The Night Owl

I started with one of my first HPR rockets an Aerotech Mirage as it has a huge payload section, big fins, lots of room for large parachutes and is a reliable flyer.  I built it without the motor clip so I could fly it with long 29mm reloadables.  I also removed one of the added body tubes so technically it's only 2/3rds of a Mirage.  (The left over tube came in handy on other projects)

Next I cut two openings into the upper payload section just below the nose cone leaving two 1 inch sections between the "windows."  The remaining tube sections are reinforced on the inside with epoxy and long plywood strips.  To make the wrap around window take a clear soda bottle and cut out the mid section. Electrical tape works well to secure it.

In this section I mounted a Radio Shack personal strobe. They've been closing this item out for a while but you can usually still get them for less that $10.00 (I picked up a few). I took apart the strobe to add my own toggle switch for it as I've heard the original magnetic switch can be unreliable, plus it makes it easier to mount the switch on the body tube.

Next I picked up 3 of the high intensity LED key chains (the ones you can see for a mile). If you look around you can usually find them for under $10.00. You want the ones with an actual switch, not just the squeeze button. I found the ones I'm using at CompUSA in one of the "impulse buy" racks near the register.

I put a blue one inside the nose cone pointing up to illuminate it, and it worked perfectly. The entire white plastic nose cone glowed like a fluorescent bulb. Two white ones were added to the aft end of the rocket pointing down to illuminate the fin and motor exhaust.

Future:  I want to test putting one of the high intensity LEDs on the parachute pointing up into the canopy, this could make the recovery phase more interesting AND give you instant feedback regarding chute deployment.


  • When flying at night - if the "W" is real low, put as large of a chute on your system that you can pack in. The slower it comes down the more you get out of the flight at night.
  • Put a light on each section of your rocket when you can. If there is a separation it makes it easier to know what's going on and where the parts are.
  • Fly long burning or Red line motors as they're more spectacular to watch.

Night Owl Redux

  • Added metallic tape to increase over all reflectivity
  • Added reflective tape to aid in finding it on the ground if all the lights fail, plus it looks cool
  • Added 3 high intensity flashing lights on fins
  • Added an additional strobe to the payload section
  • Added a high intensity LED to the recovery chamber to shine up towards the parachute during recovery

Video of the Night Owl in flight (with a surprise ending)

Video FROM the Night Owl (using a Vidroc 5 camera) flying on a Redline.  (It was an interesting experiment)

Note: if you just hear the audio, no video you need the DivX codec