How to build a fiberglass rocket: Darkstar Extreme

With the workshop newly completed, and a seemingly endless quarantine/ lockdown in effect, it’s time to turn my attention to building a new rocket.

fiberglass rocket parts spread across wooden workbench
ready to assemble

So far, I’ve built and flown a couple of low and mid power rockets, and I built one high power rocket – the HyperLOC 835, which is a 4″ diameter rocket made primarily from thick cardboard and plywood, with a 54mm motor mount. It can fly on an H, I, or J motor, and I plan to use it once launch events start up again for my L1 certification and probably for my L2 cert as well. It also gave me the opportunity to build my first electronics bay and learn more about flight computers and telemetry.

My next project is a bigger high power rocket: the Darkstar Extreme. This one also has a 4″ diameter but it’s made entirely from fiberglass (except for the aluminum-tipped nosecone and aluminum bulk plates). Fiberglass is significantly stronger than cardboard, wood, or other similar materials; it’s the strongest building material for rockets aside from aluminum.

The other chief advantage of this rocket is a larger 75mm motor mount. More powerful motors come in larger diameters, and this rocket can technically fly on a K, L, or even M motor. An M motor would require me to get my L3 certification, a daunting goal, though one that I plan to achieve in the not too distant future. But I could fly it on a K or L motor as soon as I get my L2 cert.

After unboxing this kit and soaking the airframe pieces in water for 24 hours, I’ve laid out the pieces on my workbench and am ready to start construction. The kit only comes with the major pieces: the fiberglass airframe and nosecone, a few aluminum bulkplates, some basic hardware (forged eye bolts, nuts, washers, and quick links), and nylon recovery harnesses.

The kit does not include the motor (of course), any parachutes, fire blankets, a motor retainer, or certain other necessary hardware (nylon screws/ shear pins, steel screws/ rivets, additional metal bulk plates, etc), so I bought those separately. I also splurged on some kevlar recovery harnesses rather than using the nylon ones that came with the kit because kevlar can withstand significantly higher temperatures and won’t burn easily.

I’ll post a more comprehensive bill of materials separately in case anyone is interested.

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