Tools and Techniques

Tools of the trade

Throughout your rocketry journey, you will find there is no end to the tools and techniques you pick up along the way. Finding just the right tool or just the right way of doing something is elusive, but we can learn a lot from the experience of others. I will try to post some of what I have learned and describe some of the useful tools I have found along my journey.

Glue, electronics bay for a high powered dual deploy rocket, CNC techniques, etc. Let me know in the contact page what you are interested in and I will try to post it here.

Man is a tool-using Animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.


  • All Launches:
    • Adhesives
      • 5-Minute epoxy
      • CA & Accelerator
      • Elmers / White Glue / Wood Glue
    • Alcohol / Acetone / Solvent
    • All-thread
    • Cameras
      • Digital SLR
      • Go Pro / Video Camera
      • Rocket body cameras
    • Clamps
    • Compressed Air
    • Cutting board
    • Dog Barf / Wadding
    • Dowels
    • Drill / Electric Screwdriver
      • Drill Bits / Screwdriver bits
    • Elastic bands
    • Flashlight / Headlamp
    • Fly-away rails
    • Garbage Bags
    • Hack saw
    • Hobby/X-Acto knife / Scalpel
    • Igniters & Ematches
    • Launch lugs
    • Lighter
    • Microfiber towels
    • Mixing sticks
    • Motors
      • Motor Retainer caps
    • NAR/Tripoli cards
    • Paper
    • Clip board
    • Paper towels
    • Parachutes
    • Pens/Pencil / Sharpies
    • Plastic cement
    • Pliers (Regular, Needlenose , hemostat, snap ring, etc)
    • Portable Soldering iron / Soldering kit
    • Powder Brush
    • Push rods / sticks, pry bar
    • Qtips
    • Rail buttons
    • Rice Bags / Weights to hold down parachutes, paper, etc
    • Rubber bands
    • Ruler / Tape measure
    • Sandpaper / Emory Cloth
    • Scissors
    • Screwdriver sets (large, small, mini, hex, torx)
    • Shock Cord
    • Spare parts / Hardware
    • Talc Powder
    • Taps & Dies
    • Tape (various sizes as needed)
      • Aluminum
      • Double sided
      • Duct
      • Electrical
      • Kapton
      • Masking
      • Mylar
      • Scotch
      • Tamiya
    • Tarp / Ground Mat / Blanket
    • Toothpicks
    • Tray, small parts
    • Tweezers / Forceps
    • Utility knife / Box Cutter
    • Wet Wipes
    • Wax paper
    • Wire Strippers / Wire Cutters / Clippers
    • Zip ties
    • Ziploc bags
  • LPR/MPR Local launches
    • Launch controllers
    • Motors
    • Rail / rod launch pads
  • HPR Launches (long drive)
    • Altimeters
    • Batteries
      • 6V, 9V, LiPo, button
    • Battery charger
      • Solar Charger
    • Black Powder
    • Bubble Level
    • CG Jig
    • Charge Wells
    • Charging cables
    • Chute release
    • Couplers
    • Delay drilling tools
    • Dremel
    • Electric wire
    • E-matches
    • Flight Cards
    • Hammer
    • Inverter
    • Motor Adapters
    • Motor Casings
    • Motor Cleaning
      • Brushes
      • Bucket
      • Cleaning solution
      • Black powder solvent (i.e. – Hoppes #9)
    • Motor Reloads
    • Mounting putty
    • Multi-meter
    • Parachute / Shock cord protectors
    • Rocket cradle
    • Scales – Precision for black powder and larger scale for rockets
    • Shear pins
    • Socket sets
    • Speedy Stitcher
    • Spray Glue
    • Super Lube / WD-40 / Silicon Dry-lube
    • Volt meter
  • Personal protection/safety
    • Allergy Meds
    • Antacid
    • Bug juice
    • Ear protection
    • Fire Extinguisher
    • First aid kit
    • Hat
    • Gloves
      • Work
      • Nitrile
      • Cold Weather
    • Safety glasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Tylenol/Motrin
  • Comfort
    • Chairs
    • Food
    • Pavilion / Tent / Umbrella
    • Table
    • Water / Drinks

