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Home / Archives / LIFE Magazine, April 7, 1958, showcases Alpha 1 rocket
LIFE Magazine, April 7, 1958, showcases Alpha 1 rocket Print E-mail PDF
From The Archive by LIFE Magazine   
Sunday, May 01, 2011

Click to view - Adobe PDF"In its regular business, Experiment, Inc. of Richmond, Va. engages in serious research on U.S. missile programs. Now it has come out with a by-product that the missile age has made necessary, a toy rocket that satisfies juvenile scientists without imperiling them. Alpha 1 is a scientifically designed 10-inch plast rocket that soars 200 feet, using a harmless mixture of citric acid and bicarbonate of soda.

"The toy, now manufactured by Scientific Products Co., sells for about $5, has its own launching pad and aiming shaft. The user fills the rocket chamber with citric acid and water, adds the bicarbonate, counts out 60 seconds to let the mixture generate carbon dioxide gas, then pulls a remote control cord which frees the missile from its base.  The fuel cannot explode, ignite or even cause any harm if swallowed," read the opening two paragraphs of the April 7, 1958 issue of LIFE magazine article on amateur rocketry.

The document has been captured and converted to Adobe PDF format to share with the readers. Two pages in length, the article is 2482K in size. To view the article, click here. You will need Adobe Reader to view the article. If you do not have Adobe Reader, a copy may be downloaded for free from the Adobe website at

Part of the challenge we face in the hobby is the archival and preservation of these old sources of information useful to our hobby. Adobe PDF format makes a great medium for the collection and storage of these types of documents because of its portability and cross-platform approach.

If you have something you'd like to share with the readers, send email to This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it  with details on the document you have to share. Previous submissions have consisted of submitting magazines or documents in whole, which were be returned upon completion of the scanning process. While this approach is still acceptable, the preference is toward user-generated submissions scanned by the users themselves.

Reader comments:
#1 Re: Article: LIFE Magazine, April 7, 1958, showcases Alpha 1 rocket
Yes, I had one of these rockets and I remember the Life magazine article. The toy Alpha looked like a classic rocket. I thought it was difficult to screw the baking soda cap (the cap had slits in the top that you were suppose to cover with your fingers) into the the rocket while the baking soda was leaking down into the chamber and fizzing away. Then you had to pull on the string hard to release the rocket. This meant that the launch pad had to be spiked into the ground real good while the user pulled on the string. I even had the later two stage version, i.e., the sequel 2-stage version. I finally got it to work. It seemed like the first stage went up maybe 15 feet, but the second stage went out to sight. I remember I had one of those water/air pumped 2-stage rockets and it did the same thing. The first stage went up only a few feet, but the second stage went considerably farther.
aerostadt on 05-01-2011 07:04 PM
#2 Re: Article: LIFE Magazine, April 7, 1958, showcases Alpha 1 rocket
I had several Alphas I. About ten years ago, someone was advertising one for $60.00. Bought it, but it was not in flyable condition. Nevertheless, at first glimpse, I got all misty.

Thanks for the article - including the picture of Sugar Ray.
LarryC on 05-02-2011 06:33 AM
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