visibility of silver rockets?

Doug Holverson

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I'm wondering about the visibility of silver paint (and aluminum because that's what Allis-Chalmers* and Ace store brand calls theirs)? I remember that the G. Harry's handbook and the '70s Alpha Book of Rocketry had opposite opinions. This summer I came up with a nifty retro color scheme of a silver body tube with orange and black fins and nose cones. Then my silver Omega clone was lost in flight with several sets of eyes on it at NARAM. I'm thinking about going something more bland if practical of going with mostly orange rockets.

*As you may have heard, Grandpa Skow had the world's bestest little tractor dealership.
 

K'Tesh

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I found that as far as bicycles go, it was harder to see my aluminum colored bike than my blue, or even black bikes.
 

prfesser

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Hi Doug,

My Starover was silver and was given a high-gloss clearcoat. Others remarked that it was easy to see at altitude. Not because of the silver, but the high gloss reflected the sun really well. It flashed as it rotated. I suspect that regardless of the paint color, if you can get a good smooth finish on the rocket, then give it a shiny clearcoat, you'll have little trouble seeing it.

I used DupliColor Clear Gloss on Starover but...go with the recommendations of others with more experience than me. I'm mostly terrible at paint. Starover was an exception.

Best,
Terry
 

bjphoenix

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It seems to me that when tracking a rocket in the sky you never see what color it is, you basically see a shadow against the brighter sky. I have also occasionally seen bright reflections from glossy rockets. I don't know if this was because the rocket was silver or maybe it just had a shiny paint job.
 

ksaves2

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Ahhhhhhh, but a mirror finish is a PITA to do right. Shoot color coat after sealing spirals if cardboard is involved, wet sand any imperfections taking precautions not to get the inside of the tube wet. Shoot several layers of clearcoat and have at wet sanding again with very fine grit sandpaper. Work up to 2000 grit, oh and be careful not to sand through the clearcoat 'cause if you do, you'll have to start over or try spot spraying more clearcoat
Then once the sanding is done, use "rubbing compound" followed by "polishing" compound. Can get those in the automotive section of Walmart or any auto supply store. Finally, use a good car wax and you're done. You'll have a shiny finish just like your car! Only problem is don't use solvents like you do on your car to remove tar as with the enamels we use, alcohol or paint thinner will strip that tedious finish right off!! Car wax is fine.
Yeah, I've noticed flashing of rockets that I invested the time to get a mirror finish on and it makes it easier to get a visual fix. One note about using spray paints. Follow the makers instructions. Especially the time frame when it comes to applying coats. Usually one can shoot a coat quite soon after the one before. Shoot a coat the next day and the paint can blister and ruin the finish. After shooting color, let the rocket dry (cure) for a week before shooting the clearcoat. (Don't ask me how I found this out. Call it "blister time" followed by cuss words.)
I also noticed that when I flew R/C sailplanes. The Monokote covering is shiny and if I lost sight of a sailplane in a boomer thermal, I'd stall it and put it into a spiral. As it came down, I'd see the flashing of the Monokote in the sunlight and take control again. Flaps and spoilers really helped on landing too. I sold all the R/C stuff off as when I moved, there wasn't a field available to fly nearby. I used to walk out the back door of my then house and get to a school field where I could stretch out a 700 foot high start. I flew a lot and can say I soared with eagles. I didn't fly and molest the birds of prey but if I was already up in the air in a thermal, sometimes an eagle would see the sailplane in the thermal and would fly over and spiral around with the sailplane in the same thermal. That was cool and happened several times. I didn't bother the bird and it didn't bother the sailplane. I expect they heard the servo motors working as they circled with the sailplane easily.
As an aside, I did try flying sailplanes in the winter if it wasn't too cold. It was usually fly off the high start and start planning for the landing as no dark ground for thermalling. In the cold air, I could hear the servos working with the sailplane up pretty high. That might have been a component that the background noise was decreased as people weren't outside making noise in the cold. Kurt
 

lakeroadster

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I'm wondering about the visibility of silver paint (and aluminum because that's what Allis-Chalmers* and Ace store brand calls theirs)? I remember that the G. Harry's handbook and the '70s Alpha Book of Rocketry had opposite opinions. This summer I came up with a nifty retro color scheme of a silver body tube with orange and black fins and nose cones. Then my silver Omega clone was lost in flight with several sets of eyes on it at NARAM. I'm thinking about going something more bland if practical of going with mostly orange rockets.

