"The Rugged Raccoon" Rocket Electronics Bay

First Nations Rocket Launch Competition Project

October 2021 - May 2022

Main Design Focuses and Early Concept Phase

The electronics bay was meant to fit inside of a 12" long, 5.54" diameter section of our rocket's cross-section. While many considerations required consideration in terms of our mass, size, etc. limitations, my main three focuses were to have our system be:

Modular (sections could easily be removed and put back in so that we could access and start up our electronics)

Resilient (not only strong structurally so that acceleration or shock didn't cause failure of the electronics bay, but also shock-absorbing around the exterior to mute peak accelerations on the electronic equipment it held)

Organized (have the placement of the electronics within the bay make sense).

The goal of the First Nations Launch (FNL) "Moon Challenge" competition in the 21-22' school year was to have a team of Alaskan Native / American Indian undergraduate students design, simulate, build, and fly a dual-deploy medium-power rocket to a height as close to 3,000 ft apogee as possible, safely recovering the rocket; this rocket was required to have a suite of sensors on board to characterize the acceleration, orientation, temperature, barometric pressure encountered throughout the flight.

Along with acting as the PM, one of my tasks on this project was to take the work of my teammates on the relevant electronics, and design a ridgid electronics bay capable of protecting the electronics from shock, mounting them in a removable fashion on a plate-based system within the rocket.

Our team, the "CU Trailblazers", earned 2nd Place in the competition, and 1st place for our documentation!

Prototyping-Iteration Phase

During this phase of development of the Rugged Raccoon, many major changes were implemented to achieve the three design goals, while also meeting competition parameters.

The center of the electronics bay was made of a PETG 3D printed plate which allowed for two 1/4" aluminum threaded rods to run throughout the center plate length, as well as M3 screws to fasten along either side of the plate onto two plates: the Payload Plate and the Recovery Plate. The PETG plate is displayed in the top image to the right of this text.

Each of these two 7-ply Birch Bolted Plywood plates was laser cut in a manner allowing all the electronics to mount and fasten in according to the SolidWorks assembly I made for the electronics bay. When assembled, the two respective plates "sandwiched" the center PETG 3D printed plate. These are visible in the right of the lower laser cutter image provided.

Along either end cross-section of the electronics bay were two circular laser-cut plates which provided an airtight seal for the electronics bay, as well as a mounting point for various recovery equipment sections, and the U-bolts used to connect the sections of the rocket by nylon cord. These circular sections are visible at the top left in the lower photo.

Finally, about either the laser-cut Payload and Recovery plates were yet more, smaller plates sandwiching more electronics above and below the larger plates. One of these is visible, left in the lower photo.

SolidWorks Assembly Phase

The SolidWorks assembly, involving all the individually modelled electronics, structural elements, and additively manufactured housings was a living document which changed throughout the course of the project in keeping with updated information on our final electronics dimensions, revisions to placement of items, and discoveries on necessary revisions to the structure. The images in this section serve to reflect the design intent of properly placing the electronics, and mounting them all in a fashion unlikely to fail to stress.

A particular subsystem that required a lot of effort on this project was the mount for the GoPro camera. This was a carefully designed two-piece 3D printed system meant to lock the GoPro to the plywood plate while allowing easy access to be removable for charging, and operate-able from the outside of the electronics bay after mounting. The curved acrylic window piece on the exterior of our bay to allow the camera to see out of our rocket was made by first laser cutting the window to size, then using a furnace to melt the window into a curved shape (the bottom right image shows how the window allows the camera to look out from the rocket).

Component Zoom-In: GoPro Hero 7 Mount
Final Assembly Phase

Before our competition, our team assembled and tested the electronics bay assembly multiple times. The images in this section illustrate the complexity of assembly and integration the first few times; we were inspired to reduce the unneeded fasteners, time to remove and replace components from our experiences.

The Launch(es)!

And after months of dedicated work from our awesome team, we had a successful launch! This was a local launch in Pueblo, CO meant to proof-of-concept our rocket and troubleshoot systems pre-competition in Kenosha, WI. Here are some key photos from both, followed by multiple videos of our launches!