Model Rocketry From The Rocket’s Point Of View


When someone writes in and says, “Hey, I strapped a camera to a rocket and took videos of it launching!” it’s really hard for us to not get suckered in. Try as we might, we just couldn’t resist taking a look at the videos [Vlad] recorded of his model rocketry “exploration”.

Inspired by our 4th of July post featuring POV videos of bottle rocket launches, he bought himself an 808 keychain camera and decided to try his hand at some high flying video. He strapped the camera to his 46” Estes rocket with a few pieces of scotch tape in an effort to keep weight down, and set off to his launch pad.

He used a Estes C6-5 engine for each launch, which he estimates took the rocket up to a height of 300 feet rather than the typical 500 feet, due to the added weight. While not particularly useful, the video is still awfully fun to watch, and perhaps it will inspire others to mount cameras on even larger, more powerful rockets.

We can only hope.

Continue reading to check out the videos [Vlad] shot, but be warned, the descent is vertigo-inducing.



30 thoughts on “Model Rocketry From The Rocket’s Point Of View

  1. I went to model rocket club meets where there were people who launched remote control gliders off of a rocket. I think if he mounted the camera off of one of these then the video would be more controlled.

  2. Nice! Yep, I’m working on some home-brew rockets with the specific purpose of launching a small camera. You can check out the research so far into fuel and motor configurations on youtube – all VERY amateur at the moment.
    There are some NINJA rocket enthusiasts out there who have some AWESOME launch videos – again, just look at YouTube.
    Nice launch and vid from the contributor and good luck with all your future launches!!

  3. Great video!
    Before the keychain cameras came out, I tried this with a hacked CVS camcorder (remember those?) without the plastic shell and a lighter battery. It was still kinda heavy, so I had it in an Aerotech payload rocket powered by a G80-4t. This engine advertises a maximum liftoff weight of 52oz. Well, everything almost worked perfectly. Rocket went up, tipped over at apogee, and *pop* the ejection charge almost popped the parachute out. The whole thing came hurtling toward the ground at ludicrous speed in a smoking hulk of unstable falling mass until it fell *plunk* right dead in the middle of my parents’ hot tub. This was from the edge of their 6 acre property. I did recover the rocket and the camera, but there was no usable video. Still haven’t gone back to try again.

  4. …and perhaps it will inspire others to mount cameras on even larger, more powerful rockets.

    You do know that NASA has placed cameras on some very large rockets over the past 40+ years?

    Unfortunately, there are FAA size restrictions to how big a rocket can be without a license for flight.

      1. Every year for the past twenty years a group of individuals gather in the desert. It is I believe on the same plain that Burning Man takes place on, although it might be closer to the Mojave Desert, I just recall that it was in the desert SouthWest.

        Technically all they need to is file the right permits, in advance. Basically the only problem is that the BATF gang still has a problem with the chemicals used by them to make their fuels. Some of those rockets approach the same size as the Sounding Rockets launched by NASA and the military and hit the same heights.

    1. The event @GCL is thinking of is the Tripoli Rocketry Association’s annual Black Rock event, two weeks after Burning Man. Some of their high powered rocketry crack 30kft.

  5. Great videos.. and fun stuff! I always love to see kids doing adventurous, innovative things with Rockets and STEM related subjects. :)

    Just some suggestions..
    * Internalizing the camera is key. The asymmetric air flow can really make for unstable flight.
    * Always mount (like that) at the CG (Center of Gravity) point).. otherwise you’ll shift your CG/CP points which will also affect flight stability
    * Try to mount (next time) internally if you can. (search for rocket, camera, mirror and check it out)

    Keep up the good work! Lots of high powered rocket guys are doing recorded and even transmitted video/telemetry stuff! Here’s some kids I oversaw who used a 2.4GHz wireless video rig on their rocket:

    I’ve just started a new rocket club here in Blacksburg VA (VT was Homer Hickam’s old Alma Mater) called New River Valley Rocketry:

    Yes.. the web site sucks.. but check out the photos and videos of our first couple of launches. We just got our FAA clearance and will be doing more high power launches and NAR/TRA certification and experimental launches.

    Look around your area for rocket clubs near you. Join the NAR or the TRA.. and more than anything.. have fun and be safe!


    1. Actually you can mount the camera anyplace forward of the CG. That will shift the CG forward a make the rocket more stable. If you always fly the camera you could even reduce the fin size to decrease drag.
      If the camera is external then you need to make sure that you are not shifting the center of pressure forward of the CG. I was with a guy once that was new to rockets and made his own. The thing is that he did the swing test without a motor! it became stable at about 7ft off the ground and in level flight! yicks…

  6. For $6, that’s a pretty decent camera. Even my $500 Android phone takes really bad wavy video. I’ve been looking for a good way to capture first-person POV video while riding a motorcycle, but the cameras that are made for mounting to a helmet run something like $150. A $6 keychain camera can quite literally be duct-taped to the helmet. Only downside is that wind noise might be an issue, but that can be mitigated in post-processing, with a separate recording, or doing away with the audio track entirely.

  7. @Vlad. Nice shots. You may want to move up to something like a Storm chaser or another D sized model. Also a Big Bertha will Handle a D with just a change of engine mounts with no problem. Adding a second stage to a rocket is also not a big problem. It looks like you where using a Stratocruiser. If you want to make a second stage just pick up a body tube the same dia as a D engine. I think it is a BT-50 but check to make sure. If you can not just get the part an Alpha is the right size. Cut it to be around the same size as the engine. Then cut for large swept fins. You can do the math if want and get them exactly the right size but if you make them swept and slightly bigger than the fins on the Staratocruiser you will be safe. Do a swing test to be sure.
    Put a D-12-0 in the new stage and then slide the end of the C-8 into the open end of the D-12-0 You now have a two stage that will give you a lot more altitude. Plus you have gone past kit building at the same time.

  8. The camera interested me and I did a quick search, and then some digging and found this site:
    There is a TON of information here about the different versions and even a true HD version identified as version #11. This forum has even more information, incredible videos, and links to eBay sources for know good suppliers with pricing around $40. It’s on my shortlist of gadgets to buy now… This camera might be worth it’s own HAD feature.

  9. There are a number of sites dedicated to video rocketry, as well as the active Yahoo! “Vidroc” egroup.

    I built an X-10 video rocket a few years back for a school science day. The folks who watched the feed live in a nearby classroom said the flight looked great. But, I forgot to hook up a vcr, so I had to take their word for it.

    I’ve got a couple of keychain-sized video cams, and never thought to throw them into the X-10 rocket. Thanks for the reminder!

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