Signal Avionics


Signal Avionics

The Signal Avionics system makes model rockets more realistic by enabling thrust vectoring at the model scale.

The Signal flight computer controls parachutes, thrust vectoring, high speed data logging, and an emergency in-flight abort system. Most flights remain within 3 degrees of their initial orientation; not only making rockets more realistic, but safer as well.

Gimbaling accuracy up to 0.25°

Developed though two years of iterative design, and tested to its failure points to improve reliability, the gimbaled motor mount can keep almost any rocket on course. The mount can reliably actuate within ±5° on each axis and is proven to handle at least 40N of force axially, though more powerful motors will be tested to better characterize it's structural limits. 

An early prototype of the gimbaling mount

Power and speed

Signal's custom flight computer runs a 200hz control loop, prioritizing separate functions depending on the progress of the flight. Thrust vectoring draws considerable current from the power source; once burnout is detected, Signal centers and locks the vectoring mount. Focus is then set on detecting apogee and triggering pyro events. A power source of at least 8V must be used - 9v alkaline or 11.1v LiPos are recommended. 

Smart software

The flight software tracks vehicle flight dynamics while the rocket is powered on. Signal looks for cues to shift system states at liftoff, burnout, apogee, and landing. Especially regarding liftoff, this makes Signal's operation simple. Once the settings file is configured for flight, all that is required of the user is turning on the flight computer; Signal automatically enters the pad-idle mode. In pad-idle mode, Signal can detect launch in under 20ms. Once detected, thrust vectoring is activated, in-flight abort is armed, and high-frequency data logging begins.

In-flight abort

The computer carries an emergency abort pyro channel. Should the vehicle veer off course during powered flight, Signal will terminate the flight by deploying parachutes on the dedicated abort pyro channel. The software will be forced into landing configuration, and upon touchdown will dump all flight data to the Micro SD card.

Data logging

In-flight data logging takes place at 40Hz. Vectoring output, vehicle orientation, altitude, velocity, acceleration, and several other data points are recorded using a custom protocol to a high-speed flash chip. Upon landing detection, Signal creates a new CSV file on the micro SD card, dumping flight data into it. Once the data is verified to match, the flash chip is cleared and Signal is ready to fly again. A 1GB Micro SD card can store hundreds of flights before it must be cleared. Flight settings are programable via a settings file on the removable Micro SD card, where in-flight data is also stored. 

The Signal flight computer does not carry any GPS equipment. This is done in order to avoid confusion or concern about point-based guidance. The computer only aims to keep the rocket stable, and without GPS, cannot target a specific location.

Purchase the first revision of Signal Avionics here:

For general questions about the system, please fill out the contact form at the bottom of the About page.