Unfortunately, we did not receive sufficient volunteer help to safely run the planned October 8 night launch, so we are cancelling the planned night launch. The next anticipated night launch would be at Desert Heat 2017. We will let everyone know when plans for the 2017 season firm up over the next couple months.
The next public launch will be Sunday, November 20, 2016, from 9 am - 1 pm.
Outfitting a rocket for night flight does not need to be complicated or expensive. Here are some examples of how low-power and mid-power rockets have been converted for night flight. In some cases, you'll need to use a more powerful motor to lift the added weight of the lights. Openrocket is free software that can be very helpful in determining how the addition of battery and light weight will impact flight characteristics of a model, and it can also help you choose the best motor to fly with the new weight of the model. The article includes links to electronics that can be used to make your rocket visible at night, between $3 and $20.
Estes Astron Outlaw
At 21 inches in length, the Astron Outlaw, and its clones like the Chrome Dome and several others, is about as small a model as I would attempt to fly at night. The reason for this is that you need enough fin area and stability in the model to support the addition of lights positioned near the rear of the model. If practical, lights should go toward the front of the model, but in many low power rockets, that is not feasible. This lighting setup is the least expensive and simplest to implement of any--the cost is around $4 for 4 small LED lights and 4 small zip ties. The total mass of the lights is 15 grams, compared with the 71 gram weight of the model without motor. This shifts the center of gravity back half an inch, which, in the case of this model, does not risk destabilizing the model. But other models may not be as forgiving. I recommend 1 light per fin, in case the lights hang between the fins and would be blocked from view. Always fly with at least 2 lights, so that one light can fail and your model is still lit. Position the lights so that their weight sits symmetrically around the body tube.
If you have any questions about stability of your model, use the free Openrocket software to model your rocket's new mass, center of gravity, and center of pressure, to make sure your center of gravity with your motor loaded is at least 1 body tube diameter in front of the center of pressure. And speaking of motors, for this model, a B6-4 motor was still suitable, with an deployment altitude change from 275 feet without lights, to 200 feet with lights. With a C6-5 motor, the ejection altitude drops from 750 feet to 600 feet. Both motors would be safe with the addition of these lights, but expect the safety check in volunteers to ask if you've thought about how the added weight of the lights will affect the rocket's flight characteristics.
Scouts will be selling these lights at the launch for $1 per LED. Zip ties included!
The Estes Ascender is a Pro Series 2-inch diameter, 41 inch long payload rocket with a 29mm motor mount is in many ways an ideal candidate for a night rocket--large fins, long length, and an existing paylaod bay just wide enough for the 3xAAA battery case that powers the LED strip. The main lighting is a bright and feature-rich flexible adhesive-backed LED strip 2 meters long that comes with a battery case (3 AAA batteries required) and a remote control to turn the lights off and on or to change functions--from 21 different solid colors to flash, fade, or strobe features. For redundancy, I used 3 small zip ties to attach 3 flashing LED lights above the fins; in case of a failure of 1 light, there are 3 other lights to keep the model visible.
The addition of the flashing LEDs above the fins is trivial for this size model, but the addition of the battery and LED strip in the payload bay does mean the model will need a stronger motor and/or a different delay than you might use otherwise. Use Openrocketsoftware to model your rocket's new mass, center of gravity, and center of pressure, and to determine appropriate motors. Make sure your center of gravity with your motor loaded is at least 1 body tube diameter in front of the center of pressure, and that your motor is sized appropriately to recover your model safely, but stay below the 3,000 foot ceiling.
Balsa Machining's 3 Inch School Rocket, with payload bay
BMS's new 3 inch school rocket is a short, stubby model 29 inches tall, similar to the Estes Big Daddy, with a 24mm motor mount. The simplest solution is to not paint the white plastic nose cone, and insert 2 micro LED string lights into the nose cone, wrapped around a dowel to keep the lights spread out along the nose cone. Generally speaking, weight added to the nose cone will improve the stability of the model, and the lights are very lightweight relative to the mass of the model, using 2 included button batteries. Adding these lightweight lights to the nosecone would not require a different motor selection.
