GoPro Model Rocket





Introduction: GoPro Model Rocket

About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

This is a completely scratch-built model rocket designed to carry my GoPro camera.

It is 42" tall and flies on three "E" size Estes motors, and its recovered by a 54 inch parachute. The camera is housed completely within the main body tube (not in the nose cone), which allows for great footage on the way up, and great right-side-up footage on the way down. This also eliminates any drag issues.

I've included a video of the rocket's first flight in the comment section below.

Thanks for looking!

Step 1: Rocket Body Tubes

Two 18-inch tubes were made using the method I have outlined in this instructable. Each tube was made using a 3" mailing tube as a blank.

Step 2: Motor Housing

The motor housing tubes were made using the same method described in the instructable noted in the previous step. The engine block rings shown in the first photo were made from 1/4" MDF. The two circles that hold the three motor tubes were cut from 1/8" craft plywood.

All craft plywood used for this project was cut with a scroll saw.

Step 3: Connect Two Body Tubes

The motor housing was glued in place in the end of one of the body tubes. 2.5 inches were removed from each tube, one to be used as a coupling and the other as part of the camera housing.

Pieces of craft plywood were cut and glued into the tubes to act as reinforcement.

Step 4: Fins

Four fins were made from 3/16" balsa. These were glued in place with wood glue. These were made extra large to create enough drag so the rocket will fly stable.

Step 5: Camera Housing

The camera housing was made with craft plywood along with the body tube material that was removed earlier on. Scrap foam was cut to shape and glued in place to hold the camera snug within the housing.

Step 6: Add Camera Housing to Body Tube

An opening was cut in the body tube where the camera bay will be exposed. The camera housing unit was slid in from the top of the tube and glued in place.

Step 7: Nose Cone

This part was the highlight of the project for me. I've always struggled with making my own nose cones for homemade model rockets, and finally found a method that produced something I was mostly happy with. It will take some refining, but it worked reasonably well this first time around.

The nose cone was made from 1" pink foam insulation circles that were cut, glued together, and then shaped on a homemade makeshift lathe. I used a sanding block with 60 grit sandpaper to sand down the foam into the final nose cone shape.

Step 8: Parachute

The parachute was made with polyester jacket liner and tulle in a method similar to one described in this youtube video.

I was hesitant to make a parachute in this manner for a model rocket, as both materials are fairly flammable. If the parachute is packed properly and an appropriate amount of wadding is used, it should be fine.

Step 9: Paint

The nose cone was painted with three coats of decoupage gloss to seal it prior to painting with spray paint. (Spray paint eats the foam if it is not sealed well.)

The entire rocket received a few coats of primer and then three coats of white spray paint.

Step 10: Camera Bay Cover

The camera bay is covered by a piece of plastic cut from a 1-liter soda bottle. It is taped in place with clear tape once the camera is turned on and placed in the bay in preparation for flight. 

I'm excited to get some great shots with it. Watch out neighbors!



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Here is my first video from this rocket... probably more to follow. Thanks for taking a look!

How did you get the ejection charge for the parachute with the gopro dividing the rocket body?

1 reply

The top and bottom pieces of the camera housing shown in step 5 had holes cut in the back half, so the top half of the rocket body was not actually sealed off from the bottom.

It's the pressure from the ejection charge that actually pops off the nosecone, so as long as there is airflow from top to bottom of the body tube, it works. Good question!

Great build. Would love to do something like this but sadly I Don't have the resources


I am building this for my students can u please tell me the approx cost of the total construction without the Go pro ?

4 replies

That's a tricky question, and the answer depends on what you have available. My total cost of materials that went into the finished rocket was probably only a few dollars.

However, the bits of foam for the nosecone came from a $30 sheet of insulation foam. The craft paper that made the tube came from a $20 roll of craft paper. And on and on $$$.

So doing this completely from scratch would definitely add up.

I would highly recommend starting with an existing rocket kit and modifying it to hold a camera, perhaps completely externally to simplify things. (That's actually something I've been wanting to do and write an instructable on, but it's still a ways down on my to-do list.)

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!! :)

thanks for your reply but to be honest my students have seen this and loved it and they want to do it so i have no choice.

Any instructions i should know about that is not listed?

This is my first time so i am following the exact instructions listed

I cannot add any more details than what I shared initially, as I posted this several years ago and the project is no longer fresh in my mind.

I can say, however, that I would strongly advise not taking this project on if you are new to model rocketry.

This was very much an advanced and experimental design, and a beginner will more likely have success in emulating a much simpler rocket design.

If you wish this is my skype id : jad.a.daniel

You haven't put any weight in the nose? How does it look for stability?

8 replies

Good question. Stability was pretty good. I did a balance test with all the motors, parachute, and camera in place by hanging the rocket from a string at it's center of gravity, which turned out to the about 8 inches above the the tops of the fins. This felt a little too far forward, but I did a stability test by swinging the rocket around and around and it went nose-forward and appeared very stable. So I didn't need to add any nose weight before the launch.

