Bell Rocket Belt
From The Amazing...Rocket Belt Book and Plans:
"In 1953 Wendell F. Moore was employed at Bell Aerosystems and was
working on small hydrogen peroxide rockets. The story goes that late one
evening he sat doodling at his kitchen table and drew a picture of a man
between two rocket jets, with fuel tanks on his back. Following his whimsy,
he added valves, lines, controls and gauges".....(skip the rest)
....and a few years later he built the first Rocket Belt
In the mid 1960s the Army Transportation Command solicited proposals
for "devices to improve mobility". With Moore's idea, Bell was awarded
a $150,000 construct a Small Rocket Lifting Device (SLRD). Due to limited
funds, off the shelf hardware was used to construct the original Rocket
Belt. The fuel tanks were Air Force oxygen containers and valves were Mercury
astronaut-capsule and missile-project leftovers.
the first test flights indoors on a safety tether. The contraption was
not very stable and it was during one of these flights a cable snapped,
and Moore came downward, injuring his knee-cap and permanently grounding
him. A young engineer at Bell, Harold Graham, took over as test pilot and
on 20 April, 1961 the craft made its first outdoor tether free flight.
The first flight went a total of one hundred and twelve feet - eight feet
less the Wright Brothers had flown at Kitty Hawk.
In its most basic form it was nothing more than a backpack strapped
to your back. The tanks carried Nitrogen and Hydrogen Peroxide. Nitrogen
pressure forced Hydrogen Peroxide into the catalyst chamber where it was
broken down to provide the thrust.
Later variants included a pogo-stick like contraption and a chair.
All had similar components - just their layout varied. Part of these different
designs arose from using the legs as landing gear. Stumbling during the
takeoff or landing phase could be very dangerous. Besides being extremely
loud another consideration was the steam that was coming from the exhaust.
You might notice that in some of the early pictures the men are wearing
a full body suit to prevent them from being burned.
captivated public attention and Bell demonstrated it around the world.
It appeared in television series, commercials, the Paris Air Show, the
Carnival in Rio and even had a small role in the James Bond movie Thunderball..
A variation of it was also used in the opening of the 1984 Olympics
with only 21.5 seconds of fuel the project had little real life use
(bummer). Later advancements led to a new version - the
Belt. Inventor Wendell Moore died in 1969 . After Moore's death Bell
Aerospace canceled all engagements of the rocket belt and retired the two
that existed. One went to the State University of New York, the other resides
at the Smithsonian's Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage
facility (right next to the Hiller Flying Platform).
I talked to Bell Aerospace in New York about the rocket belt. After
playing some phone tag with them I found out that they now have nothing
to do with the project. They sold the rights and the hardware to Williams
International many years ago. They did tell me that the Amherst Museum
might have some information on the project, but I have not been able to
The most interesting
thing about the Rocket Belt (and some of the other contraptions here) is
what powered them. Silver is a catalyst for hydrogen peroxide. The stuff
you buy in stores can be nasty and that is only around 5% or so. These
things used a 90% solution of hydrogen peroxide and forced it (under pressure)
through a series of fine silver meshes. What you are looking at on the
left is what provided this chemical reaction. When the H2O2 hit the catalyst
in broke down and produced heat and water - which produced steam (a whole
bunch) - which produced thrust. It split out of this chamber to go evenly
to the two exhaust ports. Since it was water and heat coming out, there
would sometimes be a huge cloud of vapor created. (depending upon atmospheric
conditions). The whole thing was a nice concept and it worked find except
for one shall problem - time. With a full load the Rocket Belt only produced
its 300lbs of thrust for approximately 25 seconds. Once this time was up
you would have to refuel with the highly volatile Hydrogen Peroxide - not
something the Army (or anybody else) would like to deal with
As I said before, Williams International became the caretaker of the
project. Their next generation craft was the
Belt. The new model used a small turbine to provide the thrust.
But the rocket belt still wouldn't go away.....
In 1970 California based inventor Nelson Tyler built his own version
of the rocket belt. The craft flew in the opening ceremonies of the 1984
Olympics and was operated by one of the original test pilots, William Suitor.
From what I've read, Tyler sold his vehicle to a Swedish investment group.
It keeps going and going.....
From Popular Mechanics, August 1995, pg 79
HOUSTON,TX - One of the most endearing technologies of the 1960s has
made a comeback. The rocket belt-designed originally by Bell Aerosystems-has
blasted off again. And the man strapping it on is none other than William
Suitor, who holds all records for rocket-belt flight. The new device comes
from American Flying Belt. It runs on the same chemistry as the Bell machine.
Hydrogen peroxide rushes across a silver catalyst bed, breaking into steam
and oxygen and producing a jet stream of superheated air. In the new belt,
titanium and aluminum replace stainless-steel components, and fuel tanks
are bigger. Untethered flights last 28 seconds, 7 seconds longer than Bell's
belt. Beyond demos by Suitor, American Flying Belt plans to sell the belt
in kit form. (No they don't plan on doing that. I talked to them on the
phone and they said that they planned selling information packages, not
1 Oct 96 - I have just seen an
incredible amount of information on this new Rocket Belt. If you have any
interest in this at all, you need to check back! If you would like to be
notified when the new information is up - email me!
Since this page has gone up I have received a slew
of requests for "plans" to the Rocket Belt. I've never come across "true"
plans. I did see an advertisement in the back of Popular Science/Mechanics
for some plans that I actually ordered. What I received was mostly a compilation
of the patents and some information on how nasty Hydrogen Peroxide is.
It was fairly helpful. Unfortunately, the organization that was selling
this is no longer in business. Who knows, maybe I'll try and do the same
As far as the mechanics of the machine are concerned, you could probably
gleam enough information from the Patents to build some hardware. (see
my reference section). As far as the propellant goes...well, you're either
going to have to find some %90 strength hydrogen peroxide, or make some
yourself. Find a chemical engineer. Pay him a bunch of money..
Examine my list
of references for this subject.
Jim Noetzel, firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1996 Jim Noetzel - you can't fold, spindle, or mutilate this
Last Update: June 30, 1996
Copied & now Updated by Doug Marker: April 6, 2000