Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to make your Water Rocket fly higher

We have added a new section to our website that contains the first in a series of articles which share many of the tips and tricks we have learned over the years that can help you make your water rockets go higher and/or make your water rocket go farther.

The first article in the series explains many of the weight reduction techniques which we have employed in the fabrication of the MSP430 based electronics payload and parachute deploy module of our X-12 advanced ultra high pressure water rocket. These weight reducing methods can be applied to any water rocket design to improve the performance by shedding unnecessary mass, which will cut down on the amount of wasted energy.

Accompanying the new performance tips article is a new water rocket video which shows how the new payload module is set up. The video also includes a step-by-step explanation of our water rocket arming and launch procedures, from rocket preparation through launch and landing.

Many people have been curious about what it takes to launch one of our advanced rockets, and we thought it would be a great place to show the process, because it ties in very tightly with the new reduced mass payload module. The video illustrates the very same launch procedures which were used to set most of our Water Rocket world altitude records.

Our performance tips section will be expanded over the coming weeks with additional articles and videos showing specific construction tips and launcher designs which you can use to your advantage in your own rockets.

The first article in this series is available now and can be found at the following link: http://www.uswaterrockets.com/tips/weight_saving/tip.htm

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

ServoChron Firmware and Documentation Updates

U.S. Water Rockets has released the newest ServoChron: the MSP430 LaunchPad based dual time delayed Servo controller for rocketry and other applications.

The newly enhanced ServoChron functions as a dual programmable delay timer that can move up to 2 servomotors between defined positions after a programmed time delay has elapsed from the moment a trigger input changes state. This functionality is intended for use with model rockets to deploy one or two parachutes at programmed intervals after launch has been detected. However, the device can be used in any situation where a servo needs to change position when some event triggers an input.

New in this version is an immediate trigger override input which can be used to read an apogee detect circuit (like a digital output from an external altimeter) and deploy the parachute immediately. Combine this feature with the built in timer feature and you have an apogee triggered servo deploy system with a timer backup.

The ServoChron will run on any MSP430 LaunchPad, including the early MSP430G2231 based versions. A custom software UART was developed for this variant which allows it to send the same diagnostic messages across the MSP430 Application UART backchannel while still driving the servos, just like the MSP430G2553 based Launchpad version.

A key feature of the ServoChron is the clever user interface, which allows the time delay and the servo positions to be configured without any external switches, and saves the configuration in the nonvolatile memory of the MSP430.

The software also includes an automatic polarity detect on the trigger input, so it will work with Normally Open or Normally Closed trigger circuits.

The ServoChron is demonstrated in a real water rocket launch and parachute recovery in the following video:

Instructions for making a simple servo operated Parachute deployment system are shown in this tutorial video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqTKXXpD9IU

The configuration of the ServoChron is demonstrated in the following video:

Along with the newly improved firmware, we have also reworked all of the instructions and manuals to make them easier to navigate. The new instructions for assembly, programming, and operation of the ServoChron are available at the  following link: http://www.uswaterrockets.com/documents/ServoChron/manual.htm

Monday, July 15, 2013

Launch Report: Test Flight with 7 Onboard Cameras Sets Unofficial World Record

On Novermber 25, 2011 U.S. Water Rockets was finishing some development work on our newly invented Axial Deploy Parachute Recovery System, and modifications to our Free MSP430 LaunchPad based ServoChron Servo Parachute Deploy Recovery System.  To document all of the tests, we needed to attach multiple onboard cameras to the rocket.
We decided that we had a accumulated a large number of cameras over time, and it would be fun to try and set a record for the highest number of cameras on a single launch.

The B-2 Water Rocket was test flown with an unofficial word record of 7 onboard cameras, and while the flight did not go as planned, the cameras recorded the entire chain of events, which allowed us to diagnose and correct the issue. Plus, the flight did succeed in setting the unofficial world record.

The Launch Report and accompanying documentary video containing all of the details of the launch and the results of the flight, including failure analysis and data logs can be found at the following link:


Note: The Launch Report article linked above also contains the video proof of the unofficial record.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Launch Report: Experimental High Pressure Carbon Fiber Water Rocket Test

Continuing our 10th year team celebration, we have more secrets to reveal. Along with the top secret designs which we have begun releasing, we are also beginning to publish formerly secret launch reports from some of our ambitious High Pressure Water Rocket experiments.

