Home ] workshop ] how does it work ] Rocket launches ] Space History ] useful sites ] version francaise ] Contact us ]

Determination of nose cone separation

Determination of nose cone separation

Special capsule module


Special mission payload

Release pressure control

Good nose cone design












Determination of nose cone separation.


Using the inclined plane (tilt angle) test regularly to quantify launch acceptability of the nose cone module helps eliminate a lot of those parameters that could contribute to poor reliability.

  • Consistent parachute packing.

  • Impact damage or wear.

Test the capsule and  find the release angle, then rotate 90degrees and retest etc. Until you return to starting point. This will highlight any asymmetry within the assembly .Record the date and the results in a capsule launch readiness table.

For assemblies that do not conform then they can either be repaired and re-tested or scrapped. Be ruthless , a valuable payload could be at risk.

Number each base plate and nose cone. We tie the nose to the base assembly using an external link made from fine nylon fishing line. To keep the tested assembly together.

Note: This tie could also replace the need for a secondary parachute for the capsule recovery.

or alternatively use two strips of 'sellotape' placed across joint .

We have explained both how to manufacture and measure the capability of our small cone module that is good for a parachute up to and including 70cm in diameter. Although we have successfully deployed larger parachutes of 90cms. Reliability is very dependent on precise folding of the parachute.


To be quite honest the size of a recovery parachute should be just big enough to recover the rocket or its payload safely.

If , like me you prefer design optimisation of rocket performance. Then you should try to minimise everything including parachutes.


Tilt test procedure:

Take a ruler or a suitably straight piece of plywood and attach the parachute module base to it close to one end.

Coil parachute cords and fold parachute before installing the nose cone.

Then rotate the end of the ruler/plywood strip pivoting the free end about the fulcrum.

Slowly increase the angle and record the angle or height of the free end above the start datum at which nose cone seperation occurs.

Tilt table video


Special Capsule Modules.

 To carry larger parachutes if required or special mission payloads.


Special mission payloads.m3

The main consideration when  launching any special payloads is that the payload mass  m3 must be kept to a minimum.

Any large increase in M2 will radically affect  the rocket performance. (Refer to performance parameters and Tsiolkovski's table.)

So for instance if we would like to record flight data that is representative of normal flight dynamics then m3  has to be small..

Some ideas for special payloads:

  • Electronic flight data recorder.

  • Small stills disposable camera. If you are not happy with parachute deployment reliability then use these first since they do not cost too much to replace

  • Small digital camera These usually have digital photograph and short video capability. Do not try this until you have successfully test launched and recovered dummy payloads that have the same mass as the real camera . Then when the risk is quantifiable and you are happy, go for it !

  • Small radio transmitter. To locate and recover the rocket.

  • Small GPS system to record actual flight trajectory with time.

  • Air speed measurement using a 'Pitot' tube to record the variation of air speed with time.

  • Sound recording to accompany the flight video.

  • UFO flashing light system using a simple LED display run from a small battery. We developed this initially to help recover the rocket during night launches. Until one night it gently landed in the neighbour's garden with its green and red lights flashing .In full view of their front window. Close encounters of the third.......

These all have to be installed in a modified nose cone module.

Electronic Flight data recorder.

A small electronic flight data recorder can be easily installed within the base adapter of the small nose cone module. These can weigh as little as 20gms and operate from small batteries. We have developed our own  that operates from a 3v watch battery.

These can record pressure  variation with time during the rocket flight with a sample frequency of  10 sample readings a second.

Full installation mass of data logger with battery holder and electrical harness 21gms.




Release pressure control


Prototype nose module Sept 2002.


We have developed an aerodynamic pressure release system that initially sucks the capsule onto the shock plate at launch and later releases the nose cone when the rocket slows as it reaches apogee and the pressure drop  between the exterior and the interior of the capsule tends to zero.

Note: Normally we launch near vertical within a cone of 15 degrees.

At launch, the pressure compensation helps retain the nose module in place and helps avoid severe deformation under pressure.

During our initial launches we failed to prevent large volume nose cones( parachute modules) from seperating immediately after launch. Within the first 20m after launch.

Even with a drilled nose cone we encountered the same difficulties. This is how we came to developed our nose module and shock plate.


It really depends on the initial launch acceleration loading's to which the rocket is subjected.

Note: We now know that the rocket experiences over 4000m/s2 during the initial acceleration phase. Thanks to research carried out at Leeds University2004


 Use the guide to nose cone development

Good nose cone design


back ] menu of this section ] next ]


This site was created on the 15th April 2003

 ŠJohn Gwynn and sons2003 

You're welcome to reproduce any material on this site for educational or other non commercial purposes

 as long as you give us proper credit (by referring to "The Water-Rocket Explorer"