# Looking for a more reliable launch controller

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#### zBernie

##### Member
I bought my kid an Estes 1403 Riptide launch set. Our first launch attempt, I inserted the key into the launch controller, pressed it down and got a bright light indicating the batteries were good, pressed the launch button, and nothing. I tried it again several times and still nothing. I checked the alligator clips were connected properly, tried again, and nothing. Then after several more attempts, it launched. Yea.

The second launch I put the more powerful C engine in the rocket, instead of the A I used the first time. Again, after several attempts, it worked. The second time the rocket landed high in a rocket eating tree. Bummer.

So I bought another rocket, checked the batteries with my battery tester, and it still took a lot of attempts, then if finally launched.

Can someone recommend a better launch controller than the Estes type that comes with the Riptide rocket?

-Thanks

#### LRIPbros

##### Active Member
I started with a similar Estes kit. If the controller is like mine you have to put a lot of pressure on the key while pressing the launch button. I have got reliable launches with mine. Good luck.

#### BEC

##### Well-Known Member
Is this the little Astron II controller that takes a 9V battery (orange in color) or an Electron Beam (current ones are red, prior ones are yellow or black) that takes 4AA cells?

Especially if the former do NOT skimp - use a Duracell or Energizer 9V battery. When you do you should get several dozen launches without so much difficulty.

If the latter, really the same advice applies - don't skimp - use good quality batteries.

When you say you got "nothing" did the igniter ("starter") burn or not. If not, it's battery quality. If it did, be SURE the igniter is against the propellant in the motor. I typically drop one in the nozzle, push the appropriate nozzle plug into place, then bend the leads over.

Also, be sure the leads of the igniter/starter do not touch each other in the nozzle or both clips touch the blast deflector on the pad. Either one of these is a short circuit which prevents the electricity from getting where it needs to go (the tiny wire in the tip of the igniter/starter). It's OK to separate the leads a bit before installing them.

#### Woody's Workshop

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
You will never get an instantaneous ignition with a small battery controller.
You will have to hold the button down for a few seconds before the starter heats up enough to light the engine.
It's just the nature of the beast.

#### zBernie

##### Member
Is this the little Astron II controller that takes a 9V battery (orange in color) or an Electron Beam (current ones are red, prior ones are yellow or black) that takes 4AA cells?

Especially if the former do NOT skimp - use a Duracell or Energizer 9V battery. When you do you should get several dozen launches without so much difficulty.

If the latter, really the same advice applies - don't skimp - use good quality batteries.

When you say you got "nothing" did the igniter ("starter") burn or not. If not, it's battery quality. If it did, be SURE the igniter is against the propellant in the motor. I typically drop one in the nozzle, push the appropriate nozzle plug into place, then bend the leads over.

Also, be sure the leads of the igniter/starter do not touch each other in the nozzle or both clips touch the blast deflector on the pad. Either one of these is a short circuit which prevents the electricity from getting where it needs to go (the tiny wire in the tip of the igniter/starter). It's OK to separate the leads a bit before installing them.
It's the orange rectangular controller that takes 4AA cells. From what I've read the problem seems to be that you need to press the launch key down hard. I'll give that a try.

#### zBernie

##### Member
Thanks, I'll try applying more pressure to the launch key.

#### zBernie

##### Member
Thanks, I'll try holding the ignition key longer, and pressing it harder.

#### tomsteve

##### Well-Known Member
its a bit much for just estes, but the relay launch controller I built is awesome. I don't have any problem with power at the pad and the major thing I like about it:
being either 100' away from the pad( which I don't have to roll out all 100'- I can go just 50' if I want) away from the launch pad has a lot better view of flight then at 15 or so feet.

#### AfterBurners

##### Well-Known Member
Not sure what your budget is, but I like the AT Interlock launch controller and for a little less, well quite a bit less you get go with a Go Box from Pratt hobbies. They require you hook them to your car battery, but you eliminate the "AA" batteries and you will have plenty juice for all motor sizes and clusters at least up to 29'S

#### rstaff3

##### Oddroc-eteer
I like my GO Box, paired with a portable car battery. Don't use it much anymore because I almost always fly with a club.