The launch report we present now is from experiments conducted on December 26, 2008. For this test, we were testing a new avionics system which was needed for a High Power Water Rocket which we will discuss more in future Launch Reports. The launch was featured in one of our early forays into "vlogging", but we did not publish many details about this launch, as we felt other teams who were in pursuit of our WRA2 Water Rocket World Altitude Record would benefit by studying our designs.

The purpose of the test was to validate the design and construction of a new avionics module, but since the rocket for this module was not finished yet, we used our X-12 carbon Fiber Water Rocket as the pressure vessel for the test. We were anxious to validate the new electronics design and also to be the first team to shoot real HD video with an onboard camera on a Water Rocket.

We now have completed a more fulsome write-up of the events of the day, and can publish more detailed photos of the launch. We can now  provide much more detail because we recently unveiled the design for our U.S. Water Rockets Split Collar Cable Tie Rocket Release Mechanism, which is visible in many of the photos taken at the launch site. Now that the secret of the launcher has been revealed, we can publish these formerly secret launch reports which show the launcher in action.

Please click here to view the complete launch report and watch the video of the flight.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Announcing the publication of the plans to the Top Secret U.S. Water Rockets Launcher Release Mechanism

We are celebrating our 10th Anniversary since U.S. Water Rockets was founded by releasing our top secret Water Rocket launcher release mechanism! That's right, it's been 10 years since we first decided to capture the Water Rocket World Altitude Record (but we were involved with the hobby off and on before that) and we have decided to celebrate by revealing the design of our greatest launcher release mechanism. We are proud to bring you the U.S. Water Rockets Split Collar Cable Tie Release Mechanism and Quick Release Clamp!

This new design is incredibly efficient at restraining and launching high pressure water rockets, and does so very easily. If it works that well for advanced water rockets, it obviously works great for all other water rockets of any size and pressure.
The best part of the design is that it is really easy to make, and does not require any fancy tools or trade skills to build. It also is very inexpensive!
To learn more about this new launcher design, please click the link below to read the article on our main website and read the history. There, you can also watch the video presentation we have created for this launcher, and see the construction tutorial we have created to help assist in the fabrication of this new design!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tutorial: Now to strengthen your Payload Electronics for rough launches and landings

Our latest tutorial shows how we discovered that our rocket electronics had failed due to the shock and vibration forces from launching and landing, and the steps which we took to correct the failure.

During the course of fight testing our ServoChron Servo operated Parachute Ejection Electronics, we had a mysterious failure that was traced to minor damage of the MSP430 LaunchPad Printed Circuit Board. We were able to diagnose the failure and traced it to the source and then designed this method to prevent future mishaps of this nature.

This tutorial shows our technique using an MSP430 LaunchPad, but we also use this technique on other rocketry electronics. The same method can be applied to altimeters and accelerometer boards or radio control receiver boards, as well as boards you may have built yourself like an Arduino project and similar projects.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to add a Clark Cable Tie Release to your Water Rocket Launcher

We have just published a follow up Tutorial to our recently released Water Rocket Launch Tube Construction Tutorial which shows the latest refinements to our popular Clark Cable Tie Launcher tutorial. Since that tutorial was published, we have found ways to make it easier to build, so we created a completely new Cable Tie Release tutorial which includes the updated instructions showing the build process using all of the new techniques.

The new tutorial all but eliminates precise measuring and cutting, and still results in a professional looking launcher that works reliably every time! This tutorial will work with practically any launch tube, but is ideal for rockets with unrestricted nozzles.

The link below will take you to the page for this new tutorial on our main website:
Construction Tutorial: How to make a Clark Cable Tie Release Mechanism for Water Rockets

If you wish to view the entire listing of our Water Rocket Construction Tutorials, then please click the link below which will take you to the full list:
Full listing of Water Rocket Construction Tutorials

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to Modify an MSP430 LaunchPad so it will work with both Breadboards and BoosterPacks

We have discovered an even simpler solution to the issues that some people have had with the decision to install male headers on the MSP430 Launchpad than the solution we documented in our previous tutorial. The new solution is much easier and faster, since it completely eliminates desoldering the male headers from the LaunchPad board.

Not that the old tutorial was difficult by any means, since it was based on a really clever trick for removing soldered components, but the new tutorial shows an even nicer solution that can be done in 2 minutes or less, and essentially costs nothing!

