GPS Tracking of High Power Model Rockets Side: 1 of 1
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This idea stems from a real problem that exists with one of the
curricula taught at HS. Students launch high power rockets in May.
There are two different goals. The goal of one type of rocket
(which weighs between 8 & 15 pounds depending on how the
students design their rocket) is to fly to exactly 5280 ft. above the
ground. The other rocket is between 5 & 10 pounds and is
designed to go supersonic and stay below 1 3,000 ft. With either
of these types of rocket, depending on how the rocket flies, how
the recovery sequencing occurs and the winds at altitude, the
rocket can easily be lost. There are human "trackers" positioned on
hilltops in the area to aid visually in recovery, but they only can
give a general idea of where the rocket lands.
The desire is to make sure to never lose a rocket. Thus, we would
like an electronic system of some sort added to the rocket. Of
course, it must be small, light, easy to use and work on. This system
would ideally give off a signal that could be received up to a 1/2
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In recent years, GPS has been used to successfully
locate everything from animals such as otters, moose,
brown bears, and sable antelope, to a variety of
fleet vehicles, and rangeland management. The use
of smaller and more reliable GPS/GSM units has
allowed this progress. The ability to track through
less than ideal conditions of wet or dense terrain,
enhances the reliability of the system. A problem
experienced by several of the projects includes
keeping the antenna positioned in the appropriate
direction. The application of a weighted design or
omnidirectional antenna appears to have resolved
High school curriculum based rocket launches frequently land out of sight. Recovery of
the rocket is difficult if not impossible, potentially costing hundreds of dollars. The goal
of this RET summer project is to develop a rocket recovery system with sensor networks
and wireless communication. The teachers will gain experience on the development and
operation of GPS, data transmission applications, and programming the Arduino.
Students take on the role of an aerospace engineer when they are
asked to design a rocket which can achieve a pre-determined
height. Students must take into account the impulse of the rocket
engine, mass and drag of the rocket with payload, construction
material and other factors in their design.
These high-powered rockets are often large and can become quite
expensive to build. As is always the case with launching a model
rocket, loss of the rocket is a real possibility. In the past, students
have simply tried to keep the rocket in visual range and do the best
they could to chase and recover it. With rockets which are capable
of reaching apogee over a mile in elevation however, this is not
always possible especially if low-lying clouds or ground obstructions
most of these issues.
Images - http //proceedinqs.esri.com/library/userconf/proc00/professional/papers/pap116/p116.htr
Students this year will track rockets by
GSM installing a GPS locator as the
payload for their rocket. The image
Arduino above left is the unit we have been
working on this summer which utilizes a
-.; GPS module transmitting data via text-
messaging through an Arduino GSM
shield, high school students however
. , will most likely utilize and RF XBee and
XBee & Arduino Arduino receiver with their GPS units
similar to the imaae below left.
After five weeks of research, it was concluded that it was not
possible to produce a reliably functioning GPS tracking system
utilizing a GSM transmitter within the budget constraints an
average high school teacher would need to operate under. The
GSM shield was able to text message GPS coordinates to a
cell phone every 20 seconds, but only as long as it was
connected to a computer via USB cable. The unit would not
function properly on battery power alone.
Due to this restriction, the decision was
made to instead build a proof of concept
rocket tracking device utilizing radio ,
frequencies for data transmission with an
XBee aboard the rocket for transmission of
data, and another attached to a laptop for
data reception. The only XBee units I
available were limited to a 400 ft. range,
but transmitted data reliably before and i
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Develop an inexpensive radio frequency beacon technology
that students could use in Engineering Design & Problem
Solving. Each spring, students at over 50 Texas high schools
design and build a rocket to carry a one pound payload to a
height of one mile. Students could learn to build an RF beacon
transmitter and receiver to minimize the risk of lost rockets.
The XBee Pro Series 2 transmitters used this summer for proof
of concept were limited to a 400 ft. range simply because
those were readily available at the time. However, XBee XSC
units are available which have 1 mi., 6 mi., 15 mi., 28 mi., or
even up to 40 mi. ranges. These units when paired with high-
gain antennas would be capable of not only tracking a rocket
for the duration of its flight, but also would provide elevation
,and other useful data.
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Gscheidle, Karl H.; Hardy, Debra; Kulle, Gregory; Bih, Michael; Acevedo, Miguel F. & Kollipara, Naveen. GPS Tracking of High Power Model Rockets, poster, 2013; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc181665/m1/1/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Engineering.