Launch Pad Suggestions

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r_swider

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I'm just returning to the hobby after a 20-year break. Many things have changed...

I'm in the market for a new launch pad and controller. We plan to primarily launch low-power stuff. Any suggestions?
 

Micromeister

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My standard answer for this question is build your own for under 15.00 in radio shack parts. convert a camera tripod for the launcher base and buy a small "Hobbico" 8 to 12 amp/hr Gelcel battery for your individual power supply. complete launch system for under 60.00 which will fly anything micro to LMR's
 

r_swider

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I've got two old tripods at the house. Can you supply details on your setup?
 

womblegs

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Nip over to the Support and Recovery section. There are a couple of threads covering this - or you can use the search function in the top right of your screen.
 

arthur dent

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I've been using my quest launch pad and 9v controller for 18 months.they are the ones i got in the starter set.I was given a camera tripod launch pad but i found it heavy and awkward to use.
 

arthur dent

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:) oh and welcome to the rocketry forum r_swider,i bet there's been loads of new developments in the past 20 years
 

cydermaster

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I'm still using my Quest pad too, Arthur. I have a suitable field for launching about 1/2 mile away from my home. I enjoy the walk there (I can't drive), so the portability of the Quest pad is most convenient. I liberated a tube, from work, which used to contain a HUGE poster of the world, from satalite photos (very cool picture); and the quest pad fits nicely into it. I'm thinking of getting a small rucksac with the attachments for carrying poles & that, so I can carry the tube on my back, therefore freeing up my hands for more rockets!! :D

I'm still using the Quest controller, from my starter set, too. I do have one of those car jump-starter boxes, which I use for clusters; but carrying that 1/2 mile there, and 1/2 mile back (along with all the other stuff), is no joke; so I save that for when I can scab a lift. ;)

I am thinking of building a pad out of that plastic piping found down the DIY store - that should be portable enough, whilst still being strong.
 

prowlerguy

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I was going to ask about using one of those jump start boxes, since they are rechargeable and 12V. I saw BigLots has one for <$30, and I thought about picking one up if it would work. If it does work, how can you use it with a Quest launcher instead of the 9V, or will I need a new controller?
 

cydermaster

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You can't use it with the Quest controller, not without modification anyway.

What I'm doing, at the moment, is using 6m of reasonable quality bell wire, and just touching the ends to the battery clips on the jump-start box. Not an ideal situation, so I'm planning on building a controller, over the winter. I've a little electronics knowledge, so I'm going to go for a relay controller with the jump starter next to the pad.

The rockets don't hang around, when using a jump starter. I've always found there is a split second between pressing the button on my Quest controller, and the motor igniting. None of that with the jump starter!

It was also really handy, a couple of months ago, when my block of flats had a powercut; what with its built in light, and fag lighter socket (so I could carry on charging my mobile phone).

AND .... if you are extreemly cunning, you could use it to start your car, after you've left the lights on all night, and totaled the battery! ;)
 

r_swider

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Originally posted by womblegs
Nip over to the Support and Recovery section. There are a couple of threads covering this - or you can use the search function in the top right of your screen.
Thanks, I'll pop over and have a look.
 

raw9jr

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r-swider

For me, the inconvenience of carrying the larger tripod to the field, is offset by the convenience of not having to work 6" above the ground hooking the rocket up. Personal preference. The tripod also give you a lot of flexiblity in angling for the wind.

If you are going to use the 1/8 and 3/8 rod, and you are going to build yourself, find a keyless drill chuck to hold the rod. Mine came from an old drill at a yard sale ($2.00). It makes changing them a flash.

Micromister is right, you can make a dandy launcher that will last forever, and have the juice to light clusters and mid power stuff no problem, and at a reasonable cost. There are plans on some of the clubs web sites and other areas...not too hard to find.
I still have my estes porta-pad, but I can't remember the last time I used it.
 

Steward

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Like Micromister said at the top...build your own...

Depending on what you want to put into it....I built mine in just a few hours...mostly with parts from Radio Shack...The basic circuit is that of the "ESTES" solar launch controller which of course gives you a continuity light. The most expensive item was the keyed on and off power switch...a must when kids are present!!!

What I changed is...not only an internal 6volt system for low power rockets...I added a second switch which allows me to input a 12volt source which follows through the same circuitry....extra power for larger motors....Add a pigtail with clamps for attaching to your car battery...or whatever...

Output to the pad...I used I think... 18 gauge speaker wire...two different lengths for low or high power...

I believe total cost was around thirty dollars...works great and can always count on it to work...never failed...yet!!!
 

spacecowboy

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I built one controller, my first, with a pvc conduit box, 2 single-pole, single-throw switches (in serial for safety), some 'gator clips and wire for about $15. . . . Work starts tomorrow on my next one, a single wall switch, wire, clips and a pvc box.

