Kevin Cook's
Red and Black "Sky Attack"
Level 3 Certification Project

Launch Dates:

October 13th, 2007 - First Flight

First Flight Video
Another First Flight Video

Level 3 Certification Flight - ???

Super Sod Grass Farm, Orangeburg, SC


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Rocket Name:    Sky Attack    

Height: 94 inches

Projected Pad Weight:
41 pounds
(Includes recovery equipment, avionics and propellant)

Outer Diameter:
7.7 inches

Center of Pressure: 69.88 inches from the nose tip

Center of Gravity: 57.48 inches from the nose tip

Airframe: Fiberglass wrapped phenolic tubes

Fins: (3)  .125" thick G10 Fiberglass

Stages: 1

Motor Mount: 75mm (Reduced down to 54mm for first flight)

Motor Retention: Aeropack 75mm

Projected First Flight Altitude: K1275R - 1762 feet (.3 Miles)

First Flight Motor Casing:
  Rouse-Tech 54mm / 2560ns Case

Projected Level 3 Certification Altitudes:
     75/6400 - M1550R - 6211 feet (1.18 miles)
     75/5120 - M1297W - 6314 feet (1.19 miles)

Projected Maximum Altitude:  M1315W - 7836 feet (1.5 Miles)

Level 3 / Maximum Altitude Motor Casing: Rouse Tech 75mm / 6400 ns Case

Recovery Systems: Dual Deployment - TAC 9A and TAC Drogue at Apogee, TAC 9A and TAC Drogue at 700 feet

Avionics: Dual Altimeters / GPS / Radio Locator Beacon



.125" thick G10 Fiberglass Fins in 6 pieces. Each fin has a bottom part and a top part that get epoxied together, making 3 fins total.

Close up of 1 set of upper and lower fin pieces.

The 75mm Motor Mount and Centering Rings.
This motor mount tube is longer and wider than my Level 1 Rocket!!!

Ryan with a bunch of the parts.
We're getting ready to dry fit it together to see what it will look like.

Shock Cords, Ejection Piston Parts, Launch Lugs (Made from COPPER PLUMBING PIPE!)

Main Airframe (Fiberglassed Phenolic Tube)
Coupler (Phenolic Tube)
Payload Airframe (Fiberglassed Phenolic Tube)
Fiberglass Nosecone.

Ryan in the picture for size comparison!
The nosecone alone is taller than Matthew :)

84" Parachute - 7 Feet wide!!!
This is now unused - I have 2 much bigger / better systems pictured below.

Ryan with the Fiberglass Nosecone

Dry Fit!!!

Custom Made Fin Jig - I made this one out of wood - I used cardboard for my Level 1 Rocket, but this one is so big and bulky, I was worried that cardboard wouldn't do the job.
The circle in the middle is slightly larger than the airframe, and the slots are a perfect 120 degrees from each other.

Back view of the Fin Jig - I'll put little shims in the slots when I epoxy it to get them to exactly 120 degrees apart.

I made the floor stands this weekend too.
I wanted to have it up around hip level to wet sand and epoxy.

CP and CG marked.
To be stable, the CG must be forward of the CP by at least 1 airframe diameter.
(7.7" in this case).

Another view of the stand and Fin Jig.
It's soooo funny to see my Level 1 Rocket under this one.
Just wait 'till I go Level 3!!!  :)
Go Big or Go Home!

Another look at the Custom Made Fin Jig.

The aluminum 75mm motor retainer arrived today.  I had to drill 12 holes to secure it in place, (1 hole every 30 degrees.)

All holes drilled, and bolts tightened.

Another look.


Rear centering ring and 75mm motor retainer dry fit in the Rocket.

Closer View.

The BUSINESS End!!!  There is a set of 75mm to 54mm adapter rings inside that I will use to mount a 54mm motor for it's first flight.

Back side of the Motor Retainer - Epoxied.

All pieces removed after dry fit test, Middle centering ring epoxied in place.

Motor tube with shock cord (Seat Belt) Fiberglassed on.

