CVS Camcorder Rocket Project

Bill Kuker (
Matt Campbell (


When the CVS Camcorder first came to our attention, we quickly realized the potential for this very inexpensive and light weight device. Our first thought was to launch it on a model airplane, but many people had already done that.

When we realized no one had yet launched one in a rocket, we set out to be the first. The rocket of choice was the Estes X Prize Canadian Arrow. It has a very large nose cone to house the camera and takes D size engines standard.

We elected to have the camera point out the side of the cone with a mirror to point the image down past the rocket body. This allowed us to mount the camera vertically in the rocket which means that none of the camera is exposed outside the housing.

In this picture you can see the mirror and the small hole for the camera lens:

A video of the assembled rocket is here.

Launch Day One

Date: 08-24-2005
Location: Young residence
Weather: Mostly sunny, light clouds
Wind: None

Engine: D12-3

Edited video:rocket final.wmv
NOTE: These are not yet edited to remove extra video
For the first launch of the day we learned a valuable lesson: check the camera batteries before launch. The batteries died just before the shot so we had no video.
Launch 001 Battery failure
Launch 002 video
Launch 003 video

Pad camera, launch one two three
Steph camera, launch one two three
Mark camera, launch one one two three

Launch Day Two

Date: 08-27-2005
Location: Young residence
Weather: Mostly sunny, light clouds
Wind: 18 knots North

Engine: E9-8 and E9-6
Sponsor: Dan Tobin: engines

As you can see, the wind was pretty strong this day.

Launch 004 (E9-8) video Look out! Corn!
Launch 005 (E9-8) video
Launch 006 (E9-8) video
Launch 007 (E9-6) video

Launch Day Three

Date: 09-04-2005
Location: Young residence
Weather: Mostly sunny, light clouds
Wind: 5-10 knots South

Engine: E9-6 and F21-6
Sponsor: Mark Kimble: engines Kevin Schoenfeld: engines
Guest Rocketeer: Gillian Galle

So, lessons learned, do not change the video settings of the CVS cam to 640x480. The record time is too long and when the camera powers down, it does not save your video. So you had better catch the thing, or stick with the orig resolution.
We also had some sort of recovery system deployment problem on this day. The nose and rocket body separated just fine on launch one, so the video came out fine. But the streamer for the rocket body did not deploy and it came straight down. Instead of landing in the grass it hit the roof.... very hard. The rocket was repaired, lost about 3 inches off the top, for the F21 attempts.

The good news: Our new parachute arangement of 2 12" chutes to replace the one 18" chute made for a much better descent video. There is still some spin, but no where near as much.

Launch 008 (E9-6) video Watch for Gillian's rocket taking off a split second after ignition and zooming past in an instant.
Launch 009 (F21-6) Video Failure
Launch 010 (F21-6) Video Failure

Launch Day Four

Date: 09-05-2005
Location: Campbell residence
Weather: Sunny
Wind: none

Engine: E9-6

Launch 011 (E9-6) video

Launch Day Five

Date: 09-09-2005
Location: Campbell residence
Weather: Sunny Broken Clouds
Wind: 4-6 knots south

Engine: F21-6
Sponsor: Patrick Saeva: engines Mike Young: engines

Launch 012 (F21-6) video
Launch 013 (F21-6) video

Launch Day Six

Date: 09-18-2005
Location: Robinson residence
Weather: Sunny Broken Clouds
Wind: unsure

Engine: E9-6

The rocket recently got a paint job to hide some of the damage from launch #8:

Launch 014 (E9-6) video

Launch Day Seven

Date: 09-25-2005
Location: Gartner residence
Weather: Clouds
Wind: unsure, but alot

Engine: E9-6

Launch 015 (E9-6) Video Failure: low batteries

Launch Day Eight

Date: 09-29-2005
Location: Potter residence
Weather: Clouds
Wind: unsure, but alot

Engine: E9-6

During transport after launch 15, the mirror mount was knocked off the side of the rocket. We decided to do one launch before replacing it, just for fun. This is the result. The reason we are launching using the battery terminals off a field mower is because we forgot all of our launch gear.

Launch 016 (E9-6) video

Launch Day Nine

Date: 10-13-2005
Location: Rochester Institute of Technology
Weather: Clouds
Wind: 4mph ESE

Engine: E9-6

Yes, we check with the appropriate campus officials first!
This launch was to test a new mirror mount design. The foam block was covered with a 1" nose cone cut in half and attached with epoxy to improve aerodynamics for the upcoming launch with a G37 engine.

Launch 017 (E9-6) Video failure. Only one chute deployed and camera landed on a hard surface.
Launch 018 (E9-6) Video failure. Battery pack in rough shape.
Launch 019 (E9-6) video

Launch Day Ten

Date: 10-15-2005
Location: Geneseo Airport
Weather: Scattered Clouds
Wind: 19mph WNW

Engine: G37-6

We spent a couple of hours replacing the failed engine tube in the rocket as well as prepping it to take the 7" G37 engine from Ellis Mountain. The camera batteries were also replaced by a li-ion battery from an old cell phone. The battery allows us 75+ minutes of video on one charge.

The results were the best video so far, and by far the highest it has ever gone.

And now for the bummer, at the 0:18 mark you can quite clearly see in a freeze frame the camera bay hatch ejecting. Afther reviewing the playback, we have a general idea of where it may have landed, we may go back to look tomorrow.

Update: The credit for finding the hatch cover goes to Gillian. Yay!

Launch 020 (G37-6) video

Launch Day Eleven

Date: 4-2-2005
Location: Young residence
Weather: Clear
Wind: Light & Variable

Engine: E9-6

We were testing the altimeter Bill built over the winter.
The data is a bit noisy, but tests from taking it up in a small plane and flying about indicate that it is pretty accurate.

Launch 021 (E9-6) video
Launch 022 (E9-6) video
Launch 023 (E9-6) video

Altitude Graph