Amazing Amateur Rocket Launch Reaches 121,000 feet

Wow! Take a look at this for a little “bang! zoom!” in your day! This video shows an incredible video of an amateur rocket launch, which could be eligible for a $5,000 rocketry prize. Led by Derek Deville, the rocketeers launched their custom-built 26 ft. (8 meter) Qu8k (pronounced “Quake”) rocket on September 30, 2011 from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. It reached an altitude of 121,000 feet (36,880 meter) in 92 seconds, at speeds of 2,185 mph (3,516 km/h). Holy speeding missiles, Batman! The Qu8k rocket returned to Earth safely just 8.5 minutes later, landing 3 miles (5 km) from its launch point.

The incredible footage from on on-board camera shows the curvature of Earth and the black sky of space. See the full video below.

This launch could be eligible for the Carmack Challenge (put out by Armadillo Aerospace Founder John Carmack) which offers $5,000 for an amateur rocket launch above 100,000 ft. However, the rules say “The rocket must record a GPS serial log of the flight with at least one report above 100,000ft plus the launch altitude,” and the Qu8k teams says that none of four independent GPS systems onboard its vehicle maintained positional lock through the trip. It is possible they might be able to recover the data, but Qu8k says accelerometer data and time to apogee available from onboard video footage allows them to mathematically deduce “with high certainty” that the rocket reached 121,000 feet. It might come down to Carmack deciding if that data will be enough to win the prize.

According to Qu8k, all parts of the vehicle were recovered and could be easily prepared to fly again.

See the Qu8k website, which provides some great high-resolution images of the preparations and flight of the Qu8k rocket. And congrats the the Qu8k team!

18 Replies to “Amazing Amateur Rocket Launch Reaches 121,000 feet”

  1. Although that is impressive, that first video does not show the curvature of the Earth. That rounded edge is the housing containing the “Down Looking GoPro” camera. It’s a bit more obvious in the full video.

    My first thought when I read “curvature of the Earth” and “121000 feet” was “fake”, but it makes a lot more sense in the 2nd video.

    1. The (side looking) HD camera, however, is definitely showing the curvature of the Earth. Very impressive. 😀

  2. What fun! YIKES! You GO bro(s)! Much better than a balloon flight? A WHOLE lot faster anyway! Can’t the maximum altitude attained be determined by the visibility of distant landscape features? Or perhaps from nearby radar(s) tracking?

  3. sh*t that’s awesome, and it landed only 3 miles away from launch site makes it more dope!

  4. awesome launch !! Even if that curvature you said it`s Earth`s , is in fact given by the camera`s lens distortion.

    1. FAA/AST was on site. We have to go through a very involved process for Class 3 rockets IAW FAR 101.
      This was totally legal with the requisit waivers in place

  5. Fabulous! (Gentle note to UT editor re tag: “amateur” is the correct spelling–I always have to look it up myself.)

  6. A GPS that functions at that altitude and speed would be export-controlled and restricted regarding civilian use. I would imagine that’s why the GPS receivers lost their lock, unless they were specifically designed for it.

  7. Awesome example of amateur rocketry, it would be great if someone designs and builds one that can reach an altitude of 60 miles or so and carry some scientific experiments along the way. The video feeds alone were worth the effort to build and fly the rocket.

  8. Picture someone from the past millenium seeing this, perhaps just someone from the past century, and you’ll be able to grasp just how much the times have evolved.
    We live in the future, and it’s just as cool as sci-fi movies.

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