The Swarm

The ROC-stock launches usually include a night launch and I wanted to do something cool for the November 1998 ROC-stock night launch. I don't remember what gave me the idea, but I decided to build a "swarm" of 25 Estes Mosquitos with lights in the noses.


The Pictures

Here's how each rocket looked with the battery and L.E.D. installed in the nose:

One rocket of the swarm

Here's The Swarm ready to launch at night. The lights in the upper right are distant radio towers.

The Swarm ready to launch

And there they go!

The Swarm takes off

The 25 rockets zoomed up much too fast for me to get a picture in the low light conditions, but Stephen Roberson got this great shot. The rockets looked like a fountain of light and got a great cheer!


The Rockets

I played around to figure out how I could put a light into the nose of a Mosquito. Since the rocket is so light weight, this had to be an L.E.D. driven with a watch battery. I found that the Radio Shack "orange jumbo high brightness LED" (part #276-206) would just fit into the nose cone and were quite bright driven with a 3v "photo battery (part #23-265A). Below is the picture of the kits, L.E.D.s and batteries assembled for the project.

parts for the Swarm

Mosquito kit card Of course, building 30 Mosquitos is still a challenge, even though each one is pretty simple. (I managed it as an assembly line operation with a friend helping out.) It took two 2-hour sessions to get it all done! Since these rockets use tumble recovery, at least there was no parachute to put together.

We sanded and marked all the tubes in one operation. Then I installed the L.E.D.s and batteries in the nose. For the L.E.D.s, one lead was balled up to contact the minus side of the battery (the tip) and the other run out through a slot in the nose cone shoulder. At the field, I will bend this lead back up along the battery and across the back, then install the nose cone into the body.

Then of course there was finishing. There was no way I was going to put an excellent finish on 30 tiny rockets. however, a quick spray of red would be fine. How do you paint this many little rockets, though? The spray from the can blows them over and they're way to many to hold. You can see my solution below: rockets on a stick.

swarm being painted
Tandoori rockets, anyone?

The Launcher

Of course, these rockets can't just be launched one at a time, but must go up all at once. To do this, I will build a 5x5 grid of 12" long launch 1/8" rods. (A foot should be plenty for this tiny rocket.) Of course, 25 Estes igniters require a fair amount of current to be ignited at the same time, so I built the power bus out of 14 gauge wire and the leads to the igniters out of 18 gauge. Power was supplied by a portable car starter through a relay powered by the normal launch system.

This worked flawlessly. 23 out of the 25 rockets worked and all took off immediately.