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& 48783

Ratfin

^mm>

mmm OCTOBER 1990 uuiuocn usu

Er.trutiics
TECHNOLOGY - VIDEl
nn

TEREO - COMPUTERS - SERVICE

Jl

Digital readout gives a second-by-second playback of your rocket's flight

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And lots more!

ROCKET

ALTIMETER
Foun.Jhree...two...one..*

ignition! Model rocketry


catches up with technology with this
electronic altimeter.

THE SPORT OF MODKI. ROCKE-

try allows hobbyists to man age their own miniature space

JOHN FLEISCHER

program. Small-scale rockets, usually constructed from paper, plastic, and balsa wood, are rou tinely launched with commercially
made solid-fuel motors. Reaching al
titudes between 100 feet and several

miles, model rockets are safely recovered

by parachute to allow repeated flights and to reduce trie risk of personal injury.
In NAR (National Association of Rocketry contest events, a visual tracking system using

triangulation is used to determine the peak al


titude of each model. The contestant who launches

his rocket out-of-sighl. or through the clouds, will receive a "track lost" rating instead of altitude points. Visual tracking, dependent upon weather conditions

and operator skill, can often be difficult, and the sport flyer who wants to know how high his model went will rarely take
the time to set up and operate visual trackers. Our rocket altimeter was developed to help contest and sport rocketeers determine their models* altitude without tracking. his airborne "flight-recorder" is an all-CMOS microcomputer that is coupled to an atmospheric pressure sensor via signal-con

ditioning circuitry. Powered by a 9-volt battery, the unit is small enough to be launched in a D-, E-, or F-motor powered model rocket.
(The letters indicate the relative power of each engine: in alphabetical

order, each engine is twice as powerful as the previous one.) The unit takes a pressure sample every lA second and stores 1000 data values in memory during the flight. The completed system contains two sections: the flight-recorder section that

goes up in the rocket, and an LCD module that's used to display flight data back on the ground. When the rocket returns to Earth, the LCD module is connected to the flight recorder and the peak altitude achieved can be displayed in 50-foot increments, along with a '/i-speed "playback" of the entire flight. Rocketeers now

o o
CD rn

30

37

have a reliable and accurate


means to measure the altitude

that a model reaches. The data obtained can then be used to cal

ALUMINUM PLATE

culate the speed and acceleration


of the rocket.

Figure 1 shows the con struction and pinout of the SCX15AN pressure sensor used in the altimeter. The sensor,

manufactured by Sensym (1255 Reamwood Ave.. Sunnyvale, CA 94089), is a low-cost (about $42)
piezoresistive IC in a strain-

gauge bridge configuration. The monolithic circuitry inside the sensor (see Fig. 2) is deposited on a silicon chip that has a cavity

etched out to form a diaphragm.


A port is on top, and a vacuum reference cavity is on the bottom.
The result is a sensor that mea

ALUMINUM BASE
PLATE

PRESSURE MEDIA(B)

PRESSURE MEDIA(A)

sures absolute barometric pres sure. Output voltage (VI-V2)


ranges from 10-50 mV, and is proportional to atmospheric
pressurewhich, of course, var

FIG. 1THE MONOLITHIC CIRCUITRY inside the SCX15AN pressure sensoris deposited on a silicon chipthat has a cavity etchedout to form a diaphragm. A portis on top, anda
vacuum reference cavity is on the bottom. The result is a sensor that measures absolute barometric pressure, which is then converted to altitude.
PIN DTEMPERATURE OUTPUTS) PIN2)VS PIN3)0UTPUT(+)

ies with altitude. Although the


entire unit is not temperature compensated, the sensor itself is, by means of two built-in ther mistors. Best accuracy for the altimeter is achieved in the

O)p|N5)0UTPUT(-)
PIN6)TEMPERATURE 0UTPUT(-)

PIN4)GR0UND

55-75F range. Outside that range, a shift of 2% for every 10F


will occur.

