Launching model rockets wirelessly

We love ballistic trajectories and the smell of black powder in the morning, so we’re really interested in the wireless rocket launch pad sent in by [Brent Strysko].

[Brent] used an ATmega with an enc28j60 ethernet shield and wireless router to launch the rocket without a physical connection with ‘the button.’ Everything on the launchpad is powered by a 12 Volt motorcycle battery, and there’s also a flashing LED for the countdown. All that’s needed to launch a rocket is to send a command from the laptop. We think this would be an awesome project when combined with the radio telemetry build we covered earlier – the computer is already there with the range safety officer.

Although amateur rocketry is extremely safe, with no high-power flight ever hitting a person (PDF warning), there’s still some risk of from black powder engines CATOing. We think [Brent] came up with a great way to make a safe hobby even safer, and managed an interesting project in the process. Check out the walkthrough of the launchpad after the break, or check out this video of the launchpad in action.

Comments

  1. rusty says:

    i launch my model ockets with a match. no fuse. i like the danger.

  2. aztraph says:

    8 out of 10 for execution (i like the build), 6 for originality, 3 for practicality, are you really going to need to be so far that you NEED a wireless signal? the pad looks to be a little cumbersome too, i wouldn’t want to heft it across a field.

  3. Sp`ange says:

    Though a cool project, I built something using a wireless door bell. Much simpler and took about 30 minutes to make.

  4. Colecoman1982 says:

    This is nothing new. People launch model rockets wirelessly all the time. Just last 4th of July, I saw lots of people launching rockets using the MATCH and LIGHTER wireless protocols.

  5. Dante says:

    My house had a wireless door bell. It would go off randomly day or night for no apparent reason.

  6. Tweeks says:

    For those asking, yes wireless is needed. Especially as you get into medium and high power launches (as a NAR/TRA safety requirement). CATOs can still throw shrapnel if a motor blows on the pad.

    And no.. using a wireless doorbell or other cheap, non validated RF transmitter/receiver is ill-advised. You need some sort of client/server or digitally encoded control signal to protect for “stray signals” erroneously setting off the launch.

    Nice job Brian. I would think that the next logical step would be to add 4-5 more pads and be able to control multiple rockets as well as cluster ignitions and delays. Stuff like these:
    http://theweeks.org/rockets/2006-06_HCR-launch/dscf0031.jpg

    I’m looking at creating a wireless system as I’ve described… but be Android phone based and for high power systems.

    Nice work!

    Tweeks

  7. lwatcdr says:

    The one thing I would worry about is the lack of a physical safety lock out. Usually they use some kind of key that prevents an current flowing to the ignition system while the it is out of the circuit.
    You could do the same thing digitally but one would really have to be careful to get it right. I would still want that motorcycle batter located say about 10 meters from from pad and have it disconnected while I was setting up the rocket. But that is just me.

  8. gizmoguyar says:

    I like the idea, but it’s a little impractical for anything less than a massive rocket.

  9. Kuy says:

    Points lost for not using a TI MSP430 “Launchpad” kit for your launchpad (though admittedly I would have used an AVR myself.)

  10. aEx155 says:

    I’m trying to put a launchpad (really only the MSP430G2211) into my water rocket to act as the parachute deployment timer.

  11. QW says:

    @aEx155
    Use a 555

  12. Vlad says:

    you can do this with an arduino and 2 xbees, no matter what the remote is always going to be the lightest.

    • gypsy jo says:

      I too am looking for nominal cost products that are effective. Do you know of any timeers that can be used to ignot model rockets. I tried to usee a dog collar; not enough fire to ignite it. Any ideas will be appreciated. Thanks

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