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Old 10-19-2017, 12:54 AM
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georgegassaway georgegassaway is offline
Contest, Sport, it's all good......
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Homewood, AL
Posts: 379
Default 1973 launch panel and 2006 version upgrade (was Centuri Multi-Pad Launchers)

Faithwalker began a thread about the old Centuri Multi-Pad launcher -

I posted that “Bud industries” still makes the sloped panel box that the Centuri control panel used. I posted a pic of a panel I made in 2005-2006 using the same kind of panel and mentioned I’d made one in 1973. tbzep suggested I post a pic of the two together.

Turns out Faithwalker already has a Bud panel, indeed one more accurate in size to the Centuri one, the ones I used were 8 x 8 x 8.

So as not to drift Faithwalker’s thread, i’m posting a spin-off thread

Anyway, I went thru an old hard drive and found some pics, The multi-pad panel I made in 1973 was panel #7, the 7th launch controller I’d made up (first one was a lighted doorbell button type as shown in Stine’s Handbook, IIRC). The 1973 panel was made for a single rack with 6 pads. I barely knew enough basic electronics to make it work.

It also used an interesting rack design, but I don’t have any old pics of that rack (could maybe get a blurry screenshot from an 8mm movie). Anyway, in 1978 or so, I changed from using one 6 pad rack to using two 4 pad racks. The 4-pad racks were easier to transport (46” long, the original rack was 72”). Also, it allowed flying off of one rack while loading the other rack. The 1973 panel wiring and components were modified, in a bit of a retroactive kludge. So in the photo below, the first 4 toggle switches and four blue lights, were for arming and continuity of the 4 pads. The two red lights at right were the arming lights for Rack A or Rack B. A 2-position rotary knob switched between the two racks. Later, in the lower right, an “Auxiliary Pad” was added, with its own button, continuity, and arming toggle. The main panel always used the key switch at lower left for arming the panel, the big button for the launch button for the rack pads, and the red light above the airing switch to indicate arming.

So, over 30 years later, I had the opportunity to do a new panel, the first multi-pad controller I’d done since 73, and knew a heck of a lot more about electronics. I was glad to find the old “Bud” panel box still existed. Planned out how I wanted to do it, as far as features, and number of models. Made up a prototype rack 48” long, using mostly aluminum plus PVC legs, to try to keep the racks portable and lightweight. I found that it was feasible to lay out the rods on the 48” rack for launching 5 models. Kept the same kind of toggle switch arming per pad, But added an individual arming light feature. So continuity was at the top, green, for each pad. Below that, a red light to indicate when a pad was armed. The lights were water-clear, with clear bezels. So when the green ones lit up, they light up green, and the red ones lit up red. Because LED’s that are translucent green, or translucent red, it is too hard to see in direct sunlight if they are really lit up or if it is the sunlight making them look lit (or not?). So, the the photo….. they all look clear.

For the racks, a 3-position rotary switch to arm them, and three big red lights on top of the panel to indicate which rack was armed (or HPR). There was the capability to use a 3rd rack, but over time two racks were enough. The third position was therefore used for an HPR junction box, a cable strung out 150 feet from the panel to the HPR pad area, then up to five HPR firing leads plugged into it. For the club launches, that was sufficient, as some also brought their own HPR launch gear. The HPR Junction box also had a loud piezo beeper and very bright LED flasher (truck trailer brake light) to indicate when the HPR junction box was armed. This was a huge safety feature in case the main panel was armed for HPR by accident, anyone in the HPR area would hear that loud beeper and yell to the LCO to stop. Never had an accidental launch.

Added an alternating flasher circuit to cause the green arming lights and panel power light to flash on for 50% of the time, and for the red pad arming lights, red rack arming lights to flash on the other 50% of the time. A piezo beeper in the panel box also was wired into the flasher circuit as well as the HPR beeper.

The two racks also had an automotive tail light that flashed on and off, as well as a buzzer, when a rack was armed. Again, a main safety feature. I’d seen too many accidental launches where the wrong rack was armed. At one NARAM, in 1977 I had TWO of my models launched by accident, I think both were wrong rack being armed (but this also brought up the fact, solved later, of not assigning “just anybody” to press the launch button….. either they’re not used to it or the panel design is alien to them, and/or poor design requiring extra care).

So, back to the pics. A shot of the new panel box before any work was done to it, next to the old panel. Always loved how the top was hinged to allow easy access. And for more serious work, how the whole front panel comes off.

I wanted to be sure things would fit OK on the panel, both for looks and ergonomics. So I used blue foam and foamboard to make up a boilerplate of the planned panel design. Good thing I did, IIRC I found I needed to shift some components vertically a bit for good fit and good ergonomic operation. Took a pic but it’s blurry, The pic shows the boilerplate at left, the future panel in the middle, and old 1973 panel at right.

And later, after the new panel was built, the old and new side by side:

And later with one of the racks in the background:

Here is a video that shows the system in operation.

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