Motor Tube and lower 3 fins being glued / glassed in place.

Closer view of the fiberglass cloth.  I glassed the fins both at the motor tube and the inner wall of the airframe.

Launch Rails attached.

Launch Rail Detail.

All lower fins and launch rails on!

Looking straight down into the airframe - it's about to get foamy!!!

2 Part Foam oozing out a bit.

Foam all cut down to accept the rear centering ring / motor retainer.

The top of the foam, top of the fin edges, inner rim of the airframe, and outer rim of the motor tube were covered with epoxy, and the rear centering ring was set in place.

The top 3 fins are being epoxied in place and clamped to keep them aligned.

While all that was happening, I epoxied the coupler tube into the bottom of the payload section.

Remove Before Flight Flags - These will be attached to brass rods, that will slide into brass tubes inside the avionics compartment.  I plan on aligning micro switches with the path of the rods, so that when the rods are inserted, they depress the switches and remove power from the avionics, as well as short out the 4 explosive charges that blow out the chutes.

Nosecone with 54mm Motor Tube - I added the tube to be able to put fender washers inside to add additional nose weight depending on the configuration of the rocket (Payload or Not, Etc...)

Centering rings epoxied in - Foam was used in between the 2 centering rings as well.

Exterior Fin Fillets drying in the sun.

Matthew inspecting my work :)

Rocket building is tough work!  Let's sit down and rest a bit.

Early design for Redundant Avionics Bays.  Scrapped to make use of all the room in the Avionics Bay now that I'm adding Cameras, transmitters, GPS, Locator Beacon, etc...

They will be wired up, and slip into these 54mm tubes.  Scrapped

Dry fitting them in to get an idea of space.

Allthread added - There is Loc-Tite and epoxy on the threads where the nuts will not need to ever be removed.

This is the end that will fire into the payload section for the main chute to deploy.  You can see the 2 ejection charge cups at the top and bottom.  1 Primary and 1 Backup.  The coupler on the right will be epoxied into the payload airframe and go between the 2 end plates like you see here, and this end will be permanently attached too.

This is the end that will fire into the bottom airframe for the drogue chute to deploy, again - 2 ejection charge cups.  They will hold an aluminum tube that will house a flash bulb / e-match and FFFF grade black powder.  This end will be removable if needed.

The epoxy I ended up using - Awesome!!!
NO odor and pre-measured mixing pumps!

Prototyping the Altimeters, Arming / Shunting / Power Switches, and Battery layout.  This is NOT how it is currently planned - just an early layout. V1 :)

Closer shot of one of the early Avionics prototypes.

Testing the alignment of the Micro Switches.
There will be a total of 8 - 2 for altimeter power, 1 for camera power, 1 for GPS power, 2 for shunting the main altimeters explosive charges, and 2 for shunting the backup altimeters explosive charges.

Safety Rod inserted, 6 of the switches mounted and aligned.  As with the previous electronics pictures, this is not final, just a test to see how to get all the stuff into such a small area.

An early layout of the 2 altimeters.  This was going to sit over the micro switches you see to the left.  This design has been scrapped - See below.

This is how it is actually going to look - The board in the middle will have all the switches, batteries, altimeters, GPS, and camera equipment mounted to it.  I scrapped the design you see up on top with the 2 tubes, so I could use the entire space now that I have the camera, transmitter and hopefully soon the GPS system...

Here you can see the "Remove Before Flight" rod inserted so I can mark it and align the switches.  The 2 little straws will be removed, they were there to keep epoxy from dripping down into the explosive charge holes.

2.4 GHz High Power transmitter with CCD Color Camera & Audio.
This transmits in the Amateur Radio (HAM) spectrum,  so I had to get my Ham Radio License!  It is something I have wanted to do for a long time, so it was a good excuse to do it :)
It will be mounted inside the payload bay to transmit the audio and video of the entire flight.  The battery pack pictures is just for testing - I have a rechargeable Li-Poly pack ordered.

