Guardian 54 was an attempt to bring together all my skills and make an extremely high performance rocket by hand. I designed the rocket in RockSim and checked it in RasAero, then moved on to SolidWorks and finally construction.





Cutaway view of the motor in SolidWorks.

The motor was a Loki Research 54/2800 case with 24″ of Soylent Green inside it, making a 6% L1301.



The airframe was 4 layers of hand rolled 5.7oz plain weave carbon and Aeropoxy PR2032.

The fins were hand pressed plate, 9 layers of alternating ±90 and ±45 to create a quasi-isotropic fin slab. I tacked the fins on with Aeropoxy ES6209 and filleted the fins with Cotronics Duralco 4525. 


The design of the rocket uses the motor case as the coupler and has the electronics sit on top of the forward closure, inside the nose cone.

The nose cone is a Shockwave rocketry 6:1 VK which was coated in about 4 layers of Cotronics Duralco 4525.

The electronics utilized a Raven3 inside a 24mm altimeter bay and a BigRedBee tracker inside a custom 3D printed protective case.

Here she is, all ready to fly. You can see how much of this rocket is actually propellant.


Finally, I flew the rocket at Aeronaut 2014.

Since the rocket was designed in RasAero which is very optimistic with its xCp estimation, it went unstable at Mach 2.7, coasted to around 8,000 feet, and plummeted back to earth.

Launch! The black exhaust before the yellow flame is due to the fuel-rich flow; Soylent Green has a very large amount of excess binder.

Video by Alex Laraway.


Here’s the aftermath. My fins stayed on solid! 


The rocket had buried itself almost 15 inches into the ground!


The Raven3 That Refused To Sing


What can be learned from this failure? Margins of error. If I had more of a margin, the little wobble that happened would not have resulted in catastrophic failure. I needed to design for a larger failure margin because I cannot easily determine exactly what will happen to the rocket during flight.


Using what I learned, Guardian 2.0 is in the works – and hopefully the CTI L record isn’t going to stand for much longer!

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