I may get some safety static from the veteran rocketeers, but the clips on the power (battery) end, I use the square 9V jobs, come off before and AFTER launch. ANd the little 9V batts, relatively cheap and LIGHT (for the hiking rocketeer)

Some day, I'm going to order me one of those SP/ST toggle switches the model train guys use.

Just a thought. And yes, no conitnuity test like the Estes job, but I know I've got continuity when I say 5,4,3,2,1,launch, and it goes into the clouds. . . .
 

r_swider

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Originally posted by Steward


Like Micromister said at the top...build your own...


What I changed is...not only an internal 6volt system for low power rockets...I added a second switch which allows me to input a 12volt source which follows through the same circuitry....extra power for larger motors....Add a pigtail with clamps for attaching to your car battery...or whatever...

Micromister -

That's a nice looking controller. Any chance you could supply a wiring diagram for it?
 

Micromeister

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If you'd like, I have a Tech-tip in the library section of the Narhams club web site for a self-contained solar and/or 12V dc launch system, the beast weighs in at 45lbs, but I can fly anything I like Micro-Maxx to 3.3lbs plus single or clusters by on-board relay (12V only) here a pic of the thing. it will accept rods .049" to 1/2":)
If used with 1/4" x 6" rods and larger. and a 12 volt battery dorp the system isn't quite self-contained as the long rods and Big battery do not store in the legs or body, everything else 3' rods, controller, and battery drop cables store in the legs.
 

Vance in AK

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I too built my controler out of a pvc conduit junction box. It's about 3" long, 1" wide, & 2" deep.
I also have no continuity light but get by fine.
For switches I used two momentary push button swithes in series. There is no "keyed" safety, but both buttons needing to be pushed at the same time helps there.
Like Spacecowboy, if there are people, especially kids around when I'm launching, I simply remove one clip from the 12 volt lawn tractor battery I use. I have a mechanics remote starter switch( simply a momentary pushbutton switch with two long leads with aligator clips) I can hook inline on one of my battery leads when kids other than my own are launching.
I will man it & that way if I want to abort a launch at the last second for safety reasons, I don't have to count on some excited little kid listening to me. I have to be holding down my "launch" button before their's will work, but they feel they have total control. Just leave it out of the system when I'm launching alone.
For launch cable I used an old 16 gauge 50' extension cord with a bad end. Very flexible down to -20 deg. Important for us Alaskans.:D
Vance in AK.
 

Micromeister

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I can see where fumbling with a safety key could be a real problem in the Alaska fall, winter and spring:D drop it and your done for the day:) The double Monentary push button switches must be a lot easier in those heavy mittens also. Sounds like a great Cold weather system.
Is it difficult to keep the battery charged in the dead of winter, or do you guys launch at all in the winter cold??
 

Vance in AK

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Hi John.
For right now, "us guys" consists of my daughters & my self most of the time. A few of their friends have been involved at times. It looks like I might try to do some kind of a club thing at my kid's school, but not sure where that's going yet.
As far as winter launches, I launched last Monday at about 15 BELOW 0. It just did my Big Bertha once to see how everything functioned. Everything fuctioned fine. There was also a north wind that I estimated at 10-15 mph, so that took a bit of the fun out of it.
As far as the battery goes, it's a lawn tractor type 12 volt & seems to have enough capacity that even in the coldest weather I will give out long before it does.
I honestly think you could use it for a fairly large club type launch at -10 and it would outlast the group. I've used it over the course of several different launch days with the three of us launching for quite awhile each time in +40-50 deg weather without recharging, & checked the voltage with a voltmeter & still been over 12v.
I just got back into the sport after a 30 yr break about last Dec., but we did launch several times late last winter, & as I drove my girls to school today they asked if we could do a launch soon. I think we can do that.:D :D :D
Last year we didn't get any intence cold until after we got snow, so you couldn't trust ice on the lakes. This year we've had a "good" cold snap without much snow, so the lake should freeze good & make great launch areas.
Vance in AK.
 

astronboy

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I use a 'jump starter' box for my power, and a controller built from Radio Shack parts, modeled after the old 'Astron' launch controller circuit with a light and a key. ( I use a micro plug and jack for the key and socket).

The jumper box has plenty of juice for even triple clusters, recharges easily, and has a 12v 'power out' cigarette lighter plug .

I am however currently converting to a relay system as I am moving to 4 and even more clustered designs.
 

Steward

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I don't think I ever wrote anything down...the circuit is real simple...I'll see if I can draw it out ....Thanks...!!!
 
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