Simple Avionics Tips
Whilst these tips are hardly exhaustive, they are gleaned from many years of experience (and mistakes !) of a number of payload flying rocketeers as well as members from MARS, AspireSpace and STAAR Research. Hopefully the tips will help you from making similar mistakes !
- Always check that your soldering is O.K. Bad soldering is almost always a cause of avionics problems on small rockets, because they can get shaken like crazy when the motor is burning, and any weak soldering will cause joints to come loose.
- Box and pad your avionics systems, even if it's just a cardboard box - Sod's Law applies with a vengeance here; the more expensive your avionics, the more likely the recovery system is to fail - (I've got some neat video footage from onboard video cameras from AspireSpace and MARS video camera flights, demonstrating the value of boxes when the rocket core samples !).
- Test it before you fly it. An obvious one this, but the amount of times that both myself, and others have launched rockets without testing the avionics, and then wondered why things haven't worked according to plan, is numerous. It is often useful to test avionics both outside and inside the rocket - things that shouldn't move, often can, and will move under high accelerations, or even when the rocket is being transported.
- Always carry spare components, test gear, batteries, etc with you when you are launching avionics systems on rockets. Something almost always goes wrong.
- Remember to charge rechargeable batteries before the launch, and check the charge before launch.
- Remember to put the battery or batteries, in before launch. (Jim Macfarlane take note !).
- Don't try and add extra functionality to the avionics at the last moment - it will always end in tears (A number of us have learnt this to our cost).
- If you have a transmitter onboard the rocket, remember to shield the avionics. Transmitters can cause havoc with avionics systems; swamping the outputs of sensors, causing spurious data to show up, etc (This is another one learnt by bitter experience !).
- If you are using a transmitter onboard the rocket, don't enclose with any airframe made of carbon fibre. Carbon fibre blocks the signal transmissions very effectively.