A Radome antenna on the receiver - It gives it 12db increase in reception over the "rubber duck" antenna that it came with.
This stays on the ground, and connects to my camcorder to record the entire flight from the rockets perspective.  I will have other cameras recording the launch from the ground.

Latest look of the rocket - I have sanded and primed it a few times, as well as smoothed out the fin fillets.  I'm going to go with a red and black paint scheme, and I got parachutes to match, so it should look AWESOME when it's finished.

All yellow items you see are made of Kevlar Ballistic Nylon - Bullet Proof and Fire Proof :)
The yellow ball is a "Zipper Stopper" - It helps reduce the stress on the lip of the airframe when the charges blow out the payload / nosecone and the Kevlar shock cord gets yanked to the side of the airframe.

The 24 inch TAC Drogue Parachute, and the Kevlar TAC Bag that protects the TAC 9A parachute.  There are 2 identical setups like this.  One is deployed at apogee, and the other will be deployed when it gets to 700 feet.  The 24 inch Drogue is is attached to the TAC Bag, which has the big chute in it.  The other end of the bag is attached to the top of the main chute.  It basically is there to pull the main chute out, not to help slow down the descent.

Latest avionics layout. I say latest because I'm probably going to be getting new components soon.

I made schematic diagrams in .jpg, .vsd, and .pdf if you are interested.

Closer view of the avionics board - Front.
The unlabeled switch on the bottom right is for the GPS / Telemetry unit, but I don't have it yet.  I hope to be getting 2 new Altimeters, a GPS unit, and Telemetry Monitoring System soon.  I'll have to start over on the board layout AGAIN, but it would be worth it!

Closer view of the avionics board - Rear.
I had to make a decision on epoxy or nuts and bolts - Epoxy would have been lighter, but I would not be able to swap parts easily - I went with nuts and bolts - Nothing a larger engine can't compensate for :)

I tried and tried to get a Dr. Rocket 54/2560 motor case because they are red and black like the rest of the rocket / parachutes. (How Anal Retentive - I know!)  But they are on the verge of going out of business, and no one could get one in.  I ended up going with Rouse-Tech "Monster Motor" hardware - It was more expensive because it's anodized, but it's stronger. Besides, when it's in the rocket, you wont see it,  so color doesn't matter. (At least that's what I keep telling myself!)  The soda can and other engines are for size reference.  The small one is a "B", and the black one is a "G".

The Lithium Polymer battery system arrived today.  I got the leads to connect it to the car battery if I need to charge it at the field as well.  The battery (On the far right) is currently for the camera and transmitter, but I'm debating making a voltage regulator to run the altimeters, etc... off it too.  It would reduce weight, but it would also reduce redundancy at the same time - I can't decide if I want to risk everything running off 1 battery.

I made this Type 4 Explosives Storage Magazine from a huge ammo can I got off eBay.  I built it to BATFE specs. I sanded the can down, and painted it safety red, and put a vinyl "Danger" label on the top.  I had to add hasps to the sides, and get padlocks with 5 tumblers and 3/8" case hardened boron alloy shackles.  The entire interior had to be lined with 1/2 plywood so there can be no chance of sparks.  It also helps to contain an explosion if there were one.

The inside of the magazine.  The 4 1/4 round trim pieces in the corners are glued in place, and held the lid flush with the top during construction.  I then covered the top of the wood in Adhesive, and put the steel lid on and waited for it to dry - Fits like a puzzle piece now!

The top wooden piece glued in place.  All I have in it for now is some black powder and a few unregulated single use engines.  Once my explosives user permit is approved, I will apply for a storage variance to get approval to store the APCP in this box, in my garage.  From what I understand, it's an even bigger hassle than the permit itself.  You have to get Local Fire Marshal approval first, then the BATFE process starts all over again.

The 2 Master # 15 padlocks.  I should have put something in the picture for a size reference - these are REALLY big locks!

