Model Rocketry encompasses many aspects of advanced science. As such, the new interest in the rocketry community for night launches has spurred some interesting innovations.
But shooting rockets at night does not have to be "rocket science". You just need a rocket that can be tracked in the air and located after decent. Glow in the dark paint offers this need with low cost, low weight, and no requirement for batteries. Paint based lighting also clearly adds to the scientific level of a rocketry project.
Painting a rocket with glow in the dark paint is relatively easy. You start by covering all paper or wood parts with a sealer and possibly a base coat of colored paint. You then add a thin layer or more of glow in the dark paint until you reach the brightness you require. You can apply it with a paint brush or air brush.
An alternative is a technique called "Glow Dusting", which can be accomplished by using a salt shaker to simply dust the powder onto wet paint. The rocket above, made from the 2001 version of our Super Green Glow Powder, was made by a customer using the dusting technique. It was the first photo we received from a customer. As a side note, the center tube of this rocket is actually yellow.
As with any paint job, we suggest a thin sealing layer. In the labs, we regularly use Krylon Crystal Clear Spray Paint which is available at most hardware stores.
Molded Nose Cones and Fins
There seems to be an increasing number of hobbyists interested in making their own nose cones and other plastic parts. Glow in the dark powder can easily be added to almost all molded plastics. You would then have a truly unique rocket.
Even if you are not enthralled with the idea of night launches, a major aspect of the rocketry hobby is to display your rockets as art. The shape of rockets provides an impressive canvas to show off your painting skills and techniques. Glowing rockets would definitely add to the mystery of your display shelf.
Although most of our newer glow in the dark paints will glow for hours, you will want them to be as bright as possible for a launch. Therefore, you need a bright light.
Rocketeers have devised a variety of methods to accomplish this in the field. The brute force method is to simply use a high-powered hand held light. A much cheaper, smaller, and more portable solution is a used disposable flash camera. These can be acquired by the dozen for free at most photo processors. Keep in mind that these contain a very powerful flash capacitor that can store massive energy even when the battery is disconnected. Therefore, be careful if you open it up.
White light from sources like above have the disadvantage of also adjusting your eyes to the bright light. When you are in a dark field, a bright light is not friendly. A more sophisticated alternative is a portable black light. Walmart often has them in their automotive department. They are powered by AA batteries or a car adapter. Spencer Gifts also sells a nice model. Both cost about $15.
Another alternative is a UV flashlight. A popular model is the single LED Photon III UV. This works if you have a bit of patience to shine it up and down the outside of the rocket.
Another alternative is a product called the Inova 5XT UV. It has 5 UV LED's which are focused at two separate wavelengths to maximize its effectiveness. It is about the size of a AA flashlight. Therefore, it easily fits in your pocket.
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Project
Glow Inc. is delighted to have been part of this college project. The students were given a research task and a budget. They could not receive free or donated material, nor spend money outside of their budget. In this case, the students were instructed to improve the night traceability a model rocket at a budget of $20. A major point of the project was to teach the students to do scientific research with very limited funding.
After purchasing the rocket, glue, and engine, the team found themselves on a tight budget. When they called our office, they made us an offer we could not refuse. In exchange for a copy of their research and "lessons learned", we would provide them with the glow in the dark powder they needed. For an ounce of Super Blue Glow in the Dark Powder, this was a fair deal.
They used a painting method called "dusting" to apply the glow powder. It is done by sprinkling the powder from a salt shaker onto wet paint. Once you have good coverage, you allow it to dry, then apply a sealer.
They also included a miniature Cyalume glow stick inside attached to the parachute for descent tracking.
The Glow Inc. staff would like to congratulate the team on their success. The offer to trade knowledge for product was appealing to us as a company and them as scientists. This proves that industry, education, and government can work together to further scientific research.