Click here if you would like to see the original tutorial and learn how to remove the male headers quickly and easily so they can be replaced with female headers.
The best part about the new method is that when completed, your MSP430 LaunchPad will be compatible with both Breadboards and BoosterPacks!
Click on the link below to check out the new MSP430 LaunchPad Tutorial, which we have named the "Horizontal Stabilizer" modification, which is a tribute to the Rocketry/Aeronautical naming theme that TI has been using for the MSP430 LaunchPad family of products.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Video Tutorial: Making a 22mm Launch Tube with O-ring seal

Our latest Tutorial Video details the process of creating a Launch Tube for Water Rockets which may be used with different styles of launchers and release mechanisms. The tutorial shows the construction of a 22mm diameter PVC Launch Tube, but the process can be adapted for Launch Tubes with virtually any diameter.

The 22mm Launch Tube in this construction tutorial is ideal for use with unrestricted nozzles such as the mouth and neck of soft drink bottles typically used to make Water Rockets, and is the ideal size for high altitude flights which depend on maximum acceleration.

This video is the first in our launcher tutorial series, and will be followed up by other videos which will explain how to build various launchers using this design as the core.

You maye have seen this type of Launch Tube before in the web tutorial we published several years ago on our website. This video series is similar in design, but we have improved and simplified the process of making this Launch Tube in the years since we first produced the design. If you would like to see the original tutorial, you can find it on our website at the following link: uswaterrockets.com/construction_&_tutorials/cable_tie_launcher/tutorial.htm

On our website, you will find that we have several other updated construction tutorials, and many more on the way. A complete list of all of our web tutorials can be seen at the following link: uswaterrockets.com/tutorials

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Electronics Tutorial: How to remove and replace the MSP430 Launchpad Headers for use with Breadboards

Starting with MSP430 Launchpad Version 1.5 and newer, Texas Instruments has been shipping all MSP430 Launchpads with male headers factory soldered to the board so that MCU Boosterpacks can be used without any soldering required. Users who prefer to build their projects using breadboards have been disappointed with this change, because their breadboard jumper pins do not mate with the male header pins.

Texas Instruments has provided a pair of female headers in the package with each MSP430 Launchpad, which are the correct gender for mating with breadboard jumpers. In order to use the female headers, the end user must desolder and remove the male headers, and then install and solder the female headers. Changing the headers can be very intimidating for a user who has limited experience with a soldering iron, since it is not terribly difficult to accidentally destroy a printed circuit board when extracting components.

The U.S. Water Rockets team designs and builds several projects using the MSP430 Launchpad which require the removal and replacement of the male headers, so we created a tutorial to share our simple method for changing the headers. Our tutorial method is intended to make it extremely easy for anyone of any skill level to remove the male headers without damaging the circuit board, and replace them with the female headers provided.  We encourage you to check out the tutorial and see how easy it can be, and go ahead and try it yourself!

This tutorial will also be of interest to anyone using the MSP430 Launchpad as a parachute deploy timer with our ServoChron firmware, because that project is much easier to build when the headers are removed.

If you found this tutorial interesting, you may want to take a look at some of the other electronics and rocketry tutorials we have on our website. Click here to see a complete list of all of our online tutorials.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Online Web-based Tutorials Showing Easy Methods to Strip Labels from Bottles

Over this past weekend, we were able to finish up the second web tutorial explaining how to remove those stubborn plastic labels from soft drink bottles so that they can be converted into much more useful items (such as water rockets).

We now have two different web tutorials showing each method and between the two methods shown, we have not found a single bottle type that couldn't easily be stripped naked by at least one of the methods.

The new second method web tutorial for removing bottle labels can be found at this link.

The original method web tutorial for removing bottle labels is still located at this link.

Of course, there are tons of other tutorials available on our website to which we have provided the link: www.USWaterRockets.com/tutorials which is really convenient and easy to remember!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Easy Methods for Removing Bottle Labels Tutorial Video

Anyone who has built a water rocket can explain to you how tedious it is trying to get the labels off of soft drink bottles so that they can be reused for this purpose. The labels themselves and the adhesives used to adhere them to the bottles have changed over the years, and the traditional method of simply ripping the label off and stripping the glue residue away with a solvent no longer works very well. In the process of building many large volume rockets over the years, we devised a very easy way to remove the labels from most types of bottles. It was the first tutorial we made for the tutorials section of our USWaterRockets.com website.