*As you may have heard, Grandpa Skow had the world's bestest little tractor dealership.

Anything fluorescent with a gloss clear coat is probably the best. Highly visible, but the downside is, they look horrible. But an Allis-Chalmers orange rocket would be bitchin!

The highest, and most visible rocket launch I've had was my Ahpla. It's a BT-55 upscaled D-12 Alpha with a D12 booster. See photo below. The nose cone with chute detached from the fuselage at ejection. The fuselage tumble recovered. It rolled about the longitudinal axis as it was falling and since one fin is black and the other two are white, it looked like a light flashing every time it made a revolution. Super easy to see.

You mentioned "Allis Chalmers" and "Grandpa Skow's tractor dealership"? As I guy who grew up on a farm, with an Allis Chalmers and a Ford 8N... I'd like to know more.

2022-07-26 Ahpla The Money Shot.jpg
 

Alan15578

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In the air black might be best. In the weeds, silver looks just like any other beer can. For recovery, it is the color of the recovery system that matters. For gliders try black on the underside of the wings, and a contrasting color, such as red or orange on the top surface.
 

Doug Holverson

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Now I'm toying with the idea of using something like what was called diffraction tape back when it was speed shop kitsch in the '70s and trying to figure out what it's called today. Something like sparkle, prism, or glitter tape. Maybe put a band around the top of the Persian Orange #2 body tube and a patch on each side of a fin so it could blink on the way down.
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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I’ve had a couple of silver or metallic rockets. They reflect the colors around them and can kind of get lost in their surroundings. In the sky, they are sky blue. On the ground, they are grass green or dirt brown. I think silver looks good on sci-fi type rockets when they are not in flight, and you are looking at them like you would a model, but it’s not the most practical for flight tracking and recovery.
 

Cape Byron

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Now I'm toying with the idea of using something like what was called diffraction tape back when it was speed shop kitsch in the '70s and trying to figure out what it's called today. Something like sparkle, prism, or glitter tape. Maybe put a band around the top of the Persian Orange #2 body tube and a patch on each side of a fin so it could blink on the way down.

Closest thing I could find.

 

Steve Shannon

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Fluorescent colors for rockets and dark parachutes is what I’ve switched to. Glinting, such as from a very reflective surface, is great to help a person find a rocket in the sky, but a dark parachute and fluorescent rocket are easier to continue to see during descent, at least for me.
 
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Fluorescent colors for rockets and dark parachutes is what I’ve switched to. Glinting, such as from a very reflective surface, is great to help a person find a rocket in the sky, but a dark parachute and fluorescent rocket are easier to continue to see during descent, at least for me.
I guess a black and florescent orange panel parachute would be optimum. Thanks
 

waltr

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I have seen rockets go out of sight then see brief flashes from either shinny surfaces or mylar streamer which allowed visual tracking. Without the flashes we probably would not have found where it went.
 
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I have seen rockets go out of sight then see brief flashes from either shinny surfaces or mylar streamer which allowed visual tracking. Without the flashes we probably would not have found where it went.
Can you use a streamer along with a parachute without interfering with the chute?
 

BigMacDaddy

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Now I'm toying with the idea of using something like what was called diffraction tape back when it was speed shop kitsch in the '70s and trying to figure out what it's called today. Something like sparkle, prism, or glitter tape. Maybe put a band around the top of the Persian Orange #2 body tube and a patch on each side of a fin so it could blink on the way down.

