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  1. #1
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
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    Reno, NV
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    461

    Next Launch Controller

    It's time to update my relay-driven controller. I'm trying to add continuity check at the handset as well as (currently only at) the pad control box.

    The handset and pad controller are currently powered by a car battery at the pad, and connected by up to 500' of Cat5. I'm resorting to transistors to drive the continuity check, since it didn't make sense to use an out-and-back current flow to do that function.

    Since I've never worked with transistors before, can someone with more skillz than me look this over?

    ...if the attachment doesn't work, the schematic can also be downloaded from here as a pdf. Or, the pages are as images here (page 1) and here (page 2).

    Thanks!


    All the best, James

    Last edited by Fdog; 24th April 2012 at 06:09 PM. Reason: Removed out-of-date schematic

  2. #2
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
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    It's built. Amazingly it worked correctly from "first voltage". Testing it briefly, it worked perfectly with 500' of Cat5 as the wiring to the handset, and pops a 20A automotive fuse instantly.

    The continuity check was measured as 2.1 mA at the microclips.

    Part of my intention was to have the continuity circuit isolated when the arming relay was actuated.

    ...This isn't happening. It is possible to apply a faint trickle (~1.1 V) to the continuity circuit from the handset, when the arming relay is actuated. I've traced this to my choice of the 2N3904; I didn't realize that the orientation of the emitter would allow voltage passthrough.

    I'll replace this transistor with a PNP, and change the handset switch to go to ground.

    As with so many things, the fun has been learning about new things - in this case, transistors and stuff.


    All the best, James

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    26th January 2010
    Location
    Northern California
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    13,154
    That turned out really cool looking!
    NAR 91107, Level 2

    I really, really hate bugs.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    28th December 2011
    Posts
    575
    That looks nice. You can achieve the result you want by using a SPDT relay. Tie the POS clip to COM on the relay, and wire your continuity lamp to NC. Connect NO to the POS. You can put an arming relay on the POS to the PAD if you worry about fused contacts. The key switch goes in the low current control circuit that controls the coil on the relay(s). No need for Transistor switching circuits. (Although it is fun to design them)

    I don't get the continuity check at the pad. I mean, when you test at the pad, you are potentially sourcing current to the igniter, while right next to the rocket.

    As above, I use SPDT relays with the continuity check through the NC contacts. When I energize the relay for ignition, the continuity circuit is switched out and the NO contacts deliver full current to the igniter. If the relay is fused (as some folks worry about) and the igniter were to get full current when the key is inserted, then I'm safely away from the pad when if there is an errant ignition. With the test at the pad, you are not protected in any way.

    You could add check at the pad by placing a pushbutton between POS and the NC contact but then you are next to the pad when testing...

    My 2 cents...
    -Chr$
    NAR 79536 L1
    Vice President - Superstition Spacemodeling Society Section 506 www.sssrocketry.com
    SAM 0488
    "Prefers Plastic Nose Cones"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    461
    Good day Chris. My sincere thanks for your input, I'll take every helpful hint anyone can give me.

    Your comments about using the normally closed contacts from the relay, are in fact, essentially what is done in this controller, so obviously we're on the same page.

    Given the 26 Ohm resistance of 24 gauge wire over a 1000' loop, I was becoming concerned with implied load for a simple continuity check. Hence the transistors and their ability to amplify signal.

    Yesterday I topped off the 12V battery to a no-load 13.2V. When measured across the clips, the continuity check was a mere 2.38 mA. After perusing this interesting article about igniter thresholds, I feel pretty good about the safety of pushing the continuity button at the pad.

    Although I don't personally launch complex clusters, it was suggested to me to add the pad-side continuity check for these types of launches, so there it is.

    Just for curiosity, I made up a 1000' Cat5e cable and tried it. The controlls operated cleanly and popped a 10A, 20A and 30A automotive fuse instantly. I was worried that I'd need to install relay drivers (more transistors) for that length of run, but apparently they're not needed.

    I'll post the revised schematics tomorrow for those that are interested.


    All the best, James

  6. #6
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
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    Reno, NV
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    Attached is the revised schematic. Also, this link points to the revised schematic as well.


    The system as a whole. Not shown is 500' of Cat5 cable on a reel.



    It certainly has been fun building this! I'll probabally continue tweaking the design because working with electronics has been very rewarding and a great learning experience. ...I sense a custom PCB in my future..


