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I saw a show on amatuer rocketry the other day on discovery, or similar. It was amazing the size and power these guys are making nowadays. Clearly, some of the rockets I saw could carry a decent payload up to a good altitude. It won't be long before the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) starts regulating this hobby. :-(
They are already trying too. I saw some article in Popular Mechanics about rocket guys who are gettign alitudes in the thousands of foot range. They have had people from DHS check them out to see if you could put guidance systems in their rockets to shoot down a plane.
They already have to have special permits and go through special classes just to buy the huge motors they use. Their motors are regulated by the ATF i think since they are so large.
For smaller rockets that don't go so high that they get out of visual range you can just use Trigonometry.
Estes used to make and probably still do make an altimeter gun with a weighted protactor on it. You pointed the gun at the rocket from 300 or 600 yards away from the launch pad and when the rocket reached its apex, about the time the parachute deploys, you pulled the trigger.
That would lock the protractor at the angle and then you could just look at angle to see what the altitude was.
Simple Trig with sin or cos functions. The gun made it so you did not even have to do the math since it had the altiudes for angles at 300 yards and 600 yards printed next to the angle.