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Home-built rocket climbs to 121,000 feet in 92 seconds


October 11, 2011

Derek Deville's Qu8k rocket climbed at altitude of 121,000 feet (36.8 km) after 92 seconds flight (Photo: Gregory L. Mayback/ddeville.com)

Derek Deville's Qu8k rocket climbed at altitude of 121,000 feet (36.8 km) after 92 seconds flight (Photo: Gregory L. Mayback/ddeville.com)

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Launched from Black Rock Desert in Nevada on September 30 in an attempt to win John Carmack's 100kft Micro Prize, Derek Deville's home-built Qu8k rocket reached an altitude of 121,000 feet (36.8 km) after 92 seconds flight ... and captured some excellent video footage along the way.

Using a custom-built launch tower, Qu8k (pronounced as "quake" in homage to Carmack's id software classic video game) made a safe return in a parachute descent that took another 7.5 minutes. It was fully recovered only three miles from the launch site (the Prize requirements include recovery of the intact rocket within 24 hours of the launch).

Constructed from aluminum and measuring 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter and 167.5 inches (425 cm) in length, the Qu8k's rocket used APCP rocket propellent to give it a maximum velocity during the ascent of 3,200 ft/s (975.36 m/s).

Deville's team equipped the rocket with two timers, four GPS devices, an accelerometer, or cosmic ray detector. A couple of Go Pro Hero HD video cameras and one Flip HD camera provided detailed footage of the flight.

100kft Micro Prize

Established in 2000 by John Carmack, co-founder of id Software's (a studio famous due to such titles as Wolfenstein 3D, Quake, or Doom), Armadillo Aerospace is the company behind the US$5,000 100kft Micro Prize. The challenge requires a rocket to be sent to an altitude of 100,000 feet (30.4km) and, along with the requirement to recover the rocket within 24 hours, it is also necessary to present GPS serial log of the flight with at least one record above 100,000 feet.

Derek Deville reportedly fails on that aspect. Despite equipping the rocket with four GPS devices, a high altitude GPS fix was not caught. We do not know at this point whether the evidence will be sufficient enough for Armadillo Aerospace.

Take a look at the video below presenting the impressive footage acquired by Qu8k:


Your article was quite inspiring, an avocation that I should have undertaken. The rocket was top quality.

Tom Carroll


Prajesh Ananthan

Yeah, it was breathtaking to watch.))

Renārs Grebežs

Is it possible that the GPS gets somehow blocked for vehicles that have the speed of a military missile?

Erik Unger

What melted over the lens of the gopro camera?

Justin Scheller

Civilian GPS receivers are limited to 20 km (about 65000 ft) and 1850 kmh (about 1150 mph).

Bob Ehresman

WOW! springs to mind.


The glob by the cameras was a plastic aero-shroud that melted on ascent. The builders did not have time to make an aluminum shroud:

\"The aeroshroud protecting the GoPro was intended to be CNC cut from aluminum but time constraints forced me to us the FDM printed plastic version which obviously melted!\"

Matt Rings

I guess they never thought of simply bending a shroud from sheet metal and screwing or riveting it to the rocket.

Just because you have access to expensive tools like FDM doesn\'t make them the best tool.

Gregg Eshelman

@ Gregg E. I guess you weren\'t there to inform them of the error of their ways. While they were concerned with the physics and chemistry involved with sending a rocket to 100,000 feet. While your at it please solve the problem of the GPS for them too.

Great job guys, phenomenal launch.

David Cole

I'm interesting about the fuel which was used in this rocket?

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