Amateur Rocketry Hack Chat is aiming for the stars

Hackaday has been around long enough to see incredible changes in what’s possible at the hobbyist level. The tools, techniques, and materials available today border on science fiction compared to what the average person had just a decade ago. In everyday life, this manifests itself in ever more elaborate electronic projects, which in many cases bear little resemblance to the cobbled-together gadgets that graced these sites in the early 2000s.

Kip Daugirdas

But these wins aren’t limited to our regular niche — hobbyists of all stripes have pushed their respective boundaries. Take, for example, the successful launch of MESOS, a home-built, reusable, multi-stage rocket, to the very edge of the Kármán line. It was designed and built over a number of years by amateur rocket enthusiast Kip Daugirdas, and if all goes to plan, it will take off again this summer with upgraded hardware that could perhaps help it surpass the internationally recognized 100km barrier that which marks the edge of space.

We were fortunate to have Kip drop by the Hack Chat this week to talk all things rocketry, and the result was a predictably lively conversation. Many in our community have a fascination with space travel, and although MESOS may not technically While we’ve made it this far (there’s some debate depending on which definition you want to use), it’s certainly close enough to let our imaginations run wild.

Most of the conversation, as you might have guessed, revolved around rocket fuel. Or more specifically, the different types of propellants available for these types of large amateur rockets. While liquid propellant rocket engines hold incredible promise in terms of performance, they remain a formidable engineering challenge for the home gamer. Also, as Kip explains, solid rocket engines offer higher fuel densities, meaning you can put more power into a smaller vehicle.

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For MESOS, Kip said he used a propellant known as ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP). While the composition will of course vary by application, this family of propellants is the same as you would find in the Space Shuttle (and now SLS) Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) or an airplane ejection seat.

It’s powerful, reliable, and, somewhat surprisingly, not very difficult to shuffle at home. As the name suggests, the primary ingredient is ammonium perchlorate, which is not a regulated substance, at least in the United States. To this you add fine aluminum powder and then a binder to hold everything together. Kip didn’t provide the exact formula for his secret space-scraping sauce, but did mention that the gummed binder makes up approximately 18% of the mix.

On this hackaday there were also questions about the electronics on board MESOS. Unfortunately for those hoping to hear some interesting details about the rocket’s custom flight computers, Kip revealed that MESOS uses off-the-shelf units. More specifically, a Featherweight Raven 4 and a Multitronix Kate 3.0. There were also two modified GoPro Hero 9s on board, but he actually gave the mods to a Canadian company called Backbone. Of course, who can blame him for not wanting to tackle custom electronics on a project like this? When you literally build a rocket from scratch, there are already more than enough components to design and manufacture.

To that end, Kip provided some interesting details about the rocket’s construction. The engine mounts were machined from 6061 aluminum while the airframe itself is largely constructed of fiberglass and carbon fiber composites. The carbon is wrapped around the tubular structures and nose cone, but the fin section required a complex multi-step build.

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Judging by the state of MESOS on landing, we’d say it’s certainly built tough enough – although Kip does mention during the chat that he might need to check the protective coating on the second stage fins. At ascent rates in excess of Mach 4, the leading edges were exposed to temperatures of up to 704°C (1,300°F), which didn’t excite the carbon composite construction.

We’d like to thank Kip Daugirdas for taking the time to speak to the Hackaday community about his incredible accomplishment. He really pulled back the curtain and shared some fascinating information about the project and rocketry in general. So if you’re at all interested in this hobby, we encourage you to read through the full transcript. We can’t wait to take MESOS back to the skies and hope it finds itself on the other side of the Karman Line soon.

The Hack Chat is a weekly online chat session hosted by leading experts from every corner of the hardware hacking universe. It’s a great way for hackers to connect in a fun and informal way, but if you can’t make it live, these overview posts, as well as the transcripts posted on, will make sure you don’t miss out.