In addition to our website, we have also begun creating and uploading video versions of our tutorials to our YouTube Channel. While recording the procedure for the video version of our bottle preparation tutorial, we stumbled upon a second easy technique for removing the labels by melting the glue with heat, and we decided to document both methods and let everyone decide which way was best for their bottles.

In an odd coincidence, just days after wrapping up filming for the new video tutorial, while we were putting the finishing touches on the new video, we received a suggestion from Tony Proano via our Facebook Page explaining the very same heat melting technique we had just discovered. Tony had figured this out long ago, so we would like to give a tip of the hat to Tony for developing this method first. Nice work!

The following video tutorial presents both techniques for removing the labels:

Along with this video tutorial, we have the very detailed step-by-step illustrated web based tutorial as well. We will be updating that tutorial with the second method as suggested by Tony in the coming days. Click here to see a complete list of all of our online tutorials.

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Water Rocket Parachute Deploy Tutorial Video

After several of years building rockets and finding ways to increase our personal best altitudes, we realized that there was a lot of unexplored territory in different areas of water rocketry which we found appealing. In many cases, traditional designs and methods of construction had remained unchanged for over 10 years, and many of them seemed overly complex and perhaps could be a barrier to attracting new people into this fun hobby.

We decided to take a clean slate approach to building water rockets to try and find new ways of doing things, or ways to make traditional techniques easier and more attractive to potential new people. By choosing this goal, we hope to inspire others of you to revisit old methods and look for improvements or creative new ways to do things.

We first focused our attention of making a simple and inexpensive method of activating a servo to control a parachute system, and from that effort emerged the ServoChron™ low cost servo deploy timer.

From the feedback we received from people who were interested in ServoChron™, there were many people who wanted to add a parachute system to their Water Rockets, but were intimidated by the intricate and complex looking traditional deploy systems which they were able to find. This feedback led us to focus our attention on creating a parachute system that is extremely easy to make and takes only a few minutes of valuable time.

The following video presents our simple U.S. Water Rockets Axial Deploy Parachute Recovery System, and demonstrates how incredibly simple it is to make.

The video also includes a demonstration test flight showing how the system operates, which employs a new type of external camera rig for a unique view of the system in action.

To accompany the video tutorial, we have also produced a very detailed step-by-step illustrated web based tutorial for this project, and loaded it with tons of photos and extra construction tips. The web based tutorial and the free template files are available on our website. Click the link below to see the web version:
U.S. Water Rockets Axial Deploy System Construction Tutorial

The new system can be triggered using any popular water rocket timing mechanism, such as a Tomy Timer, or and air-speed flap. We use the ServoChron™ for our flights, since it is very rugged and inexpensive. If you would like to use the ServoChron™ for your system, the related pages describing the ServoChron™ can be found at the link:
ServoChron Servo Parachute Recovery Timer Quick Start Guide and Construction Page

In conclusion, we would like to remind you that we have several other updated construction tutorials on our website, and several more of them nearly completed. Look for these tutorials at:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

All New Water Rocket Axial Parachute Deploy System Test Flight Video

We have uploaded a new video to the U.S. Water Rockets Channel on YouTube. The video documents one of the test flights we conducted to validate the new U.S. Water Rockets Axial Deploy Parachute Recovery System. This new system is very easy to make and can be powered by a Tomy Timer, an Air Flap, or as in this video, we used a MSP430 Launchpad based ServoChron™ servo timer because we needed to have precise control of the deploy time.

The object of this test was to confirm that the new deploy system was robust and powerful enough that it would function properly even when the rocket was moving at high speed. This situation can occur if the parachute time delay is miscalculated and the parachute is initiated while the rocket is still on the way up, or is coming down already. A high speed deploy can also potentially happen if the rocket does not reach the intended altitude, or deviates from the predicted flight path. 

To simulate the worst-case scenario of a high speed deploy, the B-1A test rocket was launched at a steep angle on a ballistic trajectory, and the ServoChron™ timer was programmed to initiate the parachute deploy 2.5 seconds after apogee. By intentionally initiating a late deploy on a ballistic rocket, this flight would prove the new deploy system design was a success. For this flight we used three onboard cameras to record the flight test for later analysis in the event something went wrong.

