Building Homebrew VTOL Rockets

No one can deny what SpaceX and Blue Origin are doing is a feat of technological wizardry. Building a rocket that takes off vertically, goes into space, and lands back on the pad is an astonishing technical achievement that is literally rocket science. However, both SpaceX and Blue Origin have a few things going for them. They have money, first of all. They’re building big rockets, so there’s a nice mass to thrust cube law efficiency bump. They’re using liquid fueled engines that can be throttled.

[Joe Barnard] isn’t working with the same constraints SpaceX and Blue Origin have. He’s still building a rocket that can take off and land vertically, but he’s doing it the hard way. He’s building VTOL model rockets. Most of the parts are 3D printed. And he’s using solid motors you can buy at a hobby shop. This is the hard way of doing things, and [Joe] is seeing some limited success with his designs.

While the rockets coming out of Barnard Propulsion Systems look like models of SpaceX’s test vehicles, there’s a lot more here than looks. [Joe] is using a thrust vectoring system — basically mounting the Estes motor in a gimbal attached to a pair of servos. This allows the rockets to fly straight up without fins or even the launch rod used to get the rocket up to speed in the first few millseconds of flight. This is active stabilization of a model rocket, with the inevitable comments of ITAR violations following soon afterward.

Taking off vertically is one thing, but [Joe] is also trying to land his rockets vertically. Each rocket he’s built has a second Estes motor used only for landing. During descent, the onboard microcontroller calculates the speed, altitude, and determines if it’s safe to attempt a vertical landing. If the second motor has sufficient impulse to make velocity and altitude equal zero at the same time, the landing legs deploy and the rocket hopefully makes a soft touchdown in the grass.

While [Joe] hasn’t quite managed to pull off a vertical takeoff and landing with black powder motors quite yet, he’s documenting and livestreaming all of his attempts. You can check out the latest one from a week ago below.

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3D Printed Rockets are a Gas

We’ve probably all made matchstick rockets as kids. And around here anything that even vaguely looks like a rocket will get some imaginary flight time. But [austiwawa] is making some really cool 3D printed rockets that use common CO2 cartridges as a propellant. You can see them in action in the video below.

You might think just sticking a CO2 cylinder in a 3D printed jacket isn’t such a big deal, but [austiwawa] really went the extra mile. He read up on how to make the rocket stable (by manipulating the center of gravity versus the center of pressure) and explains what he had to do to get the rockets flying like you’d expect.

In addition, the launch tube is pretty interesting. A 3D printed part holds a sharp point and a spring. You lock the spring and when released it punches a clean hole in the propellant casing. The actual tube is a long piece of PVC pipe. From the video, it looks like these little rockets fly pretty high.

Judging from the video, the rocket body and launcher came from TinkerCAD. The way [austiwawa] put the fins on was both simple and clever.

Of course, you could also use Coke and propane, if you like. We’ve also seen some pretty cool setups with compressed air. Check out the rockets in action after the break,

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Ruggedizing A Cheap Camera For Spacecraft Testing

Name the countries that house a manned space program. In order of arrival in space, USSR/Russian Federation, United States of America, People’s Republic of China. And maybe one day, Denmark. OK, not the Danish government. But that doesn’t stop the country having a manned space program, in the form of Copenhagen Suborbitals. As the tagline on their website has it: “We’re 50 geeks building and flying our own rockets. One of us will fly into space“. If that doesn’t catch the attention of Hackaday readers, nothing will.

For their rocket testing they need a lot of video feeds, and for that they use cheap Chinese GoPro clones. The problem with these (and we suspect many other cameras) is that when subjected to the temperature and vibration of being strapped to a rocket, they cease to work. And since even nonprofit spaceflight engineers are experts at solving problems, they’ve ruggedized the cameras to protect them from vibration and provide adequate heatsinking.

The heat issue is addressed by removing the camera case and attaching its metal chassis directly to a heatsink that forms the end of an extruded aluminium case. Vibration was causing the camera SD cards to come loose, so these are soldered into their sockets. Power is provided by a pair of 18650 cells with a switching regulator to provide internal power, and another to allow the unit to be charged from a wide range of input voltages. A PCB houses both the regulators and sockets for cable distribution. There is even a socket on top of the case to allow a small monitor to be mounted as a viewfinder. Along the way they’ve created a ruggedized camera that we think could have many applications far beyond rocket testing. Maybe they should sell kits!

We’ve covered Copenhagen Suborbitals before quite a few times, from their earliest news back in 2010, through a look at their liquid-fueled engine, to a recent successful rocket launch. We want to eventually report on this project achieving its aim.

Thanks [Morten] for the tip.

Transparent Rocket Engine

Rocket engines are undeniably cool. Experiencing the roar, seeing the fire, and watching the rocket blast off into the sky… what else can you ask for? Well, for [NightHawkInLight], a transparent rocket body is the answer.

Based on previous work by [Applied Science], he uses an acrylic rod as the rocket body and as the fuel. Bring a flame into the acrylic, apply oxygen from a canister at the other end of the body and voilà! The rocket engine starts nicely, and even better, the intensity of the burn can be controlled via the amount of oxygen provided.
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Copenhagen Suborbitals Launches Impressive Amateur Liquid Fueled Rocket

Copenhagen Suborbitals just launched their latest amateur liquid fuel rocket. Why? Because they want to strap someone to a bigger amateur liquid fuel rocket and launch them into space.

We’ve covered them before, but it’s been a while. While they make a big deal of being amateurs, they are the least amateurish amateurs we’ve come across. We’ll forgive a lot as long as they keep making great videos about their projects. Or posting great pictures of the internals of their rockets.

The Nexø I rocket they recently launched claims to be the first guided, amateur, liquid-fueled rocket. There is a nice post on the guidance system. It was launched from a custom built barge off the shore of Denmark, which allows them to escape quite a few legal hurdles around the launch. The rocket flew beautifully. That is, it went only away from the ground; no other directions. Also, it didn’t explode, which is a lot to expect from even the biggest players in the field.

Copenhagen Suborbitals continues to do amazing work. Hopefully their next rocket will be even more impressive… for amateurs, that is.

First 360-degree Video From An Amateur Rocket?

Space. The final 360-degree frontier. These are the voyages of the Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS), whose ongoing mission is to seek out new civilizations and launch rockets at them. For their latest adventure, they stuck a 360-degree video camera into their rocket. The resulting video is spectacular, from the pre-launch drama of an attack by a giant bee to the parachute release. It also works in Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift through the YouTube viewer.

The 360-degree video was made from video captured by five GoPro cameras stuck inside a custom-built module mounted inside the rocket body, then stitched together by PTGUI for the final video. The PSAS has been building modular rockets for some time, and this camera was mounted on their LV2 model. In this flight, the rocket reached an altitude of 4.7km (about 3 miles high), reaching a peak velocity of about 350 meters per second. That’s a pretty impressive height and speed, and you definitely get a good feeling for the dramatic climb of the rocket as it zooms up. This is some impressive stuff from a group of serious rocketeers who are boldly going where nobody has gone before…

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Where (Almost) No GoPro has Gone Before

What would it be like to ride a six foot rocket to nearly 400,000 feet at Mach 5.5? Thanks to UP Areospace and some GoPro cameras, you can find out.

The rocket was a test for the Maraia Capsule project. Mach 5.5, for reference, is 3,800MPH. It appears several different GoPro cameras took the footage. You can see the upward travel, some great views of Earth, and the return on the video below.

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