    The Cat5 socket on the side of the pad control box. Wiring is conventional T568B, so any Cat5 cable will work.


    As built, the internal load-carrying wiring is all 10 AWG. The clips are 14 AWG, and the battery connection is 8 AWG. All the miscelaneous low load wiring - the transistors, LEDs and buzzers & sirens, etc - are assembled on an experimenter's board.


    Simple enough. Functions not seen: the Power LED will not light and an annoying piezo siren sounds if the system is connected with polarity reversed. Also, if the handset is ARMED, the siren sounds at the pad when the box is ENABLED.



    The weak link on this is the IEC 60320 C14 connection to the clips - it is only rated at 15A continious. If I was to do this all over again it would be a NEMA L5-20.


    The extension for the clips plugs in here. The extension is 8' of 14 AWG.



    As with the pad-side box, all the low-power wiring in the handset are soldered to a experimenter's board. This became handy as I revised the Continuity circuit, and added protection diodes.


    There's also a spare key safely tucked into the handset box...just in case...


    I can't begin to express how much fun this was - learning about electronics, designing the system, learning through lots of trial and error. And, if anyone sees anything that I've done stupid, please let me know! Always looking to improve.


    All the best, James
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by Fdog; 24th April 2012 at 08:15 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    28th December 2011
    Posts
    575
    I like the metal plate with the RJ45. Where did you buy that? A buddy of mine and I just built a pad using Cat5 and that connector would have been really nice.
    -Chr$
    NAR 79536 L1
    Vice President - Superstition Spacemodeling Society Section 506 www.sssrocketry.com
    SAM 0488
    "Prefers Plastic Nose Cones"

  8. #8
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    461
    Well, ha-ha, oddly I had exactly the same problem. I tried to make a hole in the case that a standard keystone RJ45 jack would stay in...but no...didn't work. (if you look in the photos above, you can see where I had to patch the case with glass-filled epoxy)

    I eventually found the part at L-Com, an online supplier. It's a metal panel mount that accecpts a keystone jack for standard punchdown.

    Linky to the L-com page


    The part # is ECF110C5E-BL at $5.95 each. I bought 4 since they were so inexpensive, I think I spent more in shipping than the cost of the parts. They're also available in black, yellow, white, etc.

    It's actually a kit of the metal panel mount, and a keystone jack that you can punch down. I'm glad that's what I ordered, instead of a bag of 25 (for just the metal panel mounts) - I initially used a keystone jack from my own supply, a Hubbell, and it was a smidge too big. When I used the L-com jack it snapped right in.


    All the best, James

  9. #9
    Join Date
    28th December 2011
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    575
    Thanks. We used a regular wall plate cut down. Made it easy to use a hole saw to drill a hole big enough to handle the connector and the plate was large enough to hide it.
    -Chr$
    NAR 79536 L1
    Vice President - Superstition Spacemodeling Society Section 506 www.sssrocketry.com
    SAM 0488
    "Prefers Plastic Nose Cones"

  10. #10
    Join Date
    18th July 2012
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    Hey James....I just ran across this thread. That thing is really nice. Did you buy all the parts and switches online, or locally at places like Sandy Electronics?
    Dave
    TRA #:14201 Level 1

    Current Project: Madcow Super DX3
    Current Project: Wildman Darkstar Stealth

  11. #11
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    Thanks David!

    I purchased everything from Sandy's, except:

    The battery from Batteries Plus (behind the Olive Garden)
    The jumper cables from Home Depot (they were on dirt cheap sale, $8)
    The RJ45 sockets from L-Com (online)
    Bolts & nuts to mount components inside from Lowes


    For those that aren't from Reno, Sandy's is a local electronics component shop.

    David, after using this for a year, one other thing I'd do is dispense with the Jumper cable clips, and use 75A Anderson connectors instead.


    All the best, James

  12. #12
    Join Date
    18th July 2012
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    I had to research what 75A Anderson connectors were. Now that I know....are you saying that you install the receiving ends onto your igniters?
    Dave
    TRA #:14201 Level 1

    Current Project: Madcow Super DX3
    Current Project: Wildman Darkstar Stealth

  13. #13
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    No, instead of having jumper cable clips (the big copper ones) to connect to the battery, I would have a set of Anderson's permanantly connected to the battery. And, a set of Andersons on the red/black cable going to the pad control box.

    That way you could easily plug the battery to the pad control box, and it wouldn't accidentally come disconnected.


