High power rocket construction: part 7 (painting)

Time for the finishing touches.

Rocket fully painted white with red nose cone, disassembled with parachute and shock cord and e-bay
Anatomy of a rocket

After covering the rocket in white primer, I used a can of white spray paint to coat it again – everywhere except the nose cone, which I painted red. I considered making it white, too, for a uniform (if overly simple) finish, but a major issue with painting rockets is that certain colors can be really difficult to see against the sky.

White, silver, or blue blend in too well and it’s easy to totally lose track of the rocket once it gets high enough. For that reason, rockets are often really bold and vivid colors, and also more than one color.

I added the “Improbable Ventures” logo, too. First high power rocket, but definitely not the last.

Finished rocket standing vertically with pine trees in background
Finished rocket

The completed rocket stands about 6 feet high. Inside is a parachute, a shock cord securing it, and a small fire blanket to protect the parachute against the extremely hot gas from the motor when it burns out and fires an ejection charge, separating the rocket in midair. There’s an electronics bay, but right now it’s empty. Prior to launch, of course, I’ll insert the motor as well.

Having built a few smaller (low power) rockets definitely helped me better understand what I was doing when building this high power one. As I’ve mentioned before, most of the basic parts are the same, and it helps to understand why you’re doing what you are doing, and not just blindly following instructions, even if they are idiot-proof. (We will see.)

The rocket is done, so my next step is to wait patiently for an upcoming high power launch hosted by a local rocketry club. But I may be waiting for a while.

While I could theoretically launch this thing by myself at any time, it’s not really practical. First, you need a proper launch pad and rails to keep it vertical during liftoff (I don’t have the equipment, but clubs do). Second, you need to find a very large area of land – many acres – that meets a long list of conditions ensuring it’s safe for launching rockets, and you need to either own it or get permission from the landowner. The launch site needs to be far away from any buildings or major roads (you don’t want a rocket crashing down, or even landing relatively softly with a parachute, in the middle of an expressway). And finally, you need to get an FAA waiver for launching high power rockets. A club will regularly apply for these waivers, which are specific to a particular date and time window.

I’ve mentioned before that our local Seattle area organization (Washington Aerospace Club or WAC) doesn’t currently have a high power launch site, so, until it does, it cannot conduct or host high power launches. There are other clubs in Washington or Oregon if I’m willing to drive 4-6 hours each way (and I am), but almost none of them host any launch events in the winter months. Things usually pick up again in March.

I just might have a slim chance in early Jan or Feb to launch with an organization in southern WA or northern OR, weather permitting (i.e. no snow or whiteout conditions). It’s unlikely, but possible. In the meantime I’m going to dive into two related projects: (1) starting to learn about electronics and building out my e-bay for this rocket (for future launches), and (2) transforming our backyard garden shed into a small workshop for rocket construction.

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