This is sometimes marketed as bird scare tape... https://www.amazon.com/s?k=bird+scare+tape
 

ksaves2

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Can you use a streamer along with a parachute without interfering with the chute?
I imagine one could attach one at the apex of the chute without much trouble. Especially a chute with a spill hole that has the shroud lines cross through the spill hole. Something like this:
1662986696240.png This is a high start parachute but I've seen some parachutes for rocketry that have the lines cross the open spill hole that would be able to put a streamer on. The thing one should keep in mind is the descent rate needs to be fast enough so the streamer is stretched out on descent. Otherwise if it stays wadded up defeats the purpose of attaching one in the first place. Kurt
 

Back_at_it

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Silver is ok if you find a brand that is actually shiny. If the rocket is going to fly much more than 800ish feet, I tend to do something reflective like a Mylar streamer and chrome decals. I have flown my Majestic over 2500 ft and was able to track it because of the chrome fins and nose cone. If you're really going for visibility, get yourself some chrome vinyl from your local craft store. It' makes a ton of difference.
 

ksaves2

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There's mylar reflective streamer out there. Some have silver on one side and gold on the other. Pot growers use it to line the sides of their growing rooms to reflect light back on to the plants. My roll is going to last me long after I die!! ;) One has to make sure they have a long metal ruler to safely cut the strips off of it. Am right handed and use a kevlar glove on my left hand when cutting. Has saved me from slicing gashes several times. Won't help with a "stab" but kevlar gloves are good for avoiding a slicing wound. Google them and they're a nice investment to have around when in the shop when slicing streamers and other cutting.
The thing about cutting streamers is one needs an extremely sharp blade and a thick rubber mat surface to cut on. If you don't have that, you'll see small transverse tears under magnification on the cut lines. Those tears can transversely tear during flapping on descent as I found out in my "early days". Rocket would come down nicely under mylar streamer at a nice rate and then "poof" the upper part will rip away and now see two streamers with the rocket descent rate increasing under the now shorter streamer.
Shoot, some of the free torn streamers would catch thermals and go back up to "never, never land". Eventually went out of sight while flashing the whole time. They got pretty far away before we couldn't see the flashes anymore but it was still way "up there". My rockets survived as they were light even though they hit harder in the grass.
Later, I cut clear strapping tape to lay and bolster the edges with micro transverse tears but that will add weight. Not for a competition rocket. Fine for sport use. Kurt
 

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David Schwantz

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In this thread is a rocket that is all aluminum, silver. You can see that it is mainly black unless the sun is reflecting off of it. There is also a video in the thread, even though it does not go very high, it is still clearly easy to see.

 

BABAR

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Mylar tape works really well, you don’t even need to cover the whole rocket, just a few pieces will generally flash back the light. It comes in several colors, even the black is shiny.
 
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In one of my old HPR rocket magazines, there was an article on a guy who built an 8-in airframe rocket that was 10 ft tall, and he found a roll of vinyl wrap on eBay and it turned out that when it wrapped around 8-in airframe that it butted up exactly, no cutting required. So he had a 10 ft tall chrome rocket.
 

Doug Holverson

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Bringing things almost full circle to speed shop kitsch, I tripped over this at O'Reilly's.

prisma.jpg

I also tripped over something on eBay called bird scare tape. I wonder if that would make good streamer material?
 

Off Grid Gecko

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Bringing things almost full circle to speed shop kitsch, I tripped over this at O'Reilly's.

View attachment 537964

I also tripped over something on eBay called bird scare tape. I wonder if that would make good streamer material?
I purchased some bird-scare tape recently for my mini-rocket project. It is VERY thin and fairly tough so long as a tear doesn't start. I burned a hole in it to thread the little kevlar on seemed to hold on okay. Rocket caught a gust of wind and I still lost it in the woods though, hahaha. So I have to make a few more of those now.
 
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I purchased some bird-scare tape recently for my mini-rocket project. It is VERY thin and fairly tough so long as a tear doesn't start. I burned a hole in it to thread the little kevlar on seemed to hold on okay. Rocket caught a gust of wind and I still lost it in the woods though, hahaha. So I have to make a few more of those now.
I'm beginning to believe that if there's trees visible anywhere you look, you need a 140db beeper, as the rocket will end up there
 
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