Rocket Launch Day!

(article continued from previous page)

Model rocket lift off

Model rocket lift off.

The whole family (except the cats) travelled to the center of a nearby park to fly model rockets with the new custom launch controller. We brought three rockets with us, but only returned with two. That’s the sad tale of all rocketeers. :)

The launch controller executed perfectly. Nine launches -- no misfires.

The only real problem we encountered was with the wind. We needed to tilt the launch pad to correct for it. The rockets went really far!

Angled rocket launch to compensate for the wind

Angled rocket launch to compensate for the wind.

Here is a series of frames showing the ejection charge.

Ejection charge deploying parachute

Ejection charge deploying parachute.

After compensating for the wind, we really needed the parachute to deploy cleanly, otherwise the rocket wouldn’t be blown back as far as we adjusted. In fact, one time the parachute got stuck on the rocket’s fin.

Parachute caught on tail fin

Parachute caught on tail fin.

Finally, here’s a cleanly deployed parachute bringing the rocket in for a graceful, low-impact landing in the grass. Perfect!

Model rocket parachute landing

Model rocket parachute landing.

If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend that you pick up a RTF (ready to fly) model rocket kit with a starter launch controller. Even if the controller seems cheap, it has most likely been optimized for safe, successful launches at the lowest possible entry price.

An easy upgrade is to replace thin wires from the controller to the launch pad with thicker wires. A considerable amount of power is wasted in thin wires.

After that, the resistance should be low enough to take advantage of the higher current capabilities of NiMH rechargeable batteries.

Lastly, if you’re really into the rocket hobby, then consider creating your own fancy controller that triggers a remote relay connected to a motorcycle or car battery.

Based on the experiences of using this controller, I designed an improved model rocket ignition system that accepts some unusual controllers.