The magazine is then further secured by a braided steel cable wrapped around my trailer in the garage.  All this for storing rocket motor propellant!  Federal Explosive Permits, Fingerprints for the FBI / BATFE, Mug Shots, Storage Magazines, Fire Marshal Approval...  I really hope the court case turns out in hobby rocketry's favor!

The holes are drilled for the camera lens and antenna.

Camera lens close up and one of the two large altimeter vent holes.  These holes equalize the pressure in the payload bay that houses the altimeters with the outside pressure.  

Close up of the camera mount.  The brass tacks will allow rubber bands to zigzag across to secure it further.  You can see one of the two large vent holes above and to the right of the power plug.

Close up of the transmitter mount.  You can see the second large vent hole to the left of the transmitter.  There are four more small vent holes - two in the drogue parachute section and two in the main parachute section.  the small vent holes also equalize the pressure, but these prevent the airframe sections from being over pressurized and popping the sections apart.

Close up of the front of the COMPLETED avionics board.  It is now secured to the bottom plate.  The 9 volt batteries power the 2 altimeters that will deploy the drogue parachutes at apogee, (Primary altimeter fires drogue charge at apogee, backup altimeter fires drogue charge at apogee plus one second.)
and the main parachutes at a pre determined altitude (Primary altimeter fires main charge at 700 feet, backup altimeter fires main charge at 500 feet.)

Close up of the back of the COMPLETED avionics board.  You can see the 11.1 volt Lithium Polymer battery pack in the mount, and it also has brass tacks and rubber bands to secure it as well.  This battery will power the camera and 2.4GHz transmitter.  As it stands now, I am NOT going to make a voltage regulator and run everything from this battery.  Although it has enough capacity, I just feel better with totally redundant batteries.

Close up of two of the four aluminum ejection charge holders with flashbulbs inside. The flashbulbs will get black powder packed on top of them which will explode when the flashbulbs flash, separating the airframes, and deploying the parachutes. ( I HOPE!!!)

Flashbulbs all wire wrapped.

Close up of a single flashbulb.  Notice the wire is wire wrapped around the leads on the bulb in one continuous piece - This shorts it out until I cut the wire right before connecting it, preventing static from firing it.

Flashbulbs in the aluminum ejection charge holders, with wax melted around the bottom.  The wax seals them, and holds the flashbulb in place when I pack the black powder around it.

Close up of the ejection charge holders.

I also solder them just in case.  Overkill, but one less point of failure always helps :)

Testing the ejection charges.

Click on this one, and there is a link where you can also see a VIDEO of it.

Flashbulbs after firing - I'm actually surprised that they are still intact. The one on the right is actually in two separate pieces, but I would have guessed that there would be almost nothing left!  Exactly why we test things!

The vinyl decals arrived today.  I had them custom made from Vinz Decals and I plan on applying them after the primer and red paint, but before the clear coat.

These AWESOME decals will mark the Center of Gravity, the Center of Pressure, and the Vent holes.  I found them by total accident at BSD Rocketry.  They are buried deep in the site, and they have no pictures of them - I'll bet they would double the sales of these cool decals if they made them easier to find, and included a picture!  Also - The last set I ordered came RED - They have no way to pick a color either, and it seems they just randomly send different colors.  They really need to get their site in order.

All primed up and ready for the Red, Black, and Clear!!!  I hope to get it finished next week .

Closer view of the primer coat.
GPS Package. It has a 750mah Li-Poly battery, battery charger, and a serial adapter. This will constantly transmit the rocket's latitude, longitude and altitude to me during and after the flight.  This also transmits in the Amateur Radio (HAM) frequency spectrum.
Close up of the bare GPS unit and transmitter.
Close up of the GPS unit and transmitter with the battery and antenna attached.
SMA antenna mount - It is like this on the GPS and the Locator Beacon.
This is the serial adapter that goes between the GPS transmitter and the PC to program in the call sign, frequency, etc...
GPS unit with a sample of the data displayed
Locator Beacon Package.
It also has a Li-Poly battery (250mah), charger, and a serial programmer.  This will send a beacon every second that I can follow with my HAM radio and a Yagi (directional) antenna.  Using This, combined with the GPS, and I should be able to find it :)
Close up of the bare Locator Beacon and serial programmer.
The 250mah Li-Poly battery for the Locator Beacon.
Battery attached.

