Arun's Tech Blog


Lessons from electronics in rockets

During Battle of the Rockets the UIC AIAA team got to see some pretty serious rockets shoot off as well as fire one of our own. If only once. The team trecked down to Virginia in a couple vans to join several other universities in several competitions. For the largest competition, there was an autonomous rover to be built and deployed by our largest rocket and although I was happy with where the rover had gotten to after only a week or two of non-stop emergency construction, we never got to see it work due to a failure in the main parachute deployment system. There is not much to be learned from an electronics standpoint when your work gets slammed into a pile of rocks at 150mph but there is at least one lesson to be learned and some pretty cool pictures to look at as well.

Completed Rover
The completed rover (sorry for potato quality image)

Destroyed rover
Casing and what was left of the electronics after the crash

Support rod gore
Steel support struts after autopsy

It really amazed me what a less than 4lb rover can do to some quarter inch steel rods at those speeds.

Exploded batteries
Homemade 12-volt battery

And here we have the one and only lesson I was able to pull from this competition. As you can see this is our homemade 12-volt battery for powering the DC motors and while the individual cells do not appear to have suffered catastrophic structural damage they have spewed acid and appear to have melted the nylon-strapping tape in some areas. The force of the impact of the rocket crashing had been so violent that some of the soldered on leads for the motors and transistors had broken off and caused a short circuit. Although we can’t expect our electronics to survive such a crash and it did not cause any more damage than the rocket did, in the future we can take away that batteries should always be fused and done so as close to the battery as possible. If this had been a battery the size of a laptop or something like a hybrid car battery a fire would have almost surely started and possibly caused a serious saftey issue.

Hopefully in the future we’ll get to see some of our electronics perform their missions as designed but altogether it still was a very fun trip with some excellent launches!

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