Following the success of last October’s rocket flight over eastern Ontario carrying mail with seventy-five year old ‘First Canadian Rocket-Flight’ postage on-board a four foot high-powered rocket; launch organizer Wilfred Ashley McIsaac is preparing a second series of mail covers to be flown in 2012 that will again include the vintage 1936 postage.
A red and white ARCAS high-powered rocket manufactured by Aerotech in the United States was the launch vehicle responsible for lifting the undelivered postage on October 31st, 2011 to an estimated altitude of 2500 feet. The lift-off and landing took place at an old World War II relief airfield just outside Kingston in eastern Ontario Canada.
The 2012 launch vehicles will be powered by an entirely new family of rockets beginning with the six foot tall Astrobee D and concluding with the more powerful Astrobee D II with its side booster assembly designed by McIsaac himself. Inside the top half of the payload bay directly underneath the nose cone a small compartment (12” long, 2.6” diameter) has been reserved for the rocket mail cargo. There will also be numerous electronic components in a protected partition near the bottom of the payload bay to record all necessary data during the short flight.
What has made the Canadian rocketmail launches so intriguing is the fact McIsaac is using actual ‘First Canadian Rocket-Flight’ postage created in 1936 by a German rocket engineer Gerhard Zucker. Zucker made a name for himself throughout Europe during the early thirties when he began introducing rocketmail flights to smaller communities as a faster and more viable postal delivery system. When one of his rockets carrying hundreds of letters exploded on a beach in the Scottish islands however, Zucker was not only asked to leave Great Britain immediately but on his return to the fatherland was arrested by the Gestapo and jailed indefinitely.
Because of his untimely incarceration Zucker had little choice but to count on his friend Karl H. Hennig of Hamburg to attend the 3rd annual International Philatelic Exhibition at New York Cities Grand Central Palace to help show off Zuckers collection of stamps, covers, cachets, and even a mail carrying rocket. McIsaac’s ‘First Canadian Rocket-Flight’ postage stamps were among the merchandise at booth number seventy-seven that May afternoon.
Hennig was too frightened however to promote anything related to the display out of fear of reprisals by the German government and kept a low profile during his stay in the United States. Zuckers hopes of flying mail rockets over Canada eventually faded away in time and his unique compilation of Canadian rocket stamps fell into obscurity for almost three quarters of a century.
Now fast forward to the beginning of the twenty-first century when the same stamps began making there way onto the world wide web including a website from a top philatelic distributor on the west coast named Gemada stamps. As soon as McIsaac noticed the peculiar postage online he contacted Gemada owner George Morrison immediately. Within days the two collaborated to ship the still undelivered (and never licked for that matter) stamps up to the great white north so they could finally be launched on-board a rocket as originally intended by Zucker himself.
The day finally came in October 2011 when McIsaac and a small team of assistants traveled to an old air field near the Thousand Islands in eastern Ontario to perform the historic flight. Seven mail covers with the 1936 postage attached were launched and ultimately recovered. From this point they were simply driven to a nearby Post office and cancelled while some were actually delivered by Canada Post.
Since this time McIsaac has worked over the winter towards the second half of his airmail experiment building the next generation of mail rockets designated the Astrobee D, Astrobee D II, Astrobee D III C, and the Astrobee D IV launch vehicles. Gemada continues to back the launch program supplying fifteen more of the Gerhard Zucker ‘First Canadian Rocket-Flight’ postage stamps for the final launches. A majority of the mail covers will be auctioned off at a later date by Gemada once the Canadian Rocketmail flights have concluded in the fall of 2012.