I am putting both the GPS Unit and Locator Beacon in the nosecone.  They will be far enough away from the camera transmitter and altimeters and it will move the CG forward at the same time.  This also means I do NOT have to rebuild the Avionics Board!!!  YAY!!!

The second set of decals arrived today - 6" letters.
The other set of 4" letters is there for size comparison.

I got a gross of flashbulbs on eBay - If you ever see these at a garage sale or similar - Hook me up!  They don't make them any more.

Inside the big box.

Individual boxes.  Brand does not matter - The AG1 size is all I care about.

Each individual box has 2 of these holders, 1 dozen flashbulbs per box (3 launches per box)

I ordered these nylon screws for use as shear pins.  They came today as well!

My PicPac kit arrived today too!!!  I had a mini x-mas!!!  This kit will hook up to my HT and display the latitude, longitude, and altitude of the rocket.  First step - Remove the ribbon cable.

Ribbon cable removed

Nice sized screen!

The rest of the parts for the kit.  It was 80 bucks for the kit or 130 assembled!!!  50 bucks to make it?  I made it in a little over an hour, and that was because of stopping to take the pictures!  If you're thinking of getting this, do what I did!  Save your money and get the kit - VERY SIMPLE (Sub Beginner)

The bare PCB.

IC Socket soldered on.

Capacitors soldered on.

All diodes (3) and 7 of the resistors soldered on.

A few more resistors, the 2 ceramic resonators, +5v voltage regulator, and NPN transistor added.

Reset switch (White), and Menu / Sub Menu switches (Black) added.

Display Header, Power Jack, Audio Jack, Speaker, Kenwood Shunt, Trimmer Potentiometers, and Power LED added.

Serial Ports, Modem Chip, PIC Chip, and 232 Chip added.

Header Pins soldered on to display bottom.

Display flipped back over.

Display attached to base.

Powered up - It works!!!  Next step is to flash it with the firmware / software for the GPS tracking, and make a case.

I made this case from a Radio Shack Project Box today, and flashed the firmware / software, it's all ready to hook up!

This is the 5 element Yagi (Directional) antenna.  It came in today, and I put it together to see it's size.  It's 27" long, so not too bad!

This antenna will be used with my HT, the Attenuator, and the Locator Beacon to locate the rocket if it's lost, and the GPS fails.

4 MHz Offset Attenuator - This goes between my HT and the 5 element Yagi (Directional) antenna, and is used to attenuate the signal of the locator beacon when closing in, so the signal is not so strong you can't tell where it is.

Homemade antenna mast (10' Metal Conduit) with a Discone antenna on top to receive GPS telemetry and Locator Beacon signals, and a Radome antenna in the middle to receive Audio and Video signals from the onboard camera.

Close up of the Discone antenna. A Discone is a combination of a DISC and a CONE - DISCONE, Get it? :)

Close up of the Radome antenna with the receiver attached.

Another close up of the Radome antenna, with the receiver attached.

4" x 4" wooden base to keep it vertical out in those fields!  I'm thinking of making a table that extends out of the back of my Expedition that the mast will go through for additional support, and it will also give me a place to put the monitors, radios, computers, etc...

Paint mixing sticks cut and sanded down to mount the first surface mirror on.  I decided I like the the view down the side of the rocket with the flames and smoke trail better than just looking straight out.  You can see the pencil lines where the nosecone half will go. 

I cut a nosecone in half, and will use this for the cover.  Here it is dry fit, and I lined it all up with the camera and mirror to be sure the angles were right, and that you could not see the cover in the picture.

Nosecone half, epoxied in place.

Looking up inside.  I originally cut the mirror angle at 45 degrees, and it showed a LOT of the rocket body (About 50% of the picture), so I epoxied the popsicle stick to the bottom to make the mirror angle out away from the body, and show a bit more scenery.