Figure 3 shows the block di

agram of the system. The pres


sure sensor is buffered with an

BOTTOM VIEW

LM324 op-amp to feed an LM331 voltage-to-frequency (V/F) con verter. At ground level, a signal of

FIG. 2THE SENSOR'S OUTPUT VOLTAGE (V1-V2) ranges from 10-50 mV, and is
proportional to atmospheric pressure.

about 3.7 kHz will be output by


the V/F converter. As the at

mospheric pressure decreases

(with increasing altitude), that frequency also decreases; at 15,000 feet, the signal is about
2.9 kHz. An RCA 1802 micro

processor calculates the altitude

data from the frequency input. The entire system is made up from three separate PC boards,
although only two ever leave the ground. The pressure sensor, the
LM324 buffer, the V/F converter,

FIG. 3THEBLOCK DIAGRAM OFTHESYSTEM. The pressure sensor is buffered with an op-amp to feed a voltage-to-frequency (V/F) converter. At ground level, a signal of about
3.7 kHz will be output by the V/F converter; at 15,000 feet, the signal is about 2.9 kHz.
nected to the other two boards

and other support circuitry is lo cated on an "analog" PC board, and the microprocessor and data-logging circuitry are on a
"CPU" board. The two boards are

held together with screws, and electrical connections are jum


pered between the two. The dis play module is built on a separate PC board, and it stays on the ground; the module must be con-

via a ribbon cable to play back flight information. Figure 4 shows the schematic of the CPU board; it gels its input from the analog board and logs the data every lA second. The circuit consists of the micro

stored. Figure 5 shows the sche matic of the analog board; the
pressure sensor is located on this

board. The output from the sen


sor is buffered and fed to the V/F

converter, which provides the fre quency input for the micro processor. Figure 6 shows the

processor which calculates the

altitude, the EPROM containing the operating software, and the


RAM where the altitude data is

schematic of the display module board. It is basically made up of the display driver and the display
itself, but also contains the con-

FIG. 4THE SCHEMATIC OF THE CPU BOARD. It logs the data to be read back when the
rocket returns to Earth.

trol switches. Power for the dis

play module comes from the


other two boards via the ribbon
cable.

The software for the altimeter is available on the R-E BBS

516-293-2283. (For those who

prefer to type, the machine code


for the EPROM is shown in List

FIG. 5THE ANALOG BOARD outputs a frequency that's proportional to altitude. The sensor (IC1) is located on this board.

ing 1.) The flowchart for the pro gram is shown in Fig. 7. The software handles data logging (the sample LED flashes every '/i second), mode switch input, and LCD interfacing.
39

CPU BOARD

All resistors are TA-watt, 5%, unless


otherwise noted.

'9 II 1e 1d lclbtagg_2< 2e 2d 2c 2b 2a 3g 31 3 3d 3c 3b 3a -g 41 Ats 4d 4c 4b 4a 5f

R110 megohms R21 megohm


R3100,000 ohms R422,000 ohms
R510 ohms

?3|:'4| 1?|I6|15 14 13 12 I1|10 9 8 7I 6 5 4 3 ?I40l 39| 38l 3?| 3f,| 35 34 33J 3?|3l|30l 291 ?8| 27, 26
BPOBPINbl b2 b3 b4 bS b6 b/ b8 b9bl0b11bl2b13b14b1Sb 6b1/b'8b 9b?0b21b22b23b24b25b?CbVb'8b 9b
DATA

L0AD
CLK

MM5483N
J1-2.9 JM <
J1-8o J1-6o

IC1

R6-2700 ohms, SIP resistor (cut to fit


board) Capacitors C1-C30.1 (j.F, monolithic C41 |xF, 25 volts, tantalum C5100 (xF, 16 volts, electrolytic
Semiconductors

,& SAMPLE lO' -ASS2 fFPV S3 urn .,,.,.,0^ 15 h|> OFF"ViN J? PLAYBACK 2 5 i ZERO
PEAK MODE

FIG. 6THE DISPLAY MODULE stays on the ground; when the rocket is retrieved, the
data from the CPU board is displayed on this module.

IC1CDP1802CE microprocessor (GE/


RCA)
IC2HM6116LP-4 RAM

IC327C16 CMOS EPROM

IC44013 dual D-type flip flop IC54520 dual synchronous up counter IC64081 quad 2-input AND gate IC74584 hex Schmitt trigger
INITIALIZE REGISTERS

IC8MM74HC374N octal tri-state D-

type flip-flop LED1-red light-emitting diode

YhS,
RESET MEMORY POINTER

Q12N4401 NPN transistor


STORE PEAK

Other components XTAL12 MHz crystal


S1PC-mount slide switch

,YES

J110-pin header
Miscellaneous: 10-conductor ribbon ca
YES

SET-UP DATA

ble, 3 Vi-inch #6 spacers, 3 #6-32 x Vzinch screws and nuts, PC board, IC sockets, wire, solder, etc..

'

DELAY

ANALOG BOARD

<Clas^am7le?^>. YESt
NoT
INCREMENT COUNT

All resistors are Vi-watt, 5%, unless


otherwise noted.

