rocket design with Illustrator

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Well-Known Member
Jan 18, 2009
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OK - I've finally gotten a chance to start this tutorial on how I design a rocket with Illustrator.

First step is to decide what your nose cone is gonna look like from the side. I've chosen to create something that looks like an elliptical nose cone for a 30mm tube (Not only should a 30mm bird rock with the D5, but I also use 30mm for parachute duration contest rockets). Photo 1 shows the side view of the nose cone.

Photo 2 shows how I run the nose cone through Excel (any spreadsheet will do). The calculations are from G. Harry Stine's Handbook of Model Rocketry for transitions. Note that a cone shape is simply a transition with a smaller diameter of 0.

(note - the pics may be out of sequence - this is the fault of the forum software)

1 Nose profile.jpg

2 Excel spreadsheet.jpg
All right - now it's time to draw the first section of the nose cone. Draw a circle (click on the circle tool - it allows you to create a circle of given diameter - just make sure both vertical and horizontal are the same) with the outside diameter. (Photo 3)

Now we draw a vertical line the same length as the diameter of the circle. Illustrator has a line draw tool that does this. Just enter the length of the line and the angle (90 degrees equals vertical). (Photo 4)

Now, make a copy of the line and center both lines and the circle both horizonal and vertical. Select only the top line, and choose Object, Transform, Rotate from the menu. You can then rotate the line. Enter -332.856 (a negative number rotates counterclockwise) and It should look like Photo 5.

3 sec 1 circle.jpg

4 sec 1 vert line.jpg

5 sec 1 rotate arc.jpg
Now to make the wedge that will be the glue tab for this section. Drag the non-vertical line to the left. Select both lines and align right. (Photo 6) Drag both lines up so you can see the bottom ends, select both and align bottom (Photo 7). Now, using the clear arrow, select the bottom tips of both lines. Choose Object, Path, Join from the menu and the two lines will now be one object. (Photo 8) Draw a horizontal line off to the side of the circle and align it and the circle (not the wedge) to center vertically. Now, we align this horizontal line and the wedge to bottom (this will not move the center line but will move the wedge so its point is at the center of the circle - Photo 9).

Now the real magic happens. Select the wedge and pull down Objects, Path, Divide Objects Below from the menu. (Photo 10) Now, the wedge goes away and the circle is divided into a large segment (the cone) and a small segment (the glue tab). Section 1 of our nose cone is now complete.

More to come as I complete them.

6 sec 1 align right.jpg

7 sec 1 align bottom.jpg

8 sec 1 wedge.jpg

9 align point to center.jpg

10 divide object.jpg
Greg, this is good stuff, especially covering it in baby steps (I still might get confused)

Thanks for taking the time, please do continue this thread

(BTW, does anyone want to see a similar presentation of "drawing" in EXCEL?)