Beginner’s Video Rocketry

Geek Culture

Video-Rocket Drag RaceVideo-Rocket Drag RaceFor anyone interested in an easy and fun entry to rocketry, Estes sells a beginner video rocket kit, the Oracle  (as low as $75 online) that has everything you need except engines, which are inexpensive.   It is a completely pre-assembled rocket, but it only takes a D-size engine. 

The video camera is in the nosecone and reflects off a 45 degree mirror to look down the length of the rocket.

D-size motors are nice, but I immediately felt the need to go higher. I discovered that the body tube is the exact same size as the Estes Blue Ninja.  So I build the Blue Ninja, sliding back the motor retainer so it can take E size engines (2x the power of a D).

From there, you can double the power again by using an Aerotech solid AP composite F21 motor (if you can find one still for sale) that fits into the space of an Estes E engine, or you can use a D12-0 booster stage from an Estes CC Express to ignite the E9-8 in the Blue Ninja.

Smokin' over the Stanford foothillsSmokin' over the Stanford foothills Whip it GoodWhip it Good 
Here are some frame grabs from motor combinations that are 3-4x higher than the Oracle kit envisioned. Each photo links to the video:

To Infinity and Beyond...To Infinity and Beyond...   Rocket-eye's ViewRocket-eye's View

Both frame grabs are from apogee, with the Stanford foothills and Felt Lake in the distance in the first photo and the crescent beach of Half Moon Bay in the second.


The Oracle does an OK job at dusk, and the flames are more visible:

The main disappointment with the Oracle cam is the lack of sound. The next step in complexity is to modify a larger kit to take a small external camera, or have one inside the body reflecting off an external mirror, like a bike helmet mirror over Livermore:
VideoCam on Erik's RocketVideoCam on Erik's Rocket Separation over LivermoreSeparation over Livermore Rocket over LivermoreRocket over Livermore

My friend Erik modified a LOC Precision NORAD rocket to take a video camera and transmitter in the upper body tube.  I am stationed at the base station with a medium-gain directional antenna and video recorder. My favorite part of the video is the roar of the hand-assembled Aerotech G64 motor and the speed of ascent.

Wireless Video RocketWireless Video Rocket Photographing the PhotographerPhotographing the Photographer

And for the final frontier, Gene Nowaczyk put an incredible amount of work and craftsmanship into this machined metal rocket. Video camera, x-ray measurements, avionics for GPS, barometric pressure, accelerometer and other sensors, telemetry…

Blastoff!Blastoff!Nosecone PrepNosecone Prep

Space, the Final FrontierSpace, the Final Frontier This is a frame grab from space, about 100K ft. up.  The atmosphere ends at 55K ft at this latitude.  On-board avionics indicate that the rocket broke Mach 3.5 and heated up to 425°F (more info

For more information of video rocketry, Jamie Clay has a good primer, and the Mercury Joe story of persistence should be an inspiration to us all.

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