High-Power Rocketry

Not to be confused with "Model Rocketry"...

When I was a kid, I experimented with model rockets. I built some kits, mostly from Estes, but my interests lied mainly in creating new designs from scratch. Estes even adopted one of my recovery methods in one of their kits after I sent in my drawings in a design contest...but I didn't win anything, nor did I ever receive any credit for it. Anyway, these rockets were my own miniature "space program".   I lofted unsuspecting frogs, bugs...even a goldfish in a test tube, as well as homebrew radio transmitters, and even lights for night launches. Several of my friends were into the hobby as well, and when any of us raised enough money raking leaves or mowing grass to afford a new pack of B or C motors, the countdown was on...

Then came cars, girlfriends, college, work...you know the rest...and the rockets were confined to boxes on closet shelves.

My son, Collin, who is now six years old, found the boxes two years ago, and with the same curiosity I had when I was his age, asked what they were. I found some old C engines and carefully prepped one of the old rockets for flight once again, made a launch rod out of a coat hanger, and we headed for the local football stadium parking lot. As the little rocket lifted off the pad for the first time in twenty years, soared to several hundred feet, arced over and returned under a red and white plastic parachute, Collin smiled and was instantly hooked...somehow, I thought he would be.

Later, during some nostalgic model rocktry discussions with a friend at work, I became aware that the hobby had changed much since I was last involved in my teens, and the new branch of "High-Power" rocktry had come into being...presumably due to many other "Born Again Rocketeer" dads like myself. This is the ultimate example of the old saying, "The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys!" I now get the same rush I did when I was a kid seeing a homebuilt rocket take off, but instead of A, B, C, and D size motors and a mild "Whoosh...", it is now rockets weighing from three to several hundred pounds leaving the pad with an ear splitting roar...using G through O size motors. My interests are as before, homebrew designs and special payloads...altimeters, cameras, and television transmitters.   Of course there is also the occassional Star Wars action figure astronaut for Collin!

You know...it's fascinating how interests from childhood grow when persued and given a chance to develop. My adulthood now finds me still intensely interested in rocketry and space ... and the Vice President in charge of Engineering for a state-of-the-art broadcast satellite uplink facility (SCETV), dealing on a daily basis with fantastic orbiting machines ... no doubt designed and built by grown up kids who also raked leaves and mowed grass for model rocket money.

Check this out! Click here to see a video clip recorded live from one of my rockets! This is a 1.4 meg AVI file, so it will take a few minutes to download.

This flight was in October of 1996 from Orangeburg, South Carolina where I fly with the local Tripoli gang each month. The payload consisted of a black and white CCD camera measuring about 1.5 inches square, a microphone, and a 1 watt ham TV transmitter feeding a 1/4 wave ground plane antenna extending up into the nose cone. The camera was mounted to look out of the side of the rocket so as to see the horizon. The problem with this mounting arrangement is that as the rocket arcs over and the recovery system deploys, the payload section, along with the camera, is hanging below the chute upside down. I developed a mechanism that holds the camera in an upright position on the way up and then flips the spring loaded camera platform 180 degrees 11 seconds after liftoff so that the video is right side up on the way down as well as on the way up.

This is a new camera and transmitter payload under construction. The 4" frame is made from 3/32" G-10 fiberglass sheet and 3/16" threaded rods. To the left (the "bottom" of the package) is a 12 volt, 600 mAH Ni-Cad battery pack. In the middle is the 1 watt television transmitter, complete with sound. A microphone element is visible just to the right of a white adjustment control. On the right is an Adept ALTS25 altimeter used for recording maximum altitude and triggering the ejection charges at the apogee of the flight. A CCD video camera and backup ejection timer board is on the other side and is not visible in this view. The transmitter's antenna will be mounted on the "bottom" of the package, near where one of the ejection cannons is visible on the left.

This payload will be launched aboard a 7 foot tall, 4 inch diameter, three section rocket. The payload will be housed in the middle section, with the recovery system designed to allow the camera to be "right side up" on the way down as well as on the way up, so the camera rotating mechanism is no longer neccessary. The rocket is designed for a Hypertek J hybrid motor, but can also be flown on Aerotech 54mm reloadable motors as well.

Click here to see details of the rocket's construction.

Click here to see some pictures of the South Carolina Tripoli group at our flying field near Orangeburg.

Some links:
Rocket Science - THE place to buy rocket goodies.
Rocketry Online! - The definitive rocketry page - lots of links.
Project HALO - These guys are serious!
Tripoli Rocketry Association - lots of info.

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