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How To Add A Camcorder To Your Rocket - Apogee Components

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Feature Article:
How To Add A
Camcorder To
Your Rocket
Also in this issue:
More Fun With
Video Cameras
Cover Photo: LOC Precision’s
Onyx rocket kit. Get your’s
today at:
www.ApogeeRockets.com/LOC_Onyx.asp
Apogee Components, Inc. — Your Source For Rocket Supplies That Will Take You To The “Peak-of-Flight”
3355 Fillmore Ridge Heights
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80907-9024 USA
www.ApogeeRockets.com e-mail: orders@apogeerockets.com
ISSUE 254
FEBRUARY 9, 2010
How To Add A Camcorder To Your High Power Rocket
By Mike Momenee
Have you ever thought about launching a tiny camcorder atop your G motor and higher-powered, 2.6” diameter and larger rockets? Want to use a video camera that
can capture your entire flight, from ignition to landing? Just
not sure where to begin? I’m sure that there are countless
ways to accomplish this; I’d like to share how I’ve been doing it since 1971!
Ok, as a little background, I caught the rocketry bug in
the late �60’s, when I was in junior high school. I pursued
model rocketry throughout high school, where I participated
in science fairs and wrote research papers for regional
and national competition (“The Krushnic Effect in Model
Rocketry”, “Determining the Efficiency of Ducted Propulsion
Systems in Model Rocketry”- yikes!).
About 1970, I tried an Estes product which took a black
& white still photo at the rocket’s apogee. It was good, but
I wanted more. My best friend in high school, Kirk Packo
(now a famous physician- Google him) was quite good with
cameras, and I was the rocketeer. We purchased a Kodak
8mm movie camera from a pawn shop, and using some
parts and motors from a Centuri kit that his brother had
lost interest in, I built
Cinema 1.
That rocket is lost
to history (I gave it
away when I went to
college), but it was
virtually identical to
Cinema 2 (above),
which I built in 1977.
That big black thing
Photo 1: The Cinema 1 rocket
sticking out from the
with an 8mm movie camera in it. payload bay was the
Kodak movie camera, with a front surface mirror mounted at 45 degrees so
that the view was down the rocket body, and attached with
masking tape! Aerodynamically sleek- no. But fun- yes! You
can check out the video from this 1977 flight on YouTube,
as well as all my other onboard rocket videos from the
present. Search for jmomenee, and you’ll find them.
Fast forward to 2009. After a 32 year hiatus from rockAbout this Newsletter
Step 1- Choose a small camcorder
There are a lot of п¬Ѓne small camcorders out there, but
I chose the Aiptek HD-1 camcorder, which I purchased for
about $50 used on Ebay.
Amazon is selling new ones
for $79.99. Its tiny dimensions are 2.8 x 1.2 x 4
inches and it weighs only 4.8
ounces.
It’s a no-frills camcorder,
but it has the ability to shoot
video at 60 frames per second! Because of the speed
at which your rocket travels,
I highly recommend that you
choose a camcorder that
has this feature. When you
watch your video frame by
frame, you may thank me for
this recommendation.
A pointer about this
camcorder- I read some
complaints from the nonrocket community that the
camcorder would turn off
for no apparent reason. I
discovered a little “fixit” secret- if you cut a small sliver
of credit card-like plastic
the size of the camcorder
battery thickness and width,
and place it between the
base of the battery and the
battery area in the camcorder, the battery cannot loose
Photos 2 & 3: AIPTEK
HD-1 camcorder. Bottom
shows viewfinder open and
rotated back against the
body.
Continued on page 3
Newsletter Staff
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Page 2
etry, I decided that it would be my perfect retirement hobby.
Thanks to a great article by James Yawn which I found on
the web, I discovered that today’s camcorders are small,
lightweight and are being launched on rockets. So I dived in
with both feet.
