Now I had been in and out of rocketry throughout my youth. In junior high I had photography as a class and I was hooked. The two interests merged in 1982 when I stumbled upon an Astrocam at Allied Hobbies in Montgomery Mall in Pennsylvania. The Astrocam was introduced in 1979. Now at this time I had been out of rocketry for a spell so, I didn’t know the Astrocam had been around for a few years already. I thought it was the coolest thing ever when I saw it. I remember seeing an Estes Camroc in an old rocketry book and thought how cool it would be to have a model rocket that could take photographs, but the Camroc had been discontinued. The Astrocam improved upon the Camroc in its use of 110 cartridge film over the Camroc’s special circular disks of film. The discs were difficult to handle during loading and developing. Loading the Astrocam was a snap, literally. You snapped the back of the camera off, popped in the film cartridge and that was about it. Developing was a simple matter of taking the film to the local drugstore the way everyone else did. The picture above is of Willow Dale Elementary School in Warminster, PA taken from above (naturally) and from the rear.
These photographs were taken all on the same day the summer of 1982, about 2-3pm. They are all of the same general area in Warminster, Pennsylvania, near the intersection of Norristown and Street Road (for those of you not from Warminster or thereabouts, yes, we actually had a road named Street Road).
Also taken in 1982 in Warminster, I’m not completely sure of where the first two photographs are pointing, but the third from the left is of Street Road (white strip at the bottom), Norristown Road (black strip heading up and to the left), and some buildings at Christ’s Home Retirement Center (light colored structures center right).
This another photograph of the Christ’s Home Retirement Center taken with black-and-white 110 film that I processed and printed myself. On the back were my copious notes on the particulars of the photo.
The Astrocam is still available today (edit – it’s been discontinued. They can be had at various merchants from new old stock). The latest version comes completely assembled and has a pretty flashy color scheme. The rocket is supposed to have an improved shutter design, better lens, and comes with a roll of Kodak ASA 400 110 film, 24 exposures, although, it’s getting more difficult to find places that process 110 film.
These are photos shot from my new Astrocam in May, 2005. They were taken between 10 – 11am in the morning. Now, Estes recommends C6-7 engines in the Astrocam. I remember on the original Astrocam, Estes recommended either C6-5s or C6-7s, advising the rocketeer that the C6-5s with their shorter delay would result in a photograph aimed at the horizon. A C6-7 with its 2 second longer delay, would ensure that the rocket was pointing to the ground. The photographs above were all taken with C6-5s, despite Estes recommendation. I like the longer view of the horizon shots. Photos taken with C6-7s resulted in boring shots of mostly grass and a few trees surrounding the launch area. Also, the rocket had gained enough speed on the way down, that by the time the parachute popped, the speed was enough to shred two chutes on 4 launches!. These photos were taken in the Green Lane, PA area near the park and resevoir system (the water in the photos is part of the reservoir lake).
More photos of the same general area taken in November, 2006. These were also taken with C6-5s instead of the recommended C6-7s. Once again, and against Estes recommendation, I find the angle of the photos taken from an Astrocam powered by a C6-5 the most pleasing. They generally cover more area and therefore include more items of interest. These photos were also taken in Green Lane, PA, from the same launch site of the previous three photos above. The photo on the left is the area right across from the launch site. The photo on the right photo peering into Pennsburg, PA.
Here is an excerpt from the 1979 Estes Catalog introducing the Astrocam (catalog photo courtesy of ninfinger.org).
This is a rare find of an original Astrocam complete outfit. By complete, I mean it also comes with everything needed to build and launch an Astrocam: The Astrocam rocket, Big Foot launch pad, three C6-7 engines, parachute wadding, etc. The only things not included are batteries and the film, most likely because of their fairly limited shelf life. This particular example of this package is still shrink-wrapped, and includes a promo sticker on front the for a Astrocam photo contest to win a trip to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
Originally posted 2008-03-09 20:24:56.
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