R150,000 ohms, 25-turn trimmer potentiometer


R2not used

R3, R440,200 ohms, Vfe-watt, 1%, metalfilm

R5, R168060 ohms, Va-watt, 1%, metalfilm

R62000 ohms, '/n-watt, 1%, metal-film R7, R81 megohm, Vs-watt, 1%, metalLCD DISPLAY

film

R9, R13100,000 ohms, V's-watt. 1%.


metal-film
DELAY

R1020,000 ohms, '/e-watt, 1%, metalfilm

FIG. 7THE SOFTWARE FOR THE ALTIMETER HANDLES data logging, mode switch
input, and LCD interfacing.
Construction

R11100,000 ohms, 5% resistor, 1/4W


R12-47 ohms
R141000 ohms

nent lead or feed-through wire.


(The boards available from the

R156800 ohms, '/a-watt, 1%, metal-film

Three printed-circuit boards are used. The pressure sensor and analog section are combined on a single-sided PC board. The
CPU board is double-sided, as is

source mentioned in the parts list are plated-through.)


To assemble the CPU board, fol

Capacitors C1, C54.7 m-F, 16 volts, tantalum C2-C41 ,xF, 25 volts, tantalum

C60.01 |xF, 50 volts, 5% film-type


Semiconductor

the board for the display module.


If the holes in either of the dou

low the'parts-placement diagram shown in Fig. 8. Install the re


sistors, capacitors, connector,
switch. LED. and transistor. The

IC1SCX15AN pressure sensor IC2LP2950CZ-5.0, 5-volt regulator IC3LM324N op-amp

ble-sided boards are not platedthrough, feed-through wires must be used instead. All pads on the top and bottom of the boards must be soldered to the compo
40
i

IC4LM33IN voltage-to-frequency
converter

crystal may be fastened to the board with foam tape or RTV sil
icone cement. IC sockets should

D11N4002 diode

Miscellaneous: 9-volt battery and clip,


PC board, IC sockets, wire, solder, etc..

be used to ease any future repairs

shown. If you ever clean the PC


INPUT FROM

board, do not allow any solvent or


moisture to enter the sensor

ANALOG BOARD

,
d>

+9V TO

RS ANALOG

port, or you'll damage it. You must test the analog board before attaching it to the CPU board. The display board parts-place ment diagram is shown in Fig.
10. Install the resistors, capaci tors, connector, LED, and IC1.

The LCD module is plugged into


.+9V

V# FR0MB1

wire-wrap socket strips above IC1. Space the top of the strips lAinch from the board. Make sure

GROUND FROM J_
ANALOG BOARD-

>+5\TFR0M ANALOG BOARD

the LCD pins are perfectly

FIG. 8WHEN ASSEMBLING THE CPU BOARD, the crystal should be fastened to the

straight, and press the display


into the socket strips. The

board with foam tape or RTV siliconecement to prevent damagedue to vibration.


+9V +5V TO CPU BOARD TO

finished analog/CPU assembly is shown in Fig. 11, and the display


module in Fig. 12.

+9V FROM CPU BOARDf ? oCPUJOARD


B1
ir

AGROUND TO CPU BOARD

SOLDER LEADSr*jVj
BATTERY TERMINALS!

Testing and calibration


Connect a 9-volt battery to the + and - battery input pads on the analog board. Connect your DVM and scope ground leads to battery -. The regulator output

ft

6 / R,8ijsR16

MOUNT B1 ON FOIL |L top^||:&DEp_TAPE_

/ W w wTrRTI-o-byr

rich,

ffii.5

(IC3 pin 4) should measure 5


volts. Set Rl to midpoint. Con nect scope probe to IC4 pin 3; this output signal should be a

FIG. 9THEANALOG-BOARDPARTS LAYOUT. Carefully install the pressure sensor and,

if youeverclean the PC board, do not allow any solventor moisture to enterthe sensor
port.

DISPLAY MODULE

PLAYBACK MODE

short, negative-going pulse, re peating at about 3.7 kHz. Adjust


Rl to obtain that value. Use a fre

All resistors are Vfc-watt, 5%, unless


otherwise noted.

quency counter if one is avail

R11 megohm
R222,000 ohms
R310 ohms

n
^

able. Apply suction to sensor port A (draw a vacuum with your mouth) and verify that the signal

Capacitors

C1470 pF, ceramic disc C21 |iF, 25 volts, tantalum


Semiconductors

frequency decreases slightly. If the analog board is function

ing, it can now be attached to the


CPU board. The wire attachment

IC1MM5483N display driver


DSP1LCD009 LCD module

LED1red light-emittingdiode
Q12N4401 NPN transistor

>///,IGf^~ vl

Other components J110-pin header

points are designated in the three parts layouts. The 9-volt battery's positive lead connects to the CPU
board, and the 9 volts from the

S1, S2momentary pushbutton switch S3SPST toggle switch


Miscellaneous: 4 #6-32 x 1-inch screws

IC1 MOUNTS

UNDERNEATH DSP1

and nuts, 8 Vi-inch #6 spacers, case,

clear plastic sheet for display window, 40-pin wirewrap socket strip, PC board,
wire, solder, etc..