I was worried that the slightly off-center loading of the camera might cause the rocket to fly sideways, and in the flight on the video I was initially sure this is what was going on. But upon retrieving the rocket and finding one motor had failed to ignite, and based on its location to the starting position of the rocket, it seemed obvious that the failed motor was the cause of the crooked flight. I guess I can't completely rule out that the camera contributed to the not-so-straight flight, but another flight with all three motors firing will hopefully prove to me that the camera weight is dispersed appropriately. (I'm pretty sure it is, so I'm excited for a nice, straight HIGH flight next time!)

That's a long-winded response! Sorry. Figured I'd answer the stability question in detail because it's something I really put a lot of thought into before and after the launch. Thanks for posting the question!

How high did it go? Do you use an altimeter or just light 'er off?

Just a note, you can never have the center of gravity too far forward. I'd recommend moving it up to right around the camera.

Based on my experience, I'd also recommend getting some engines with a faster burn time, preferably less than a second, perhaps around 0.75 or 0.8 seconds. The higher impulse will get your rocket moving faster off the pad and it will be less affected by wind, making it fly straighter and higher. More of your thrust will be used in getting the rocket upwards, rather than sideways if an errant gust pushes the rocket over. Also the faster burn time might be enough for the rocket to complete the burn before you leave the rail, thus not affecting the flight angle. You'd need a decent size launch rail/rod, but It might be doable.

Personally I go with Aerotech engines because they are pack a bigger punch for cheaper (A G80 for $18!) and they come in a wider variety of higher power engines which is what I'm usually building. (I have yet to fly anything on less than an E)

Great job making your nose cone! I usually buy mine so that I can store instrumentation in them more easily, your method is absolutely fantastic and I will have to use it for my FTC water rocket.

Update us when you get all three engines to ignite! You should have some amazing shots.

Your note about center of gravity is incorrect. If the Cg is significantly forward of the Center of Pressure you end up with an overstable rocket. If you fly an overstable rocket in any kind of wind it will weathercock, potentially even going sideways instead of up. Ideally you want your Cg ahead of your Cp by between 1 and 5 calibers (i.e. between 1 and 5 times the diameter of your airframe).

I've cast some nosecones hollow. See my -ible "30 rockets for $5" I don't know if that technique would be strong enough at this scale, but that would give room for instruments.

I may also have to do an ible on howto make transparent nosecones.

What I actually have done in the past when my rocket lost a parachute and a nose cone (long story involving a tree over a river behind a fence) is build the parachute out of the bottom of a 13 gallon garbage bag, a square 24" parachute with 4 straws for stiffeners and the nose cone out of construction paper and an index card. It's actually quite simple. You fold a tiny bit going the long way over and then just keep wrapping the paper around that. To tighten it there is a little flap that sticks out, so just move it inwards, and to loosen it just let it go. loosen/tighten it until it fits snugly in the rocket and tape it closed. Then put a piece of tape in the rocket that's folded over onto itself to stop the nose cone from pushing itself in during flight. Next, do the same thing with the index card so that it fits nicely over the main nose cone. This decreases the size of the hole in the nose cone greatly and tape it on to the main nose cone. what you now have is a nose cone that cost you 5 cents to make, and has a replaceable tip if you don't feel like attaching it to the body of the rocket so that it comes down slowly. I've tried it. It works.

I'd recommend against Aerotech motors for clustering -- it's too hard to get more than one to ignite at the same time. Even when the igniters work correctly, the motors sometimes sputter and smoke for as much as several seconds before coming up to thrust. If this happens in a cluster, you'll get all sorts of unhappy things.

What I'd suggest instead is using a single Aerotech F40 motor (it'll be barely less total impulse, and significantly more thrust than the three Estes E11 motors, which aren't anything like a full E impulse -- barely above a D, in fact), and if you have a slow start, all that will happen is the rocket sitting on the pad until the motor comes up to thrust.

That F40 will cost about the same as a three-pack of Estes E motors, and igniting a single motor will be more reliable than three of even the easy-lighting Estes motors -- plus, you'll get a stronger and more stable launch with the higher thrust.

I agree about the clustering. I didn't specify, but all of my rockets have been single engine aerotech vehicles and I think the only problem I ever had was a bad ignitor. Even a three-year-old engine that hand't been properly stored still ignited magnificently.

I miss-typed the center of gravity bit up there, I meant "too far back".. I do know that much, but thank you for pointing it out:)

I think Aerotechs are actually made really close to where I live, so I'll have to give them a closer look.

Regarding altitude, I was set up to do the streamer-drop method, although it's not very accurate and there are almost too many variable for it to go off with out a hitch. (Here's one link to that idea.)

Thanks for your helpful comments. Hopefully I'll get another launch off soon!

Is it necessary to have 3 engines? Will it fly with 1?

1 reply

There are higher-power motors available, so you could use just one in that case. They run $10-ish each, which is a lot, but about the same as three smaller motors. I have seen some videos on YouTube on how to make your own motors, though.