Click the links below for the related construction plans:
U.S. Water Rockets Axial Deploy System Construction Tutorial
ServoChron Servo Parachute Recovery Timer Quick Start Guide and Construction Page

For many other construction tutorials and water rocket articles, visit:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Video: Flight to 1374 feet with Onboard HD Camera

We have uploaded a new video to our YouTube Channel which shows the Onboard HD video of one of our test flights which went 1,374 feet high. This flight was a test of the electronics and payload bay which were created for our X-17 water rocket. This particular flight used the pressure vessel from our X-12 water rocket with a diameter reducing fairing to adapt the two sections together, because the X-17 pressure vessel was not completed at the time the payload testing was conducted.

One of our most observant viewers noticed that the spin characteristics of X-12 are vastly improved compared to some of our previous videos. Good eye! The way we accomplished this is very simple: we changed the fin shape on the rocket so that the fin tips were protruding farther away from the main body tube. If you study the air flow over a rocket, the air is turbulent close to the body, and especially where the fins meet the body. By moving the tips of the fins farther away from the body, the air is smoother and allows the fins to function more efficiently. We did debate if the new fins were perhaps aligned better and that explains the imrpovement, so we made the same modification to X-10 and had a similar improvement in spin.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

We have cleared the tower!!!

We are very pleased to report that the all new USwaterRockets.com website has launched successfully and we have passed through Max-Q and all engines are at 100% power and are functioning nominally! A special shout-out to the ground crew who made this launch a success (especially with their graphics support and spell checking)

USWaterRockets launches their all-new Water Rocket websiteWe have a number of completed projects which must be written up, and a number of projects in various stages of completion which we will be documenting in the coming weeks. This journey is only beginning, and would not be possible without the support of our friends and family who put up with stacks of bottles and various electronics projects cluttering up the vehicle assembly building.

We will be posting updates as frequently as life and development schedules permit. You should see the updates appearing on our USwaterRockets.com website mirrored on our blog at http://uswaterrockets.blogspot.com for those of you who would like to subscribe to an RSS feed to keep up with the site. Multiply has changed their company direction and is moving away from supporting groups like our Water Rockets group, so we have transferred all of the content from there onto the blog and expect it to disappear from multiply any day now (it is well past the day they said it would be gone). Members over there can continue to follow us by changing your bookmarks to the http://uswaterrockets.blogspot.com address.

use these water rocket social media badges on USwaterRockets.com to connect with USWR!Because you have asked for more frequent updates, and given the amount of time it takes to prepare new articles for the site, we will be using various social media outlets to broadcast micro updates to keep you up to date. During the next few months, we will shape the timing and content of the social media updates based on the number of followers and their feedback.

To connect with USWR on social media, you can easily find the badges to connect with us on the top right corner of our main website located at: USwaterRockets.com as well as individual buttons where you can forward your favoriate articles to your friends on each page.

 If you prefer URLs, you can get in touch and connect with us by clicking any of the following:

Thanks for the support!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Countdown to launch of the all-new USWaterRockets.com

2013 promises to be a great year of huge advancements for U.S. Water Rockets, beginning with the official launch of the all-new USWaterRockets.com website. The new website drops the "Team News" format of the old site, and adopts a innovative new online magazine format that will combine many years of previously unreleased tutorials and experimental data with exciting new content that breaks new ground in the sport of water rockets!

If you think you know water rockets, you will definitely want to watch this space for informative tutorials based on science instead of trial and error, and updated construction techniques that favor technology over tradition.

By presenting our research in such a concise and easy to navigate format (with extensive search capabilities and full indexing), we hope you will be able to construct safer water rockets, and do it faster than ever before!  You will see dramatic results when you see the busted myths of water rockets!

If you're new to water rocketry, you will be able to learn from our decades of experience with water rockets and related fields. We teach you from the ground up how to make your own advanced water rockets by leveraging decades of research into our many extensive tutorials and free downloads such as our popular electronics projects (like the $4.30 servo operated parachute ServoChron 2 assembly instructions and firmware)!

Of course, you will still be able to view our extensive database of WRA2 world record altimeter graphs and videos, as well as team news and updates like we've always done in the past!

The countdown to the official launch of the new USWaterRockets.com has already begun! Liftoff is scheduled for Saturday, January 20, 2013 at 01:20:13AM EST! If you cannot wait that long, you can preview the new site and email us your comments by visiting USWaterRockets.com any time before liftoff! Email us and tell us what you think!

- Team U.S. Water Rockets