Cameras in Model Rockets: A Short History

My favorite rocket payload is the camera. The camera changes our point of view from static observers to the very active point of view of the rocket. You may think that the idea came from NASA rockets but actually the first camera rockets flew in the 19th century! The first published account of a camera rocket design was by Amedee Denisse, a french pyrotechnist, who published the following picture in the French journal LA Nature on September 22 1888.
denisserocketcamclick to enlarge

In 1891 the German, Ludwig Rohrmann, received the first patent for the rocket camera. However in 1896 the great Swedish chemist, Alfred Nobel….yes the same Alfred Nobel of Nobel Prize fame… built the first rocket with camera payload. Here is a picture from one of it’s historic flights over the Swedish village of Karskoga and a diagram of his rocket

nobelcam click to enlargenobel3
In 1901 Alfred Maul concieved of using rockets for military reconnaissance. Maul was able to perfect his payload to obtain excellent photos as this.
maulcamclick to enlarge
In 1929 Robert Goddard launched his first camera payload in Auburn, Massachusetts.
The Space Age heralded an regular eye in the sky with cameras and probably influenced rocketeers to try to duplicate. Here is a camera payload video from a V2 lifting off at White Sands, NM in 1946.
Click here a photo from a 1954 Sounding rocket that captured a Cyclone.
The first known rocket cam flown in a model rocket was in 1961 by Lewis Dewart of Sunbury, Pennsylvania.

dewartcam Dewart’s mini Japanese Camera
From GH Stine Handbook of Model Rocketry 1965 ed

In addition to developing the three station method of altitude tracking, Talley Guill was an inovator in the area of camera payloads. Here is an early picture, circa 1962, of one of his camera rockets.

talleycam From American Modeler Magazine Sept/Oct 1963

Here is a picture of his clever camera aparatus. When the nose cone is ejected a pin is pulled and the shutter is released.

talleycam2 From GH Stine Handbook of Model Rocketry 1965 ed

Of course in 1966 Estes released the first Camroc.
camrocclick to enlarge

The Estes Camroc Patent can be viewed here (thanks to Terry Dean)

First ever Camroc Picture: first_camroc_picture

In 1962 Paul Hans and Don Scott launched the first motion picture model rocket.

hans-scott Charles and Paul Hans
From GH Stine Handbook of Model Rocketry 1965 ed
Estes released the Cineroc in 1969. The Cineroc carried an beautifully designed Super-8 camera. Read this post and see a Cineroc video.

Today one of my favorite camera payloads is the Boostervision system. Booster vision is a wireless on -board video system.(sorry folks they eventually went out of business – so many options since this was originally written in 2007)

And let’s not forget one of my favorite camera hacks. Of course it has been the internet that has brought the on-board rocket camera payload into everyone’s home. There are numerous great sites to explore with great videos. Just do some searches 1…..2.3

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