To up the light output, I decided to drop $10 at BMS to add a 12-inch payload section that helps stabilize the model for the bigger motor needed to boost the batteries for a nice $15 LED strip on the payload bay, in addition to a micro LED string in the nose cone. This is a case where just adding lights requires changes to the model to move center of gravity forward to keep the model stable with the heavier motor needed to boost the batteries and the LEDs. Short stubby models like this are tricky that way, but lengthening the model with the payload bay from 29 inches to 41 inches, and mounting the lights and batteries in the front of the model produced a much more stable model. The original model would fly to 300 feet on a D12-3, but the longer, heavier model will reach 750 feet on an F50. D and E motors will not lift the added weight, and the added length and weight in the payload section is needed for stability.
Use Openrocketsoftware to model your rocket's new mass, center of gravity, and center of pressure, and to determine appropriate motors. Make sure your center of gravity with your motor loaded is at least 1 body tube diameter in front of the center of pressure, and that your motor is sized appropriately to recover your model safely, but stay below the 3,000 foot ceiling.
Here are some basic items you may need for the night launch. This is by no means comprehensive, but just some ideas on lights you can use for model (Small Estes for example) rockets, the vest needed, and the personal light.
High Power rockets are more complex and if you are new to this and are a member you can email email@example.com and ask for help. There must be two power supplies, they can power two separate banks of lights but redundancy must be present. Please review the rules so your rocket can fly! This is a ton of fun, and we want to help everyone get what they want in the air, so do not be afraid to ask for help.
We are excited for SARA's second night launch of the year, which will be SARA's only public launch in October. The night launch is scheduled for Saturday, October 8, 2016 from 6 pm till 9 pm. This night launch will be held at the main TIMPA runway, a half mile South of the normal SARA launch site.
At a time when some clubs are cancelling night launches, SARA is proud to bring this spectacular opportunity to fly sport rockets at night, or to just watch the wonder of rockets launching into the night sky. But to help ensure the safety of all spectators and participants in SARA night launch operations, we are enhancing our range safety protocols that will be in place at all SARA night launches. Please read carefully if you plan to attend the night launch, as some of these rules will require advanced planning. Be prepared.
CLARIFIED: There shall be no night flights of drone, quadcopter, UAV, model airplane, or other remote controlled aircraft anywhere at the TIMPA facility.
NEW: All participants who enter the range--either the launch pad area or downrange to recover rockets--are required to wear reflective vests and a light emitting source; red lighting is preferred. Personal light sources may be battery powered lights or chemical glow sticks.
CHANGED: All rockets, regardless of size, must be actively lighted to be visible at night from at least 300 feet away. Lights must be visible all the way up and all the way down. All separable sections must comply with lighting requirements independently of each other. Glowsticks do not meet this requirement. LEDs can meet this requirement, but they must be properly secured to the model.
Additionally, high power rockets must have dual redundant lighting systems. Redundant means no shared power supplies, switches, etc. The RSO will need to see each circuit illuminated independently, so no single point of failure can cause a failure of all lighting systems. At least one of the circuits should flash, strobe, or blink. High power rockets must be checked in with the RSO before dark.
No motors larger than K impulse.
3000 feet above ground level is the maximum permissible altitude.
No complex (staged or clustered) rockets.
The use of spark producing motors is subject to the Range Safety Officer's review of field conditions. Do not automatically assume that spark producing motors may be flown.
No firearms or other weapons are allowed at the TIMPA facility.
There are many reasons behind these rules, and we have done our best to keep the rules simple and limited in scope, without compromising safety. But some of these rules deserve a bit more explanation:
The airspace is reserved exclusively for model rocket flights authorized by the Range Safety Officer (RSO) and the Launch Control Officer (LCO). Launch operations will stop if any aircraft are in the area. Operators of remote controlled aircraft will be asked to leave.
The reflective vest and personal light requirement is to ensure that the LCO can see anyone who is at the launch pads or down range recovering a rocket. Inexpensive vests and lights are available online, commonly sold for biking, running or walking. The RSO will not permit anyone on the range who is not clearly visible at a distance.
Glowsticks do not produce sufficient light to track a rocket--particularly a model that does not deploy a recovery device. Small, inexpensive LED lights are available online, but they must be properly secured to the model.
A local scout group will have some vests, personal lights, and small LED lights available for sale at the event, but do not count on their supplies lasting. Be prepared and bring your own supplies.
If you have questions about these rules, please firstname.lastname@example.org beforehand or see the Range Safety Officer on the night of the launch.