Building the (scratch) Big Blinka (part 1)

I’m in the midst of putting together the MLAS and the Buck Shot, but today I left them aside in favor of doing some painting, and of starting work on yet another rocket.

I thought I might sit out the club’s annual night launch this year. I’ve gotten kind of bored with sticking LEDs in the payload section of the Loadstar II sustainer, I still haven’t connected up the electronics for The Rocket Doctors Recommend Most (seems increasingly likely I never will), and I hadn’t thought of any good ideas for a new or adapted rocket that met my usual criteria — quick, easy, and dirt cheap. Then I found this “6 Pack – LED Foam Light Stick Baton Supreme – Multicolor Color Changing” on Amazon. I wasn’t sure how or if I could use it but at $1.33 a piece I figured it was something I should check out.

These are white foam sticks, kind of like pool noodles, about 16″ long and 1.7″ diameter. On one end is a plastic unit containing batteries, 3 color LEDs, a push button, and a flashing circuit. There’s a cardboard backed “mirror” at the other end and the 1″ inner bore is lined with thin clear plastic, presumably to help bounce the light around, and then the foam diffuses the light coming through it. There are 6 settings, or 7 if you count “off”, including one where the three LEDs flash together, one where they fade from one to another creating slowly changing colors, one with steady light, and three where a single LED flashes on and off. I like the look of it, and I think it’s bright enough for night launch purposes.

The diameter is just a little more than that of a BT-60 tube, so the foam can be compressed and jammed into a tube pretty easily. So I started thinking…

The stick is a bit floppy; I wanted to stiffen it up. I found some clear plastic report covers. They’re actually translucent rather than transparent but that’s okay. A single cover opened up is 11 by 17 inches; I rolled one up into a 17″ tube, then removed the foam plug, “mirror”, and thin clear plastic from a stick and inserted the new tube. After cutting the tube to length I had a foam stick that was a good deal stiffer than before (though still more flexible than rocket tubing).

IMG_6091 The display with a single LED unit is pretty good, but multiple units would be even better, right? Besides, I have one rule regarding night flight rockets: Use at least two separate lighting systems. Connections sometimes come loose at launch, and if that connection is in your one and only illumination circuit, bye bye rocket. So I cut an LED unit out of a second stickIMG_6086and epoxied it into the top of the first stick. Now there are LEDs at both ends.

Not good enough, you say? Me too. I took the white unpainted nose cone salvaged from my late lamented Patriot, opened up the hole in the base to 1″ diameter, and glued a third LED unit into it.
IMG_6095 I cut a 2.5″ length of BT-60 and epoxied it to one end of the stick.IMG_6101I have tentative plans for the other end but haven’t gotten to that yet. But I did glue up an 18 mm motor mount and I epoxied it into a 7.75″ piece of BT-60. I have some fins left over from a Baby Bertha kit which I plan on using. That led me to the name Big Blinka for this rocket. No pictures, but do you really need to see what a tube with a standard 18 mm motor mount in it looks like?



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