ISSUE 254
Writer: Tim Van Milligan
Layout / Cover Artist: Tim Van Milligan
Proofreader: Michelle Mason
February 9, 2010
Continued from page 2
Add A Camcorder To Your Rocket
camera opening, measure
down 3” from the top of
the camcorder bay body
tube. Draw a line around
the circumference of the
tube using a piece of paper
wrapped around the tube as
a guide.
connection with the camera’s
battery contacts (see Photo 4the little white sliver of plastic
sticking up is the “wedge” I cut
to assure the battery contact).
In a half dozen flights, I have
never had a loss of power.
{Editor’s Note: I also use Photo 4: Put a peice of
the AIPTEK HD-1 camcorder. plastic behind the battery
to make sure the contacts
On my first two flights, the
SD Memory card popped out touch during the harsh
of its socket during the jolt of acceleration of the rocket.
landing and I lost all the video.
I now just remove the memory card and use the internal
memory of the camera when flying it in a rocket. It allows
plenty of time for a flight.}
Step 2- Make a camcorder bay for your rocket
The first rocket I built in 2009 was Aerotech’s HV Arcas
kit (www.ApogeeRockets.com/Aerotech_arcas.asp). I
altered it quite simply. While the Arcas has everything you
need, here is what you will need for most any rocket you
may want to add a camcorder into:
1) A 10” to 12” piece of body tube of the same diameter
as your rocket.
2) A “connection” between the base of the camcorder
tube and the rocket’s body tube, if you don’t have one already. It can be made from a piece of coupler and a coupler
bulkhead glued into it, with a screw eye screwed into the
coupler bulkhead. Or you could use an avionics bay, which
is quite similar to what I’ve already described.
If you use the Aiptek HD-1 and use a 2.6” diameter
tube, here are the cut dimensions I used. For the front of
Then use the front of
an opened dresser drawer
to draw a straight line down
the length of the tube, starting at the circumference line
you just drew.
Measure down 2.75”
and make a mark.
Draw another circumference line at that mark. You
now have two circumference lines 2.75” apart.
Photo 5: Cut an opening
on each side of the tube to
hold the camera.
Measure 1.2” on a piece
of masking tape, and place
the tape with the left edge
of the 1.2” mark on the
straight line down the length
Photo 6: The camera inof the tube, just below the
п¬Ѓrst circumference line you serted into the cut-outs.
made. Make a mark on that
circumference line where the right edge of the 1.2” mark is.
Draw a second straight line along the right side, using
the dresser drawer as before, and you have your cutout
area for the front of the camera.
For the back of the camcorder opening, use these
Continued on page 4
For Great Articles for This Newsletter
Are you a writer looking for some serious pocket change? We’re paying up to $350 for good how-to articles for this newsletter. If you’re
interested, see our submission guidelines on the Apogee web site.
www.ApogeeRockets.com/Newsletter_Guidelines.asp
ISSUE 254
February 9, 2010
www.ApogeeRockets.com
We’re Paying Cash
Page 3
Continued from page 3
Add A Camcorder To Your Rocket
dimensions and the same steps, after locating the exact opposite side of the tube:
3.2” down from the top of the camcorder body tube,
2.3” tall and 1.1” wide.
What you’ll end up with will look like Photo 5, unpainted, of course.
You may need to notch the top a bit as shown in Photo
5 to accommodate the buttons on top of the camcorder.
When cutting in general, use a sharp blade, and make several passes with the knife to cut all the way through.
For a 3” or larger diameter tube, you only need to cut
the hole for the front of the camcorder. In a 3” tube, the
back of the camcorder will perfectly touch the opposite
inside wall of the camcorder tube.
I like to use small screws to secure the camcorder tube
to both the nose cone and the coupler. That way, you can
reconfigure your rocket back to its original construction and
it prevents the nose cone from pulling off the tube by accident during the launch.
