Fun & Games Rockets
Glorious 121,000′ Amateur Rocket Flight

Photo credit: Gregory L. Mayback

On September 30, Derek Deville’s Qu8k (pronounced “Quake”) rocket blasted off from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, screaming to an altitude of 121,000 feet. It was returned safely to earth and fully recovered (three miles from the launch site). The video above is the longer 17-minute version of the launch, but there’s a lot of awesome stuff, including some assembly and set-up pics, launch footage, and footage from two on-board cameras. The 7-minute free-fall might be a bit dizzying and dull but you can skip that part. The shorter version is here.

The launch was an attempt at winning the Carmack Prize. So did they win? Unfortunately, no. At least not yet. The Carmack Prize requires GPS data over 100K feet. Derek writes:

Even with 4 separate GPS systems, we were not able to get a high altitude fix. We picked up position on the way down, but by then it was too late. I’m going to write a tech article (another requirement) and submit it anyway to see what happens.

There are lots of awesome build and launch photos on Derek’s Qu8k page.

34 thoughts on “Glorious 121,000′ Amateur Rocket Flight

  1. This is why America will always lead the world. No other country would allow private individuals to even try something like this. This is why freedom is so important, and why we cannot ever let it be taken away. Thank you for renewing my faith, I hope you inspire millions with this.

    1. WTF?

      Australia has many amateur rocket enthusiasts. You can even privately hire the Woomera rocket range, which is the home base for a lot of scramjet and hypersonic flight testing.

      I’m sure there are plenty of other countries too! Why would US be the only one?

    2. WTF?

      Australia has many amateur rocket enthusiasts. You can even privately hire the Woomera rocket range, which is the home base for a lot of scramjet and hypersonic flight testing.

      I’m sure there are plenty of other countries too! Why would US be the only one?

      1. Hmmmm… without looking too deeply into it, it appears that commercial GPS has a limit of 60K feet. Huh. Wonder what the deal is here?

  2. There must be a way to solve for apogee from the visually recorded curvature of the earth.

    The ITAR regulation XV
    (International Traffic in Arms Regulations, http://www.oria.cornell.edu/export/keywords/categoryXV.htm )
    section C, sub section 2
    C: Global Positioning System (GPS) receiving equipment specifically
    designed, modified or configured for military use; or GPS receiving
    equipment with any of the following characteristics:

    2: Designed for producing navigation results above 60,000 feet altitude and at 1,000 knots velocity or greater;

    shows that a working GPS that would record such data would be in violation of international law.
    I’m not sure if this means that current commercial GPS unit are incapable of doing so just that it is illegal.

    Also: the Carmack Prize contest would seem to be a legal trap; to collect the prize you have to provide proof of a crime you have committed.

    1. results above 60,000 feet altitude *and* at 1,000 knots velocity or greater;

      Note the “and”. The device will be moving less then 1,000 knots at apogee.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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