ARLISS Extreme

A high power amateur sounding rocket for delivering PocketQube STEM science payloads to the exosphere - 40 km+

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ARLISS ( - A Rocket Launch for International Student Satellites, is a 17 year old program to deliver a core project experience of designing, launching and using autonomous robots deployed from high power hobby rockets in the Black Rock Desert. Classic ARLISS flies 1 kg student payloads on M motors to ~10k' AGL, deploys the projects for them to return autonomously to a set of GPS coordinates on the Black Rock Desert.

ARLISS Extreme extends ARLISS to .3 kg PocketQube student science payloads taken to over 100k' - to the exosphere.

The prototype in 2012 won the John Carmack prize for the first, documented, fully recovered amateur rocket to exceed 100k' AGL. That airframe today is in the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Today the ARLISS Extreme team works to make this complex rocket as robust and reliable as standard ARLISS rockets - with 3 failures to deploy student satellites in over 700 flights.

Design Concept

The ARLISS Extreme airframe is a high performance, two stage solid fuel sounding rocket using commercial off-the-shelf components. We are attempting to create the performance of government sounding rockets as amateurs. With a cost structure that is affordable for STEM science experiments.

We use a 4" diameter booster with a commercial N motor boosting a 3" sustainer using a commercial long burn M motor. The sustainer will generally reach above Mach 3 during burn.

We expect to consistently reach ~ 120k' AGL with about ~21,600 nSec of solid fuel propellant - as of early 2017 we are flying an AeroTech N3300 (14,041 nsec) motor in the booster and an AeroTech M685 (7,561 nec) motor in the sustainer. Total burn time is ~15.5 seconds.

We expect, like in ARLISS Classic, to recover and reuse the airframes making the cost of access to the troposphere the cost of propellant.

The insight that has informed our work is drag. Drag roughly increases with the square of cross section and the square of velocity. So small rockets, traveling less fast will waste less energy in friction heating and use more for altitude. So to achieve maximum altitude, we need to minimize drag. The ARLISS Extreme system has proven to be very efficient - flying 30-50% higher than alternative hobby rocket systems on the same amount of propellant.

it appears that the cost of .3kg, 1.5p PocketQube payload to 40 km is about $750.

Of course, enough velocity is required for stability in a fin-guided airframe. And enough size is required to carry a science payload of interesting size for interesting experiments

The compromise we have arrived at is to use a two stage rocket with a 4" diameter booster and a 3" diameter sustainer, with long burn motors.

The 3" sustainer has substantially lower drag than a 4" airframe, accommodates a substantial motor and can take two 1.5p PocketQubes as science payload. The 4" sustainer can deliver sufficient power with commercial 4" solid fuel motors.

Modest improvements to the airframe would allow about a 50% increase in power using existing off-the-shelf motors.

Flight Profile




Launch System

ARLISS Xtreme.pdf

Overview paper of the ARLISS Extreme project.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 13.29 MB - 05/17/2017 at 23:35


AeroPac 2012 100k' Program Report.compressed.pdf

Project report from the original 2012 design that won the Carmack Prize for the first documented, fully recovered amateur rocket flight above 100k' AGL.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 18.88 MB - 05/17/2017 at 23:31


100k 2017.rkt

RockSim Pro Design for 2017 ARLISS Extreme

rkt - 454.64 kB - 05/17/2017 at 23:30


  • LakeRoc?

    Ken Biba05/26/2017 at 17:40 0 comments

    We fly our projects from the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada. It is a roughly 20 mi diameter quarter million year old dry lake bed - with about about a 6' layer of gypsum dense mud/dust covering a hard clay base. Base elevation is about 4000' MSL with surrounding mountains at 7-9k' MSL.

    In the winter and spring, there is often water on the playa from run off from the surrounding mountains. This year there remains astonishing amounts of water - perhaps still a meter deep at our usual launch site and recovery area.

    Our high power rocket club - AeroPac (, a prefecture of the Tripoli Rocketry Association - TRA (, organizes four major high power rocketry launches each year for over the last 20 years at Black Rock.

    Mudroc - generally the third weekend in June.

    Aeronaut - generally the first weekend in August.

    ARLISS - 5 day event the second week of September.

    XPRS - the third weekend in September following ARLISS.

    The playa is currently covered with water and Mudroc looks in jeopardy.

  • May Status

    Ken Biba05/18/2017 at 00:02 0 comments

    We have finished new airframes for booster and sustainer.

    Now must integrate avionics and build motors.

  • 2017 Plans

    Ken Biba05/18/2017 at 00:01 0 comments

    We have decided to return to vacuum bagged carbon composite fins for 2017 after the drag from aluminum fin cans in 2016 delivered disappointing performance w.r.t increased drag.

    We are enlarging the science payload bay to accommodate two 1.5p PocketQube science payload satellites.

    All other avionics and recovery remains the same having performed well in 2016.

    Key issues are flight dates. We would like to plan for 3 flights but weather and FAA waiver issues may restrict us to two.

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