#### AfterBurners

##### Well-Known Member
I like my GO Box, paired with a portable car battery. Don't use it much anymore because I almost always fly with a club.
Would a smaller battery work, say from a motorcycle

#### zBernie

##### Member
I bought one of these, http://store.heavenlyhobbies.com/01-003-0009.html, and one of these, http://www.hobbico.com/shop/fieldequip/hcap0800.php, and I get instant launches with everything from 1/2A Estes motors up to AT G motors. I also bought the Tri-Pad Max with Wind Beater from Heavenly Hobbies. Maybe I spent too much. Maybe I could have made some of these pieces myself for less. But convenience has a price, and I was willing to pay it.
Thanks, that certainly looks interesting.

#### zBernie

##### Member
Not sure what your budget is, but I like the AT Interlock launch controller and for a little less, well quite a bit less you get go with a Go Box from Pratt hobbies. They require you hook them to your car battery, but you eliminate the "AA" batteries and you will have plenty juice for all motor sizes and clusters at least up to 29'S

That looks nice, and they sell them at amazon.com.

#### Rex R

##### LV2
I have heard that one can shorten the rubbery bit on the safety key to reduce the amount of pressure needed to enable launch.
Rex

#### dr wogz

##### Fly caster
Also, try rechargeable batteries, they tend to have more 'ooumph' when you press the button..

Afterburner, yes a motor cycle battery will work too. It's the Amps you're after.. I typically use a 12V 'gel-cell' battery, the kind you'd find an a home security alarm panel. It's rated for 5 or 7A, or something like that.. launched a few composites with it, no sweat!

#### BEC

##### Well-Known Member
That Heavenly Hobbies unit actually looks pretty good....

The 4AA controller does need you to hold the key in tightly. I don't see how pressing the button harder will matter....there are just two brass strips inside that are pressed together by the button. But maybe it will help as well. But....again, don't cheap out on AA cells. Good quality alkalines only.

#### Nytrunner

##### Pop lugs, not drugs
TRF Supporter
I think it's less "push it harder" than it is "hold it down longer"

#### Sabrina

##### The WildChild
TRF Supporter
I have heard that one can shorten the rubbery bit on the safety key to reduce the amount of pressure needed to enable launch.
Rex
Yes, YES! 24 times YES!!!! - as shown at my middle-school launch day. Chop some of that rubber bumper off with an xacto knife to make the continuity light turn-on easier.

This is an excellent tip!

#### Rex R

##### LV2
are you the one that took the pic? had occasion to examine one of those Estes controllers a while back, was surprised at the amount of 'umph' needed to press the safety key down...well that should prevent accidental launches. it doesn't need much trimming to significantly reduce the pressure needed to enable launches.
Rex

#### fyrwrxz

##### latest photo
Would a smaller battery work, say from a motorcycle
Dan-Yes- Use mine all the time like that esp. for ground testing. I actually got a kid's power car battery at Wally's when they were on sale. 12v and works like a champ. Hope the fly with you again soon!

#### Woody's Workshop

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
I bought one of these, http://store.heavenlyhobbies.com/01-003-0009.html, and one of these, http://www.hobbico.com/shop/fieldequip/hcap0800.php, and I get instant launches with everything from 1/2A Estes motors up to AT G motors. I also bought the Tri-Pad Max with Wind Beater from Heavenly Hobbies. Maybe I spent too much. Maybe I could have made some of these pieces myself for less. But convenience has a price, and I was willing to pay it.
Thanks for sharing that controller link. I never thought to look for one at Heavenly Hobbies. As many times as I've looked for rockets and stuff there, it's amazing I never noticed it. I think that it is reasonably priced for what your getting there.
Batteries are much cheaper, just have to spend some time looking online.
But I have a lot more time than money so I can do that comfortably.

