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Model Rocket Igniters

Model Rocket Igniters

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Model Rocketry
Model Rocketry

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Published by: Aviation/Space History Library on Sep 21, 2012
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10/05/2014

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By Bob CannonUpdated and edited by Mary Roberts, Ann Grimm and Kathleen Greer 
EstesEducator.com
Igniters and Their Use
© 2012 Estes-Cox Corp.
educator@estesrockets.com
 
800.820.0202
®
 
1
 By Bob Cannon; Revised by Mary Roberts,Ann Grimm and Kathleen Greer 
Electrical igniters are simpledevices which permit you tolaunch your model rocket byremote control. The ignition sys-tem provides electrical current tothe igniter. The igniter heats. Theheat produced by the igniter causesthe propellant in the engines tostart burning,and your rocketzooms off the launch pad.Igniters can be difficult. Theywork great when they are usedright,but you have to use themcorrectly to get the reliable ignitionyou want for your launches. Thisarticle will review some basics forthe care and use of Estes igniters.Estes igniters are carefully man-ufactured to cause prompt ignitionof your model rocket engines. Thelead wires are low resistance wiresthat connect your ignition systemto the key element in the igniter,the bridge wire. This bridge wire isa high resistance wire whichbecomes hot when electricity flowsthrough it. The heat provided bythis bridge wire heats the propel-lant in the model rocket engine toinitiate combustion. (Figure A)The coating on the tip protectsthe thin bridge wire and givesstrength to the igniter tip. Thebridge wire is welded at each endto a lead wire. The coating alsoserves as an insulator and spacer tokeep the lead wire from touchingat the tip and “shorting out”at thetip of the igniter. The pyrotechnicmaterial also burns when heated bythe bridge wire and provides extraheat to produce fast ignition.(Figure A)Occasionally,the coating on thetip of the igniter may be cracked oreven chipped off by the time youreceive the igniter. The igniter willstill work if the bridge wire weldsare not broken. The heat producedby the bridge wire when the properamount of electricity passesthrough it is enough to cause igni-tion of the propellant in the modelrocket engine if the igniter tip is indirect contact with the propellant.The wire will heat to over 550˚Fahrenheit (282˚ Celsius). This isenough heat to initiate combustionof the propellant.Usually the bridge wire willburn into two pieces when theigniter is used. Occasionally,thebridge wire will not burn into twopieces. Do not try to reuse anigniter. Even if the bridge wire isintact,you cannot depend on theigniter to work a second time dueto changes produced when it firstheated.
IGNITERS AND THEIR USE
THIN BRIDGE WIRE
Figure AFigure B
THIN BRIDGE WIRETAPE THAT JOINSIGNITERSLOW RESISTANCELEADSPYROTECHNICMATERIAL
INCORRECTCORRECT
 
2
After the igniter is properlyinserted,push an igniter plug intothe nozzle. This will bend the leadwires to one side. Do not bend thelead wires! Bending the wiresbefore inserting the plug will pullthe tip of the igniter away from thepropellant.(Figure D)After inserting the igniter andigniter plug in your model rocketengine,carefully bend igniter wiresback and form leads into a “U-shape.(Figure E) This providestwo points to which each micro-clip is attached instead of one.This will give you a better chanceof not having an ignition failurebecause of bent or dirty micro-clips. (Figure F)Once the igniter is securelyinserted in the model rocketengine,the engine is ready to beinserted into the rocket. Afterinserting the engine and igniterinto the model rocket,place therocket on the launch pad. Theusual manner is for the launch rodto go through the launch lug(s).Now you are ready to attach themicro-clips. Make sure micro-clipsare clean. Attach the micro-clipsto the igniter as shown in Figure F.Make sure that the micro-clips donot touch each other,the launchrod or the blast deflector plate.Move away from the rocket andprepare for countdown.Never remove the tape from theigniter leads! Do not tear or cutthe tape between the two leads of the same igniter. This tape holdsthe lead wires in place to help pre-vent their shorting and to providestrength to hold the igniter’s shape.(Figure B)You may tear or cut thetape to separate the two igniters.Over 90% of all ignition prob-lems are traceable to improperinsertion and/or improper securingof the igniters.The keys to successful igniterinsertion are to insert the igniter allthe way to the bottom of the noz-zle and to secure the igniter firmlyin place. If the igniter tip does notactually touch the propellant,theigniter will “burn”,but the propel-lant will not be heated enough toinitiate combustion. If the igniter isnot firmly secured in the correctposition,even the small weight of a micro-clip and its lead wire maybe enough to pull the igniter slight-ly away from the propellant.
INSERTIGNITER.INSERTPLUG.DO NOTBENDWIRES.IGNITER MUSTTOUCHPROPELLANTPUSHPLUG ALLTHE WAYDOWN.BENDLEAD INTOU-SHAPEWHILEHOLDINGIN IGNITERPLUG.MAKESURE YOUDON’TPULLIGNITERDOWN.ENGINEENGINE
THE IGNITER MUSTTOUCHTHE PROPELLANTDEEP INSIDE THE NOZZLE.
MICRO-CLIPTO LAUNCHSYSTEM
Figure CFigure DFigure EFigure F
1.2.3.4.
DOUBLEIGNITERLEADS.

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