To hold the camcorder securely in the camcorder tube,
I simply wrap a piece of blue painters masking tape all the
way around the exposed camcorder and body tube, then
wrap a piece of electrical tape over top of the blue masking
tape. It hasn’t budged a fraction of an inch using H motors
so far.
By the way, there is no “ON” button on this camcorder;
you need to open the viewfinder to turn on the camera,
fold the viewfinder into the open position back into the
camcorder body (as shown in Photo 2), and insert it in the
body tube. Hit the exposed “RECORD” button, and you’re
recording!
Step 3- Do you want to see the parachute on
the way down or the ground?
If the answer is to see the parachute on the way down,
you are done. Attach your shock cord and parachute to the
screw eye at the base of the camcorder tube and you’re
ready to fly.
But if you are like me and want to see the ground on
the descent portion of the flight, here is how I accomplish it:
1) I first drill a hole through the point of the noseconeI’m going to ultimately feed a piece of Kevlar shock cord
through it. It helps to first cut off the first 1/4” or so off the
nosecone point to give a flat surface to drill into.
2) Measure out a piece of KevlarВ® shock cord. The
1500# cord, P/N 30327, from Apogee Components www.
Continued on page 5
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Page 4
ISSUE 254
February 9, 2010
www.ApogeeRockets.com
High-Power Reload Casings
Continued from page 4
Add A Camcorder To Your Rocket
the tube.
ApogeeRockets.com/shock_cord.asp) works perfectly. The
cord should be around 24” to 36” long, depending on the
dimensions of your camcorder tube and nosecone.
3) Tie it, and CA glue the knot, then epoxy it to the
opposite sides of the tube (see Photo 7), making sure not
to glue it to the coupler at the bottom, and leaving enough
room at the top for the shoulder of the nosecone to п¬Ѓt into
4) I use a quick link at the top of the cord glued to the
inside of the camcorder tube, and run a 6 to 9 foot section
of Kevlar cord through the nosecone hole at the tip and tie
it to the quick link, CA gluing the
knot.
5) Cut a groove in the coupler
to accept the thickness of the
Kevlar cord, and attach the Kevlar
cord to your parachute. Assembled, it should look something like
the Photo 8.
The light colored cord(s) in
Photo 8, running from the nosecone and ending just above the
“CINEMA 3.5” name are the
Kevlar cords. I’ll tell you why this
rocket has two cords in a future
article!
Photo 8: The Kevlar
With this shock cord configu- shock cord comes out
ration, the chute will be above the of the nose tip, and
runs down the side of
rocket and the camcorder will
have a view of the ground on the the rocket.
way down. I use a barrel swivel at
Photo 7: Shock cord attached inside the tube so the
camera will hang vertically.
Continued on page 6
Continued on page 10
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Battery, battery connector, mounting
board and igniter are not incuded.
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ISSUE 254
February 9, 2010
www.ApogeeRockets.com
Staging Electronics
Page 5
Continued from page 5
Add A Camcorder To Your Rocket
the end of the parachute lines, so that rocket and camcorder are free to turn independently of the parachute.
Step 4- Creating your videos and screen capture jpegs
The Aiptek camcorder comes with a video creation
software CD called Total Media Extreme, which you can
use to edit/add to the video. From there, you can save it in
several common formats, including .wmv and.mov. On the
Mac computer, the videos downloaded from the camera are
easily opened in Apple’s QuickTime® software.
I also use the freeware VCL Media Player (www.videolan.org) because it has a variable-speed playback function,
and also a “SNAPSHOT” function which allow you to make
a screen capture of any frame from your video you want.
Photos 9 through 11 are some jpegs made with that
software tool.
Lastly, you may ask why I didn’t streamline the camcorder by adding a cowling. The short answer is that I
wasn’t so concerned with altitude. And so far, every flight of
four different 2.6” or 3” diameter rockets demonstrated that
each flew straight and true, even with that little camcorder
Photo 10: A nice horizon shot from an arcing rocket.
Photo 9: A booster stage at the instant of staging.