FIG. 10DISPLAY BOARD parts-place ment diagram. The LCD module is plugged into wire wrap socket strips
above IC1.

CPU board is jumped over to the analog board. Also remember to connect ground, +5 volts, and the analog output between the
two boards. A rocket is a very

Note: The following items are available from Transolve Corporation, 13361 Shady Lane, Chesterland, Ohio 44026 (216) 341-5970: Pressure sen sor, $42; PC board set, $35; complete kit (except case), $135; EPROM only,
$15; machined case and custom

high vibration environment, so the 9-volt battery snap must be taped on, or the leads must be
soldered to the battery. After the
electrical connections are made between the two boards, the ana

(Transolve Corp. will not service any non-socketed unit).

EPROM's available on request. For large-scale rocket kits contact North Coast Rocketry, P.O. Box 24468, Mayfield Heights, Ohio 44124. For more information on model rocketry in general, contact the National As sociation of Rocketry, 2140 Colburn Drive, Shakopee, MN 55379.

Follow the analog-board parts layout shown in Fig. 9, and in stall the resistors, jumper wire, diode, and capacitors. Note that C6 must be a film-type capaci tora disc capacitor will cause excessive drift with temperature.
Next install the trimmer potenti ometer and the IC s. Carefully in stall the pressure sensor as

log board is fastened to the CPU


board with three screws, spacers,
and nuts.

Wire the pushbutton and tog gle switches to the display PC

o
o

board as shown in the display- a 03 module parts-placement di m agram. One of the normally open pushbuttons is used to select CO o
CD

41

peak, and the other zero. The to

ggle switch selects the playback


mode (when closed). Install the header connectors on the ribbon
EPROM

MICROPROCESSOR
POWER

ON/OFF

cable that goes between the CPU and display boards, and connect the two boards together. Turn the power switch on and open the playback switch. The sample LED on the CPU and dis

play boards should be flashing


four times per second. A value of
several thousand feet should be

displayed. Adjust Rl on the ana log board for a reading of 100 feet,
then 50 feet, and the unit will

ANALOG BOARD

then be calibrated for ground


level. Do not adjust past that
threshold, or the altitude mea-

FIG. 11THE FINISHED ANALOG/CPU ASSEMBLY. It fits in the payload section of a


rocket.

LISTING 1
000000 000010
000020 000030 000040 000050
cO 00 f8 20 f8 02 34 f8

c5 b5 55
fa

f8
bl el a3

00

000060
000070 000080

000090
OOOOaO OOOObO OOOOcO OOOOdO OOOOeO OOOOfO 000100 000110 000120 000130 000140

fb 06 3a la a9 b9 19 99 5f 34 61 14 00 3a 6c cO 73 73 51 c4 f8 05 51 30 bb f8 00 00 73 01 3a 85 cO 01 cO c4
ea

a2 e5 e3 65 7b f8 fb a3 7a fb 10 3a 52 3c 63 f8 00 01 Oe f8 05 c4 f8 05 al
7a

f8 82

b3 06
f4

f8 a5

fa

f8

a3 7a e3 02 al f8 02 f2 32 7a 05 fe e3 65 7b cO 00 db
a5 al f8 05 f8 20 32 90 32 f4 a7 al 51

65

7b b2 f8 3a

7a

7b

7a a2

00
31
55

f8 fb
27

fO a3
11

7a f8 b5 bl
f8

65 65 00 a4
cO el 01

30 81 f8 00 b4 3c 85 fb

bb
01

73
fb

09
03

00 c4
45 f2

c4

cO 01
60 b4 da
86

fc

96

00 df 84 af 8e 84
32

c4 96 26

a4 c4
be 2e

cO cO 66 b6 be eO cO 00 76 f8 c4 c4 c4 c4 86 ae 9f 3a 30 26 9e 3a
05 f8 00 a4 b5 94 3a 3a 56 30 5e 5d Id 30 le 3a 80 30 aO c4 c4 c4 c4