Better view.  I bought a 1" x 1" first surface mirror that will be epoxied to the wood after it gets painted.  I plan on scuffing up the surface with a Dremel tool, and drilling 5 little holes through the mounting plate so the epoxy will really adhere to / through the wood.  I don't want there to be any chance of the mirror falling off!

Now that the epoxy has cured on the side that meets the airframe, I epoxied the other side. (The top of the wooden support frame to the inner edge of the nosecone.)

Other side curing.

You've heard the saying "About as exciting as watching paint dry"?  Well - The same goes for epoxy! :)

A little Bondo around the edges, and a coat of primer - I'm STARTING to see the light at the end of the tunnel...  Red, Black and Clear go on next week!!! (I hope - I'll be out of town until Thursday the 17th so that's pushing it a bit!)

The 1" x 1" First Surface Mirror.

This is the Yaesu VX-7R Handheld Transceiver (Ham Radio) that will receive the signals from the onboard GPS Transmitter, and route the data to the PicPac and the Garmin 60CSx handheld GPS.  It will also receive the signals from the Locator Beacon, if there are any issues with the GPS.

Software and cable for programming the VX-7R.

3rd party manuals for the VX-7R.

Temperature and Altitude sensor for the VX-7R.  The plastic adhesive plate is to replace the one you remove when installing this board in the radio.

SMA to BNC connector.  The VX-7R has an SMA antenna connector, and the Discone and Yagi cables are BNC, so I needed this adapter.

VX-7R with the rubber duck antenna removed, and the SMA to BNC adapter screwed on.  (Temperature / Altitude sensor board is now in as well.)

VX-7R all hooked up to the 4 MHz Offset Attenuator, and 5 Element Yagi.

I will only use it in this configuration if the GPS fails for some reason.

Garmin GPSmap 60CSx GPS Receiver.  Normally the VX-7R will get hooked up to the PicPac, and then the PicPac will connect to this GPS.  As the VX-7R receives data from the onboard GPS, it will pass it to the PicPac, which will both display it on the screen, as well as pass it to this GPS as a waypoint for me to locate the rocket.

Cables and mounts for the GPSmap 60CSx GPS.

Software and manuals for the GPSmap 60CSx GPS.  The orange DVD's are topographic maps of the entire 50 states, and the white DVD is the road navigation map set.  This is an AWESOME GPS device - I've used it to go Geocaching and for road navigation too.

I finished up the PicPac kit last night, and labeled it up today.

This is where the VX-7R Ham Radio connects in.  I have a 9 pin serial connection for this side too, but my VX-7R can connect with just the audio.  I drilled it off center because of the internal support ribs.

This is where the Laptop or GPS connects in.

The Pic-Trak power on screen.

The screen that tells you the location.

I bought this Spray Gun Kit to hook up to my compressor - I'm kind of over spray paint cans, and I thought I'd try my hand at a real spray gun.

The boys and I built a table that bolts onto the car where the 3rd row seats usually go.  Ryan is practicing the parallel bars :) 

More Olympic Practice :)

The table top.

Load testing the table.

Antennas added.

We were testing the reception of the Camera, GPS, and Locator Beacon.

I was trying to hook everything up here in the driveway to make sure I had all the connectors / cables, etc... in the boxes.  I don't want launch day to come and have to scrub the launch because I left some fitting at home!!!

Close to how it will look on launch day.

Matthew found an ant :)
OH MY GOD it looks AWESOME!!!
I put the decals on today, and the CG, CP, and VENT decals I thought were Black turned out to be Silver!  I wasn't happy about that, but overall it looks GREAT!!!
Close up of the lower airframe.
Close up of the payload section and the camera housing.
Other side of the payload section.
Close up of the nosecone.

All put together.

Horizontal view.

Close up of the decals.

Close up of the decals and camera shroud.

Wide angle view.

Moving clockwise around the airframe.

Clockwise again.  Launch rail side.