Yet Another Launch Controller (in an Altoids box!)

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Active Member
Jun 28, 2004
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Look Ma, No Soldering!

Not that soldering is bad or anything.

I had the idea of making a very simple launch controller and embedding it into an (empty) Altoids box.

- Altoids Box (not exactly necessary)
- Some Switch, Radio Shack #: 275-1537
Comment: This takes up a lot of room. Anything similar will do fine (a switch that takes some effort to activate so no rockets are launched accidently.) A key/key hole switch (like in this launch controller: and in typical Estes launch controllers) would be perfect.
- A push button switch. I happen to have one labeled "Emergency" and I believe I got it from radio shack a while back, but I don't have the radio shack item number.
- Peizo Buzzer - Radio Shack Item #: 273-059.
- Wire. Enough for creating connections in between the switches, peizo buzzer & alligator clips.
- Alligator Clips (Radio Shack Item Numbers 270-347 or 270-375).

- Hot Glue Gun/Glue, If you don't have it, get it, you can use it for other stuff.
- Screw Driver, If you don't have one, well... I dunno what to say.
- Battery/Power Source (for the actual launching).

The peizo buzzer can take voltage from 6-18 volts. I think the switches are pretty well capable of taking voltages required for starting a model rocket ignitor.

Prices (rounding up):
* Altoids Box or Something Simillar - $0.00
* Knife Switch - $3.00
* Push button switch - $2.00
* Peizo Buzzer - $4.00
* Wire - Dependant on guage, length, etc. (make sure it conducts electricity and is insulated :)) - A Roll, $3.00
* Alligator Clips - $4.00
Estimated Total: $16.00
(I already had all of the parts at home.)

Assembly is pretty simple.
- Given that polarity, etc. except with the buzzer, does not matter.
- All wires are rather small unless stated.
- LONG wires are for the rocket's ignitor and MEDIUM wires are for the battery.
0) Test to see how the two switches and pezio buzzer will fit in the Altoid box and keep that formation in mind.
1) Screw in one wire (MEDIUM) from the entering terminal of the push button switch and attach a red alligator clip to the end of the wire. This will be one wire clip for your battery.
2) Screw in one wire into the Effort-full Switch to the entering terminal, and screw the other end to the exiting terminal of the push button switch.
3) Screw in another wire (LONG for connecting to a rocket's ignitor tip) and the positive (red, usually) peizo buzzer wire together inn the Effort-full Switch exiting terminal. Attach an alligator clip to the end of the long wire.
4) Attach an alligator clip to another LONG wire (for connecting to the other rocket's ignitor tip).
5) Tie/Wrap the end of the second LONG wire which isn't connected to anything with the negative (black, usually) peizo buzzer wire and with a MEDIUM (for the negative side of the battery). Attach an alligator clip to the end of this MEDIUM wire. You've now created the negative channel of the circuit.
6) Hot glue the little joint of the wrap/tie in the last step. Hot glue all main components (the two switches and peizo buzzer) into the Altoids box in an organized and fitting way (which will let the box close as much as possible). You can wrap the wires for the rocket's ignitor around the box.

Advantages: Small & portable, pretty cheap, looks cool in an Altoids box (opinion), no soldering, it works, sound notification, two switches - one "safety effort-full one".
Disadvantages: Don't press the lid/box together too hard on the Altoids
box or you _might_ snip any wires hanging out. Unprofessional looking (opinion and possibly an advantage), lacks some advanced features that some launch controllers have (battery-"awake"-notification, timer, etc. - but they can be implemented.)

My particular first version doesn't close all of the way, but that's alright. If you want yours to close all of the way just use smaller switches, the knife switch takes the most room, so use something else instead of the knife switch.

If you really want a serious launch controller, I'd go for the well described and made launch controller here:
It's more robust than this one.

But if for some particular reason you'd like to have a launch controller in an Altoids box, or you _hate_ soldering (which I don't, I actually love it.), then you can try this.

I have no idea if there is some NAR "rule" (or similar) for launch controllers, and if there is one, you can either hope that this launch controller follows it, or confuse/convince yourself that it does.

(I'll give more photos (higher quality too) if they're requested.)

(I did this pretty late at night so I might have mistakes up there, feel free to correct me.)
I take absolutely no responsibility of anyone harming themselves or others, using this device inapproprietly/abusively, or anything that falls even close to those categories. I take no responsibility of anyone claiming that their rocket didn't successfully launch, land, or be found and stating that it was the launch controller's fault.
"Altoids" is a registered trademark of "Callard & Bowser-Suchard Inc.".

I wouldn't try to board an airplane with that thing...!!!
There is one minor thing wrong with it that is against the safety code: the power switch. Not talking about the momentary contact, but the knife switch (isn't that what it's called?) You need a removable interlock, so if you were to replace that with a low profile keyswitch or a pullpin, that would be counted as removable.

That is one very interesting looking controller!:eek: :D
Yeah, I read up on some of the other launch controllers here and the threads and this launch controller is definetely missing the whole "key" mechanism and a continuity light (which is pretty useful).

So, I bought some supplies for a continuity light and the "safety key" (mono phone plug and holder.) And I'm planning to modify the launch controller.

These would be easy to implement into the launch controller. I'm starting to think of reversing the location of all the switches, etc. I can probably move everything _outside_ the altoids box and melt/drill holes for wires. Anyway, the advantage is that you have easy access to the wires by opening up the altoids box.

Then again, I'm thinking of scratching the whole altoids box idea and moving on to something that's a bit bigger and interesting. Maybe a soda can? I could have the exit wires to the battery and rocket ignitor out of the drinking hole thing that's on top of the can. Dunno, there's a wide variety of containers out there :)

Another part of me wants a formal and appropriete controller. I'm not sure which side of me will win, but I'll probably find out in the next few days :)