprise--not because I didn't see that coming, but because I realized after he left home that one of the things I enjoyed the most about Rocketry Works was sharing it with him at the end of the day, or on summer days when he would work with me at the shop. His ideas continue to inspire me, but it's just not the same when he's not around the house to share the day's adventures.

Next up, I'm finishing a Master's degree in cybersecurity, and I'll be heading back into the IT field once Rocketry Works is all tucked in, likely in early Q4 2023. 

For the immediate future, customers can enjoy deep discounts on products site wide as we liquidate existing inventory. But we will not restock inventory as it sells out.  With the business moved back to our garage again, I continue to support Rocketry Works customers, and I will take on the custom laser cutting and 3D printing projects that I enjoy so much until we are finished. In August and September, I anticipate producing a limited edition run of favorite kits I never got around to producing; a mid-power Bull Pup with our unique nose cone and tail cone, among others. As a matter of practicality, we have discontinued Rocketry Works' rewards program. That discount program for repeat customers offered 10% credit for every dollar spent, and customers took advantage of it throughout Rocketry Works' 5 year history. We greatly appreciate being a part of our customers' rocketry projects these past 5 years, and we wish everyone the best going forward!

Thank you all!  It's been a great ride!

James Cramton

Chief Rocket Scientist
Rocketry Works