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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Congo’s Space Program

Deep in the hills of the Democratic Republic of Congo, you’ll find men and women hard at work providing a living for their family. You might find some working in one of the nation’s mines which are rich in natural resources.  Others will be working the farms or participating in one of many diverse cultural customs. If you head two hours via dirt road from the capital city of Kinshasa, however, you’ll find something a bit out of place for the area – an active space program.

On a vast yam farm, [Jean-Patrice Keka] has single-handedly developed several rockets that have flirted with the space_01elusive zero gravity environment. [Mr. Keka’s] ‘Mission Control’ is a corrugated metal shed lined with CRT monitors and dated computers, but don’t let this fool you. His vision and drive are just as great as any space faring nation.

His intellect has made him a small fortune in commodities trading, and allows him the luxury to finance his operation without the need of government help. From time to time, he employs the help of local engineering students to get his rockets off the ground. Their payload has included rats and insects, with one launch reaching 10 miles of altitude and the current project aiming for 120 miles. [Mr. Keka] has become a national hero via the televised broadcasts of the launches, and has gotten the attention of national government officials. They even flew him to the US once to petition funding for his work.

[Mr. Keka] and his story should serve as an inspiration to all inspiring hackers and makers to pursue their dreams.

Thanks to [Cmh62] for the tip.

Tiny Radio Tracks Your Balloons

The name of the game in rocketry or ballooning is weight. The amount of mass that can be removed from one of these high-altitude devices directly impacts how high and how far it can go. Even NASA, which estimates about $10,000 per pound for low-earth orbit, has huge incentives to make lightweight components. And, while the Santa Barbara Hackerspace won’t be getting quite that much altitude, their APRS-enabled balloon/rocket tracker certainly helps cut down on weight.

Tracksoar is a 2″ x .75″ x .5″ board which weighs in at 45 grams with a pair of AA batteries and boasts an ATmega 328P microcontroller with plenty of processing power for its array of on-board sensors. Not to mention everything else you would need like digital I/O, a GPS module, and, of course, the APRS radio which allows it to send data over amateur radio frequencies. The key to all of this is that the APRS module is integrated with the board itself, which saves weight over the conventional method of having a separate APRS module in addition to the microcontroller and sensors.

As far as we can see, this is one of the smallest APRS modules we’ve ever seen. It could certainly be useful for anyone trying to save weight in any high-altitude project. There are a few other APRS projects out there as well but remember: an amateur radio license will almost certainly be required to use any of these.