Level 1/2 Certification

For the summer of 2023, my goal after Spaceport 2023 was to attain my Level 1 and Level 2 certifications from the National Association of Rocketry. With these certifications, I could eventually attain my Level 3 and fly our hybrid rockets myself, as well as being able to purchase larger solid rocket motors and get more rocketry experience.

There are several important notes about high-power certification. Since I am assessed and awarded the certification based on the design, flight profile, and recovery success of the rocket, my priority in the design and construction of the rocket was to build something robust, even at the expense of weight. Furthermore, an extremely high apogee may lead to recovery failure, since the wind could carry it far away, so I wanted the vehicle to be heavy enough that it would stay relatively low even under a J motor. Thus, many of the design decisions were completely overkill and, if I were optimizing the vehicle for max apogee rather than recovery success, I certainly would’ve done it differently.

To attain the certification, I decided to build my own rocket by laying a single monocoque of fiberglass, integrating the fins, body tube, and nosecone into a single component with a seam for recovery deployment. Compared to the tools available to me at the Columbia machine shop for our hybrid program, like CNC lathes, drill presses, mills, and waterjets, I had relatively little to work with and improvised many of the procedures for fabricating the airframe.

The major investment for this project was a Bambulab P1P 3D Printer. I chose this printer for its modest price, great print quality, and software tools for slicing. I used the printer to make custom motor retention rings, recovery bulkheads, and fin/nosecone molds for fiberglass layups.

I also built a custom mandrill stand using PVC pipe. This should prove helpful as it is fully modular and easy to assemble/disassemble while being dirt cheap so it won’t be ruined by some epoxy droplets or paint.

On August 5th, 2023, I earned my L1 certification after a successful launch at Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR), Mojave. I subsequently earned my L2 certification on August 19th, 2023, at the same site. A massive thank you to Rick Maschek for his invaluable time and advice at FAR. If you want to learn more about Viper, the rocket I built for my certification flight, please navigate to that page.