#### RocketFeller

I recently bought two of the Estes PSII controllers for $23 each. I haven't used them much (one launch and a few test igniters) but they seem to be much more robust than the small controllers. Also, with six C batteries they have 1.5x the voltage and a lot more storage. #### TangoJuliet ##### Well-Known Member Thanks for sharing that controller link. I never thought to look for one at Heavenly Hobbies. As many times as I've looked for rockets and stuff there, it's amazing I never noticed it. I think that it is reasonably priced for what your getting there. Batteries are much cheaper, just have to spend some time looking online. But I have a lot more time than money so I can do that comfortably. You're welcome. So far I'm quite pleased with it. I will add though, that a 1/4" SS Launch Rod in the chuck with the Wind Beater isn't ideal. Anything less than completely vertical seems to put a lot of strain on the Wind Cheater thumb screw and plates. I'm in the process of adding mini rail buttons to all of my larger/heavier MPR rockets to use with a rail instead. But I don't do as much MPR as I do LPR, so I can live with that. #### BEC ##### Well-Known Member I recently bought two of the Estes PSII controllers for$23 each. I haven't used them much (one launch and a few test igniters) but they seem to be much more robust than the small controllers. Also, with six C batteries they have 1.5x the voltage and a lot more storage.
That was a great deal.

The PSII units are my current go-to single controllers. With the option of installing a 3-cell LiPoly battery inside, I have bailed out more than one local TARC team by loaning the one I have that is so-equipped to them for test/qualifying flights. I also got these for three local teams.

I also bring the two I have to club launches to support extra pads and/or as backup. I like them quite a bit.

#### Micromeister

##### Micro Craftman/ClusterNut
TRF Supporter
The problem with just about all the current and earlier hand held personal controllers is they rely on AA, C or 9V batteries. This is and always has been a huge mistake.

Igniter and Estes current "Starters" were designed to work with as little as 6volts. It's been my experience (since the very early 1970's) that reliable ignition of BP motors can be ensured by converting any Hand Held Controller to have an external battery drop, changing the continuity Lamp to handle 12Volt current or an LED with Resistor to handle 12V. With this set-up a low priced (about 17.00) dollars at almost any RC or Hobby shop a 12v, 7amp/hr rechargable Gel-Cell battery will provide all day positive current. The addition of a "range box relay" will also handle 2 and 3 motor clustered motor ignition.

Converting ANY Estes hand held "electron Beam" or other controller is really not the hard and can be done with simple tools, and a 30watt Soldering Iron.
Below is a pictorial of making this conversion on a typical Estes Electron beam controller. Hope it well help your situation.

Bottom Line here is to convert whatever controller your using to use an external 12V battery power.

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##### Well-Known Member
For many years when launching on my own, I would just connect straight to the battery.

#### RocketFeller

##### Well-Known Member
That was a great deal.

The PSII units are my current go-to single controllers. With the option of installing a 3-cell LiPoly battery inside, I have bailed out more than one local TARC team by loaning the one I have that is so-equipped to them for test/qualifying flights. I also got these for three local teams.

I also bring the two I have to club launches to support extra pads and/or as backup. I like them quite a bit.
Glad to hear it, I actually just bought two more a few minutes ago.

I have been considering The LiPoly batteries, do they plug into the receptacle in the battery compartment directly or do you need a special connector? Do they fit in the compartment easily? Is it worth the money for four batteries and a charger? Duracell C batteries are reasonably cheap at Costco and are pretty well proven.

#### BEC

##### Well-Known Member
There is an orange JST connector inside nestled in amongst the batter springs. I have an older 3s 1250 ElectriFly pack in the one that has the LiPoly in it. The pack has a different plug on it, but as a long term electric power flyer, I can make an adapter and so I did. The battery just squeezes in between the springs that go to the negative contacts on the C cells.

Because I've been flying electric airplanes since about 1980 I have lots of chargers and such. Unless you want/need to fire high current igniters with the controller (say, a Copperhead), you're probably fine with the C cells as long as you use good ones like the Duracells you mention. I sure wouldn't buy a LiPoly and futz with an adapter to the JST and then a charger I'd trust on a 3s battery just for this application....but since I had everything on hand already, the conversion was easy. That said, I get INSTANT ignition with a regular Estes igniter/starter with this 12.6V source inside. The ends of the igniter where the bridge wire was are usually melted back in a little ball.

Where are you getting these for \$23 each? I wouldn't mind laying a few more for next year's TARC teams and so forth.

TRF Supporter
oops

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