Condore Rocket Aircraft (Experimental Shuttle-Type Rocket)

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budwheizzah

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Finally, I believe it's time to fully introduce my slightly over-ambitious creation, the Condore experimental rocket aircraft.
In 2011 plans were made to build X11, the first in the fleet. In Spring 2012 the first model was built and ready to fly. Off to a bumpy start, the tests picked up as the summer went on and the rocket ended up being tested with controls by fall. This year, testing was done at a brutal pace. The year started badly with a stalled parachute on the very first flight, requiring a partial airframe rebuild. But this quickly passed as the model designated X11E went on to fly nine times in a row without a snag, aside for issues with video range that were solved during some of those flights.

Here's a look at the latest test session, which ended with a "full configuration" flight, flying pretty much as a rocket UAV, where I used a joystick and rudder pedals and the FPV video downlink as main visual reference to pilot the aircraft up and for a short glide. The parachute delay was set at 3s post-apogee on altimeter, using a StrattoLogger for every flight. I plan to upgrade to manual parachute ejection using a TripleFire device, which will provide me the option of not being a total chicken. Yes, 3s is a chicken's delay, but I've been playing it VERY safe. Of course given one in rocketry would not be allowed to guide a rocket all the way to the ground, as with any rocket aircraft, a parachute is always used for landing and likely always will unless my altimeter browns out and whatever backup I'm using also fails.
[video=youtube;G_xtmnZXWhU]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_xtmnZXWhU[/video]
(If you have no means of watching 3D, turn it off; click the gear, then click Off next to 3D. Only some of the photos and the ground video are 3D. The onboard and other photos are 2D. I do eventually plan 3D onboard. I had fun with that last year)

Here's a few notes from a development document I wrote during the course of flight testing describing the scope of this project back in 2012... surprising how it's finally pretty much on-the-money :)

Motives for development

The Condore line of rocket aircraft was initially a project to help rocketry enthusiasts eliminate the high risks of losing their precious creation due to unreliable, unguided parachute recovery, all while keeping the aircraft as close to a rocket and as far from an airplane-type glider as possible.

The idea behind this line of aircraft was not to develop another rocket-glider system, even less a separating lifter-glider system, but primarily a single-piece rocket with a secondary ability: gliding horizontally with airplane like controls. It is understood that such a concept, given the gliding is made the secondary priority, would result in a rocket-plane type low-aspect-ratio delta-winged aircraft that would have little to no airfoil on its lift surfaces and would favor flying straight up over flying horizontally. Such a profile would require higher speeds to produce lift, and would not come with the flight ease of say, a foam glider.

Given the lower and lower prices on flight capable electronics such as RC control servos and transmitters, flight video systems and computer-to-remote-control interfaces, the aircraft resulting from this project would be equipped with UAV type flight electronics, allowing the owner to perform a return flight using a first-person view wireless video system while using simulator grade joystick and rudder controls. On screen display electronics would be added to help the eventual pilot get information about their flight such as speed and altitude, while at the controls.

Scope of the project

The project would need to work the priorities from the ground up: Develop an aircraft profile that can perform rocket-powered flight while keeping a nose-straight-up attitude, coming off of a standard launch rail. At apogee this aircraft would need to, by its own weight repartition, arch over with the correct attitude: not upside down, and not sideways. The aircraft would need to be capable of performing this without any control input, all by its own profile and stability.

These combined requirements resulted in a double-delta overhead fixed wing with one vertical stabilizer and two belly strakes spread 120 degrees apart (now 70 degrees in an effort to improve vertical balance). With this profile, if the aircraft were to arch over to a horizontal position, as a rocket does at the end of most flights, the weight repartition would favor the body going below its wing resulting in a rocket that favors arching over belly-down, wing up, following through with a pronounced nose-down approach, which an eventual pilot could compensate for.

Videos showing X11 from infancy to today
Flying as a rocket-only type aircraft, no controls (July 2012): https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151952223135230 (This was to prove the aircraft does behave like a rocket)
Flying controlled (October 2012): https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152173800710230 (No FPV gear was installed yet)
The heartbreak of spring 2013 where the chute stalled: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJi54Y4jtM0 (Go figure first flight with the FPV gear onboard)
The first tests of X11E where while the aircraft was flying well, the video gave range issues due to transmitter overheating: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10153017715315230
And finally there's the awesomeness on top of this post and the pics below which pretty much shows what has brought the project up to par with my expectations! Finally I'll be able to move to more flight practice and with manual ejection, get to try more creative glides back home.

CielOct2013_415.jpg CielOct2013_419.jpg CielOct2013_422.jpg CielOct2013_424.jpg CielOct2013_425.jpg CielOct2013_224.jpg 24-uav-pull-up.jpg 02-uav-left-turn.jpg 03-uav-straight-glide.jpg 413082_10151654888375230_715250229_24292678_1031581006_o.jpg


I do plan on eventually document this aircraft in full to help others build one. The major part of the work will be making assembly videos in which I'll state a lot of the bumps and what would otherwise be unexpected from this rocket design. Over time (and 27 flights combined between the two aircraft currently in service in the project) I have been able to tell exactly how to operate this rocket safely. Design's been tricky but I've gotten to know it very well by now. It'll only get better with more time. Production of this documentation begins soon.

Project's Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Condore/197453440319360
 
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Area66

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CielOct2013_422_zps41c2ea18.jpg


wow it's look like a new US Airforce secret weapon. I tell you folks this thing is amazing, I even see Chris make a loop with it before reach apogee. But I think I prefer the young sister of X11, X10, probably because I see her born,


here the sexy X10

x10_zps9c9866f2.jpg


x10a_zps25398ee2.jpg
 
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budwheizzah

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Awesome pics! :)
Yup, as stated in my message there's a pair of these.... whoa that X10 descent shot is awesome! Thanks Jerry!
 

budwheizzah

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Orrrrr.... get him this gem... it's the successor of my model! Sony TD30
pSNYNA-HDRTD30V_main_v500.png
 
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budwheizzah

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No problem! Done with pleasure - hope you all enjoy!
Soon, others will get to build one. This will get particularily impressive when I start doing longer controlled descents with actual decisions to make and actual turns to perform ;-)
All I know is, so far, during ascent, the feeling of power you get from controlling a rocket motor is pretty darn awesome! Also, the FPV controls feel incredibly natural. Reminds me of flight school!
 

budwheizzah

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One more! :)
Behold, X11's little sister X10C; same design, shorter (but same diameter) airframe, slightly smaller wing and shorter nose cone. she's not geared with a full FPV system yet, rather she uses plain RC controls for now, piloted only line-of-sight.
She will be the first candidate to try out the TripleFire component which will allow the use of the same RC controller to eject the parachute manually. The bird can use low power and thus can provide more flight testing opportunities at more locations, more frequently, on smaller budgets.
[video=youtube;gTsngxMIl00]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTsngxMIl00[/video]

* Yeah I had to slip in that part where I was pissed about my *very first* Aerotech H135W doing a CATO on me. The "first impression" bummed me out. Probably won't be usin the two others - they're of the same batch which was known to have an intermittent manufacture defect with the seams around the delay grain.
 
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