Continued on page 7
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By Timothy S. Van Milligan
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Apogee Components
3355 Fillmore Ridge Heights
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80907 USA
telephone: 719-535-9335
website: www.ApogeeRockets.com
Page 6
ISSUE 254
February 9, 2010
Continued from page 6
Add A Camcorder To Your Rocket
paper nut. His paper, “Determining the Efficiency of Ducted
Propulsion Systems in Model Rocketry”, won one of ten
national scholarships in a 1971 national contest, complete
with a trip to Washington, DC and a group picture on the
Capitol steps. Mike graduated from Notre Dame in 1975
with a science degree, and had a successful healthcarerelated sales/sales management career, from which he retired in 2008. Mike and his wife Jackie, live in sunny Valrico
(Tampa) Florida, and I fly at the monthly TTRA launches in
Plant City.
Photo 11: A nice aerial view of the launch site.
poking its head out of one or both sides of the rocket.
I even flew my Level 1 certification flight with a camcorder in it. And my Level 2 rocket, CINEMA 6, sits ready
for its February certification attempt, its camcorder bay
waiting for the Aiptek.
Finally, I hope I may have piqued your interest about
flying a camcorder. For me, seeing the view from the rocket
is even more enjoyable than the watching from the ground.
My time has probably passed for applying to the astronaut
training program, so my camcorder videos are as close as
I’ll come to flying in a rocket!
About the Author:
Mike Momenee began flying model rockets during the
late 1960’s. He says he was a science fair and research
Mike Momenee in 1971 on the Capital steps. Inset: Mike
shown in 2009 flying one of his Cinema rockets.
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ISSUE 254
February 9, 2010
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Page 7
More Fun With Video Rockets
By Tim Van Milligan
As I mentioned in Mike’s article, I also have used the
AIPTEK HD-1 camcorder in a rocket (see Newsletter 234
at: www.ApogeeRockets.com/education/downloads/Newsletter234.pdf). What fascinates me is the amount of information you can glean from the images you get back. In
the photos on this page, I’ve pointed out some of the neat
things you can see.
In the top-right photo, we tried a drag-race with two
rockets. The Lexxjet (www.ApogeeRockets.com/LexxJet.
asp) took off п¬Ѓrst and veered off, but the camera rocket had
a big motor in it and quickly rose and got into position to
catch the other rocket. Too bad that the rocket stayed in the
shadow of the camera rocket’s smoke plume. To see the
actual HD video of this flight where you can step through it
frame by frame, visit: www.ApogeeRockets.com/Education/
Downloads/Video_Launch.mov. The п¬Ѓle size is about 9MB.
Note that this is the launch site for NARAM-52 happening in
July 2010 — have you made plans to attend?
of the rocket’s altitude. This was a project done by students
here in Colorado (read more about it at: www.cosrocs.
org/htmlpages/sli.html)
Preventing Spin?
I’ve noticed the high rate that rockets spin as they
ascend. I wish I had a good solution to this problem. I have
some ideas, but I haven’t tried them in the real world yet.
Do you have any suggestions? If you do, please write in
and let me know what you do to get better video images.
The same goes for when the rocket is descending by
parachute. That should be the best time in the flight to get
stable images if you can eliminate the swaying and twisting
of the rocket.
I think there is an art to getting good images back, and
it takes some experimenting to learn the tricks. If you want
a good horizon shot, like shown on page 6, I’ve found that
it is easier to get if you angle the launch rod so the rocket
arcs over better. You can get the horizon shot on a straightup launch, but it happens so quickly that the image can get
distorted (a п¬Ѓsh-eye effect). The angled launch is better.
You can also use the video to get an accurate reading
Join The NAR
The National Association of Rocketry (NAR) is
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4. Get your high-power certification
On the membership application, be sure to say that
Apogee Components sent you.
www.NAR.org
Page 8
ISSUE 254
February 9, 2010
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