After completing a simple Estes Eliminator kit (modifying it with rail buttons rather than the standard tube guides) and purchasing some E9-6 motors, I was finally able to test my new rail launch pad. The pad is made using a Rockwell JawStand for the base. This gives an adjustable head to tilt the rail if needed, and also makes it very easy to load the rocket by laying over 90 degrees. I then attached a 6 foot long piece of 80/20 1010 rail to the head using a sheet of 1/4″ aluminum and 80/20 connectors, making a very stable and secure mount. The last piece was the blast deflector which I fashioned out of 12 gauge stainless steel mounted to a 60 degree 80/20 connector and another piece of 1010 rod. I ended up loosing a little over a foot of the rail with the mounting setup I used, but it should still be long enough for the type or rockets I’m currently using.
In order to be able to use the pad with rockets with standard tube type launch lugs, I installed an additional piece of 1010 rail off the back side of the upright and mounted a drill chuck vertically with a 1/8″ rod and stainless steel blast deflector. Over all, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I even picked up an 8 foot length of 1010 rail in case I need a longer rail for a larger rocket in the future!
The weather has not been conducive to launching rockets (winds over 30 mph), but it seemed to be cooperating this morning with only a light breeze. I was up and had the pad setup before the sun cleared the horizon, and was all set for a sunrise launch. As the sun finally hit the launch tower, I pushed the launch button and was rewarded with nothing. I had noted that the launch controller’s screen was blank, but figured it was just the cold temperatures. It was making the proper sound notifications for the launch sequence, and even after changing out the battery to a fresh one, it still wasn’t displaying anything on the screen. The larger problem was with the relay system in the battery box. Apparently, everything shifted at some point and the cuircut I have been using to convert the 5 volts from the controller to the 9+ volts needed to trip the relay had wires pulled out of the board. After a few frustrating minutes of trying to get a field expediant work-around, I finally took everything down and returned home to work where I could at least feel my fingers,
Once in the heat, I found that there were numerous issues with the battery box wiring and managed to blow the fuse in my last functioning multimeter trying to trouble shoot. The wind also began to pickup, and I decided to rig a quick fix using some aligator clips, a 9 volt battery and 30 foot piece of speaker wire. It wasn’t pretty, but it seemed to work.
Once I had everything set back up and connected, I loaded the rocket on the rail, hooked the clips to the ignitor, started the cameras, and used the 9 volt battery to trigger the relay. The 12 volt battery did its job as usual and there was almost instantaneous ignition and the rocket accelerated of the pad with out issue! It did begin to tilt into the wind, and as it gained altitude, it continued to lay over until it completly on its side at apogee. Despite this, the parachute deployed with the motor’s ejection charge and the rocket began to drift back towards the launch site. It appeared that the rocket was set for a landing very close to where it lifted off, but I then found one of the possible causes for the tilting at the end of the flight. There was a layer of much higher winds a few hundred feet up, and when the rocket entered that area, it was quickly blown over a quarter mile away, where it finally came to rest.
No damage was done to the rocket or on-board camera, and the rail system worked perfectly, so overall it was a successful test! I was also able to get the controller and battery box re-worked and they seem to be functioning correctly and the moment.
Here is the launch video for your viewing pleasure!