Level 3 Pre-Launch Checklist


  • Motor preparation – Follow instruction sheet.
    • Motor preparation materials, e.g. lubricants, wet rag for cleaning inside of casing.
    • Tools for airframe assembly and inspection
    • Loose hardware (e.g. for motor retention, shear pins)
  • Internal Ebay Prep:
    • Insert batteries into holders and secure with zip ties/tape
    • Turn on computers and check primary and backup charge settings
    • Turn off computers
    • Check all wire connections
  • External Ebay Prep:
    • Connect switch wire mini-clamp connections
    • Insert Ebay sled into ebay coupler, put bulkheads in place and secure with 5/16-18 wing nuts and washers
    • Cut igniters to length
    • Insert igniters in terminal blocks and secure with set screws
    • Check continuity on all igniters
    • Pour black powder into charge well
    • Insert igniter head into black powder and insert dog barf until charge well is full and tightly packed
    • Securely tape off top of charge well
    • Place tape over bulkhead components (wiring and terminal blocks) to protect them from black powder charge
  • Secure Ebay to Payload bay
    • Attach end of main shock cord to nose end ebay u-bolt with 3/8” quick link
    • Feed main shock cord through payload bay and insert nose end of ebay into payload bay. Line up witness marks
    • Secure ebay to payload bay with #6-32 screws
  • Prep Nosecone tracker bay
    • Install Marco Polo / GPS Transmitter to nosecone bay sled
    • Install tracker batteries
    • Ensure Marco Polo/GPS transmitter is charged and turned on
    • Test connection to base station
    • Insert sled into Nosecone AV Bay and secure bulkheads with ¼-20 wing nuts and washers
    • Insert AV bay into Nosecone and line up witness marks
    • Secure AV bay to nosecone with #6-32 screws
  • Prep main parachute
    • Lay out parachute – inspect for damage
    • Fold parachute per manufacturer instructions for placement in deployment bag
    • Ensure parachute apex is connected to loop inside deployment bag with quick link
    • Insert parachute into d-bag carefully, ensuring shroud lines remain untangled and stretched out
    • Z-fold shroud lines into loops on outside of d-bag, leaving about 6” of shroud line loose in order to connect to shock cord
    • Connect parachute shock cord to nosecone u-bolt with 3/8” quick link
    • Connect pilot chute to deployment bag with snap link
    • Wrap pilot chute in nomex blanket
    • Connect main shock cord to nosecone u-bolt with 3/8” quick link
    • Z-fold main shock cord, securing every 10-15 feet with dental rubber bands.
    • Insert shock cord into payload bay, then carefully insert d-bag and pilot chute
    • Insert nosecone coupler into payload bay, line up witness marks and secure with 4-40 shear pins
  • Prep Drogue
    • Attach end of drogue shock cord to fin can bridle swivel with 3/8” quick link
    • Attach drogue swivel to middle shock cord loop with 3/8” quick link
    • Attach nose end of shock cord to u-bolt on ebay
    • Fold drogue chute neatly and then fold nomex blanket around drogue
    • Z-fold shock cord, using a dental elastic band every 10-15 feet
    • Insert shock cord and drogue chute in fin can
    • Insert ebay coupler into fin can and secure with 4-40 shear pins
  • Prep Onboard Cameras
    • Test each camera to ensure the batteries are charged and they can connect to app via wifi
    • Check all camera settings in app
    • Turn off cameras
    • Insert cameras into shrouds and secure shroud covers with 4-40 screws
  • Prep rail buttons
    • Determine if Unistrut or 1515 buttons will be used and install proper buttons with ¼-20 screws
  • Insert motor into MMT and secure with Aerotech 98mm threaded cap
  • Prep motor igniter
    • Tape igniter wire to small wood dowel so igniter head extends beyond one end
    • Lay a piece of tape on the table, sticky side up
    • Lay pyrodex pellet on tape with igniter sandwiched between them
    • Roll tape up until igniter head is securely taped between pyrodex pellets
    • Shunt igniters wires
    • Test to ensure assembly will still fit in motor nozzle, but do not insert assembly all the way into motor
    • Prep two of these igniter assemblies in case something goes wrong at the pad
  • Prep to go to pad
    • Ensure all electronics are off and igniters are not in motor
    • Ensure switch cover is removed
    • Fill out flight card
    • Items to bring to pad
      • Screwdrivers for switches
      • Switch cover and 4-40 screws
      • Igniter assemblies
      • Tape
      • Flashlight/headlamp
      • Go Pro-cameras
      • iPhone to turn on Runcam 2 Cameras and Eggtimer computers
    • Get rocket RSO’ed for pre-flight check and sign-off
  • At launch pad
    • With help, mount rocket on rail
    • Take photos!
    • Verify/adjust launch angle/trajectory
    • Turn on Switches 1 and 2 (battery connections)
    • Ensure battery connections are good, then turn on Switch 3 (primary computer)
    • Allow primary computer to go through pre-flight and ensure proper tones for continuity
    • Turn on Switch 4 (backup computer)
    • Allow backup computer to go through pre-flight and ensure proper tones for continuity
    • Connect to cameras with iPhone app and turn them both on. Ensure both are recording before leaving pad
    • Insert an igniter assembly in motor and secure with tape
    • Connect launch control leads to igniter wires and secure each with tape
    • Check continuity
    • Place Go-Pro Cameras and ensure they are on and recording
  • Give rocket final check to ensure nothing was forgotten
  • Return to LCO and place flight card on table
  • Wait for launch, video it and enjoy it!

Mis-Fire Procedure

  • Remove igniter
  • Turn off all the electronics. Verify none are active.
  • Recycle to “At Launch Pad” sequence

If the rocket has to be disassembled…

  • verify that all altimeters are in the off mode.
  • take back to the table and put in horizontal position.
  • remove nose cone first.
  • remove fin can shear pins.
  • Remove metal screws holding forward section on coupler section.
  • disconnect igniters from the terminal blocks on both ends of the eBay section
  • ebay can now be disassembled and inspected.


Tools & Techniques To Do list:

Center line tool
PEMs and Lumadyne
Range Box
Snap Rings
Cutting Kevlar
Drilling holes in FG
Permagrit files
Fin jigs
Slot jig
Smoothing end of FG tubes
Washing/sanding FG
Ebay construction
3D sleds and switch band placement
Rail Button Rotalocs
Internal and External fillets
Tube Marking Guide
Injecting epoxy using a long tube and stick
Nomex blankets / protectors / deployment bags
Motor assembly
Delay trimming
Grain bonding
Vent Holes
Tracker tubes

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