21 01 fb 09 32 bb f8 00 c4 c4 01 07

fb 32
f8

01 09 af 01
b6

f8 01

f8 f4
24

f8 00 73 00 51 30 95 01 f4 51 30 51 30 bb f8 3a 85 84 20 ad bd cO e7 37 e4 36 78 c4 c4 c4
02 20 c4 94

a6
c4

c4 01
fe 00 c4

000150
000160 000170

a6 cO 01 f8 00 a5 f8 70 24 25 95 94 5d Id 84 19
c4

aO

000180
000190 OOOlaO OOOlbO OOOlcO OOOldO OOOleO OOOlfO

99
c4

fb c4

97 fb 03 30 ac c4 c4 f8 20 a5 b5 c4 cO 00 db c4 c4 c4 c4
c4 c4

30 c4 3a

2c 3c 8e 32 3e b4 3c 49 34 61 84 fb 01 c4 c4 c4 c4 4d b4 4d a4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4
3a c4 f8 c4 af c4 01

b7 f8 c4 c4 35 00 cO 01 e6 00 01 a7 b7 f8 c4 c4 c4 8f 32 36

00 c4
ad c4 bd

c4 cO
bf

94

2f 9e 3a 33 30 42 94 b6 4b 14 3c 4d
3a c4 f8 61 cO c4 01

c4
00

c4 c4

a9 c4 c4 c4 c4

c4 b9 c4
c4

c4

c4

c4

87 fb c4 c4 c4 f8 00 55 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4 c4
af

fO c4 15

2d 2d c4 C4 55 c4 c4
c4 15 c4 c4

cO 00 76 17 c4 c4 c4 c4 95
c4 c4 fb c4 c4

c4 c4
c4

c4
c4

c4 c4
c4

28 3a c4 c4
c4 c4 c4
-

FIG. 12THE DISPLAY MODULE can be

c4

c4

c4

c4

000200

housed in any kind of project case you can


find.

o
z

o rr h-

O
LU

6'/4 INCHES -

THE ANALOG BOARD USES THIS FOIL PATTERN.

42

surements may be inaccurate. If the potentiometer adjustment is


far off, the microprocessor may

not cycle. Ifa 50-foot reading cannot be achieved, your altitude


above sea level may be excessive.
CDAtP.

In that case, simply adjust the value of R16 on the analog board: increase it by IK to decrease the reading by 1000 feet, or decrease it by IK to increase the reading by
1000 feet. Note that the potenti

ometer has enough range to al low for "simulated flights" of


thousands of feet.

If the unit doesn't run, check

for correct parts placement, sol

der bridges, and other defects.


Verify that a 2-MHz signal exists on IC1 pin 1. The crystal circuit has a very high impedance. Any
moisture or contamination may

THE COMPONENT SIDE OF THE CPU BOARD.

J^l^MtedJrO^

prevent oscillation (rosin flux won't hurt). Touching pins 1 or 39 of the microprocessor can cause the program to crash! Spraying the crystal area with clear lacquer is recommended, lb reset the program, turn the power off for 5 seconds, then turn it back on. Removing the battery power will erase data. Switching the playback switch to off will resume data logging at whatever sample was last dis played. The unit must be reset
(turn off for 5 seconds, then on)

before the next flight.


Prepare for launch Mount the flight-recorder in the rocket payload section. Pack it securely with foam or some other support so that it will not

rattle during flight. Punch sev


eral 'A-inch holes in the body
tube near the sensor. An access
-4a/ INCHE8THE SOLDER SIDE OF THE CPU BOARD.

port may be cut out to allow the


ribbon cable to be attached.

r.
Lz"EBBB
olo 0000000009066 pjo 6-o
0 00 0

in

ooelo 660000000000000 o ololo 0 0 00 00 Q0

-3V* INCHESDISPLAY MODULE COMPONENT SIDE.

-H

K*"

37* INCHES-

DISPLAY MODULE SOLDER SIDE.

45

EEtrnnics LTlTDD[JDD^/'a

Activate the unit with the dis

play connected and verify ground

calibration (a 50-foot reading).


Unplug the display, verify that

the sample LED is flashing, and


secure the hatch.

Before launching, however, it


is important to observe certain

safety precautions in order to avoid unnecessary injury or property damage. First of all, al
ways use properly constructed

rockets, launchers, and factoryloaded NAR-certified rocket en


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view of the rocket. To avoid fire hazards, never launch a rocket

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including the time on launch pad. When you recover the rock et, plug in the display, press the peak button, and the peak altitude achieved will be displayed.

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Conclusion

The collected data may be used to determine the performance of a model rocket. Many modelers are flying high-performance com
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