Preprint / Version 3

The Lightspeed Rangefinder


  • Jamie Smith



distance measuring, link budget, rangefinding, rocket, trilateration


The Lightspeed Rangefinder is a novel application of a radio-based distance measuring system built from consumer components to the field of amateur rocketry. Using an arrangement where multiple ground stations communicate with a transponder attached to a flight vehicle, the vehicle’s altitude can be determined to within 10s of meters at altitudes of over 100 km.  This system has major implications for Rocket Propulsion Lab’s future operations, and we believe that it will allow the flight path of its vehicles to be tracked much more accurately and reliably than was ever possible before. While the first flight test of the system was inconclusive, long-distance ground tests of the rangefinder produced very promising results. This thesis will detail the process of design, iteration, and revision that led to the rangefinder system, as well as the theory by which it operates and how the data it produces is analyzed.


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2021-05-05 — Updated on 2021-05-05