    All the best, James

  14. #14
    Join Date
    18th July 2012
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    OH, that makes much more sense. I read that too fast and thought you meant the alligator clips to connect to the igniter.
    Dave
    TRA #:14201 Level 1

    Current Project: Madcow Super DX3
    Current Project: Wildman Darkstar Stealth

  15. #15
    Join Date
    25th January 2009
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    Glennville, GA
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    Very nice design. professional looking.
    -----------------------
    Chuck Haislip
    NAR/Tripoli Level 3
    Formerly a Prefect of ICBM - TRA #60

    Level 1 - LOC Minie Magg; Level 2 - PR Broken Arrow;
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    2015 Ns for Year: 1315 Newtons
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  16. #16
    Join Date
    18th July 2012
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    Hey James, I went by the new Sandy's today and things don't look good for them. I wouldn't be surprised if they aren't long for the world. Anyway....did you even get the boxes from them? Because I didn't see anything like that there.
    Dave
    TRA #:14201 Level 1

    Current Project: Madcow Super DX3
    Current Project: Wildman Darkstar Stealth

  17. #17
    Join Date
    8th October 2010
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    Well, that sucks. I knew they were moving, so maybe stock is still in transit? Hope that's the case.

    The boxes I did indeed get from Sandy's. I would get the next size bigger for the Pad Control box, since it is a very tight fit inside.


    All the best, James

  18. #18
    Join Date
    9th July 2017
    Posts
    1
    Hi folks! Here's hoping this thread still has some life in it.

    I love this design and fortunately have just about all the bit and pieces and decided to give it a shot. One problem is, I can't seem to figure out how the 8 AWG battery wires tie into to experimenter's board at the pad side box.

    Was hoping James Flenner was still a member here at TRF and could maybe give me some insight...and perhaps even a pic of the box's guts!

    Regardless...any help from any knowledable EE type person would be most appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Matt

  19. #19
    Join Date
    13th July 2017
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    East Coast
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    108
    Good work. Like the metal project box for the launch pad power distribution.
    TRA #17397
    Graduate of the University of Hardknocks
    and Academy of Life Experiences


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  20. #20
    Join Date
    8th August 2015
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    What software program did you use for your schematic diagrams? Thanks in advance and your launch system turned out top notch!
    Born Again Rocketeer

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  21. #21
    Join Date
    25th July 2012
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    Hello Matt,

    I've been reading thru some old threads and I was wondering if your question ever got answered? Well I know that I'm not James and don't have any pics of the insides of his pad-box enclosure, but I do have a few suggestions for you.

    1) Why in the world would you use #8 AWG wire to power a pad-box with only one or two relays with one igniter leads per relay? I use #8 AWG wire in my PBU-8 pad-boxes, but they've got to be able to enable up to eight 30 amp relays with enough thru power for at least 8 igniters at a time. Exactly how much power is required to activate your one or two relays? If you need enough power that you need #8 AWG wire to activate your relays and fire your igniters, then I think that you're using the wrong relays.

    With a single 30 amp relay in my systems, I've had up to 9 igniters fired in clusters, and that's with a single pair of #16 AWG wire with one pair of alligator clips.

    Let's say for the sake of argument, that you really do need those #8 AWG wires between your battery and your circuits inside your pad-box enclosure. Well there are a couple of things you need to take into consideration.

    2) You need to anchor the end of each of your #8 AWG wires inside your pad-box in order to keep those wires from constantly putting pressure on all the other connections inside your pad-box enclosure, particularly any circuit boards you might be using.

    3) You will need to electrically isolate whatever you are using as an anchor for your #8 AWG wire in order to keep your pad-box enclosure from shorting itself out.

    And lastly,

    4) You will need to be able to step the #8 AWG wire down into smaller AWG wire sizes in order to connect to the various power need connections inside your pad-box enclosure. in order to do that, your anchor will not only need to be able to anchor the #8 AWG wire, but all the other wires that you will connect between both of your #8 WG wire and all the power points (and ground points) inside your pad-box enclosure. I use fuse/relay panel lugs to do the job. In my aforementioned PBU-8 eight pad-pad boxes I use nine separate #16 AWG wires connected in the same lug to the #8 AWG battery cables. Works great.

    Just remember, "There's no such thing as a free launch."

    Brad, the "Rocket Rev.," Wilson
    CCBW of Wilson F/X Digital Control Systems
    Chief Cook and Bottle Washer of W-F/X


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