Sunday June 22, 2003
Water Rocket Video

Be sure to check out our latest Water Rocket article at The How Zone

I've been spending spare time tinkering with water rockets. First off, I came up with a design which I think obviates the need for a parachute (most cases). The main reason you want a parachute is that the weight you use for stability going up quickly turns into a liability on the way down.

Using a couple of one or two liter bottles I've created a stacked rocket where the top bottle gets a little water to provide stability. The top of this bottle is left open, but another partial top is slid over it. You get good, straight flight going up and at apogee the bottle turns over, dumps the water into the removable top, which detaches. The main rocket floats like a feather into a nearby tree and the cap plummets like a rock. Almost perfect!

The other thing I've been working on is getting a wireless camera into a rocket. Remember all of those crazy X10 popup ads? Yeah, that's my fault. I bought a camera a few years ago and they used the sixty bucks or whatever to buy a million internet ads. Sorry about that.

Well, I finally put the camera to good use. After a severe dissection it was put into a 1 liter bottle, much like the old ship-in-a-bottle kits. A hole was cut for the lens to stick out and a little switch was mounted externally for applying power. I also confirmed that a 9 volt battery works in lieu of the 12 volts it prefers.

That's the good news. Unfortunately there's no way to ditch all of this weight when it reaches apogee. For now we'll hope for the best and rebuild the rest.

Here's a link to the Water Rocket Movie in case you don't see it in your browser below. If you've never seen a water rocket launch you might be surprised, heck I was surprised and I've launched a bunch of them. Be sure to step through the movie frame by frame after you watch it to see some of the views. With a parachute the time aloft would be longer.

By the way the sound is from the wireless camera's microphone. I know, it sounds like a real rocket. Here's the view from the rocket in case you can't view the movie:

The first shot buried the tip of the rocket two inches in the ground and popped the little Amazon shipping airbag I had used to cushion and isolate the parts. I replaced that with a chunk of packing foam. Also turned off the house wireless phone since it caused camera interference. The second launch was a beautiful thing. Straight up, barely any spin, and then it turned ugly as the rocket slammed into the woods and self-destructed.

Here's the rocket after the last launch. The rocket is in great shape, but the electronics sort of pulled themselves apart. Hmm, gotta come up with a parachute. You can see that I've moved to a more modular system design. When you slam rockets two inches into the ground on a regular basis you need to use interchangeable parts.

Ingredients for this project:

  1. two one liter soda bottles
  2. Shoe-goo & silicon sealant for rocket assembly
  3. one x-10 wireless camera & base reciever
  4. misc. wire, switch, tape, and packing material to asseble camera
  5. Video camera with external video input (hooked to X10 reciever)
  6. iMovie to import video (firewire) and create movie

Tedhieron • 2003-06-22 09:33pm

Freakin' AWESOME, man! Ya gotta call me when you plan another launch!
Kirk • 2003-06-22 10:07pm

very nice
so if you have water in the top rocket are you sealing the camera in a bag to keep out the water
jerry • 2003-06-23 05:56am

I'll post a complete picture of the rocket once the electronics are hooked back up. For now imagine the top picture with the nose cone and fins from the bottom picture slid into their respective places.

BTW, I didn't use water for weight with this rocket. The battery and camera are more than enough. Actually too much on the trip down.
Barry (Jerry's current "Mr. Burns"... • 2003-06-23 11:09am

This rawks!
Chris • 2003-06-23 03:03pm

That is the best Jerry!
Pedraum Pardehpoosh • 2003-06-23 07:18pm

If you don't get /.'d you oughta. Time to buy some more bandwidth dude before your ISP charges you an arm ana leg. Well done!
Amer • 2003-07-24 01:41pm

That is too cool! How much does the whole setup/kit cost?
jerry • 2003-07-24 02:13pm

Launcher is made out of pvc pipe, probably ten bucks worth or less (search google for water rocket launcher). And the rockets are pretty darn cheap, I get most of them from the recycling bin at work.

X10 camera rig was the most expensive part, let's say eighty bucks. You don't need that to have fun though.

Jason • 2004-04-12 11:09am

Hi, my name is Jason. I checked out your site. It's pretty cool. I really liked the movie. I have gotten really into building water rockets, check out my web site to see some pictures of my rockets. I think I have built some pretty cool rockets. I have also experimented with back-gliders. The idea is the rocket goes up straight, but comes down sideways. This is achieved by moving the center of gravity back behind the center of area. If you used a 1 liter soda botle as the pressure vessel, you could make a long nose cone out of an other bottle, and maybe extend it a little longer using paper or cardboard. You could then put the camera toward the back of this assembly, and you would have a back-slider.
jerry • 2004-04-13 05:09pm

Hey Jason!

That's quite the launcher you have on your homepage. Looks like a long carriage bolt with maybe a flat spot filed on the head?

I have one rocket design which happened to end up as a backslider and you are right they work very well. Not sure if I can get the camera rocket to backslide as there's a bunch of weight onboard. Plus the videos might be a little nauseating!

Whadya think, would Zeke enjoy a twenty five thousand dollar jacuzzi?

  • DVD System.
  • State-of-the art entertainment center, with a 43" high definition flat screen television.
  • Floating remote control.
  • Underwater lighting.
  • Side-by-side ergonomic loungers.
  • Energy-efficient, self-draining, double-insulated pump.
  • Patented Silent Air Induction system.
  • Slip-resistant bottom.
  • Built-in CD/AM/FM stereo with remote control.
  • Surround sound system.
  • Tru-Level self-leveling base system.
  • 2 Directionally adjustable foot jets.
  • 2 directionally adjustable body and side jets.
  • 6 Fully adjustable PowerPro jets.

I'm just waiting for my filthy-rich eccentric period to start so I can buy one.

Barry (Jerry's current "Mr. Burns"... • 2003-06-23 11:08am

Perfect for watching "Das Boot" or "Jaws" !
jerry • 2003-06-23 12:37pm

dags boot? paws?