wiki/ 802.11 (Wi-Fi) on a Rocket

IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) on a Rocket

  1. IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) on a Rocket
    1. Overview
    2. Introduction to IEEE 802.11
      1. 802.11a
      2. 802.11b
    3. Our Project
      1. Launch Vehicle 2.2
      2. Launch Vehicle 2.3
    4. Results
      1. Launch Vehicle 2.2 — Launched August 22nd 2005
      2. Launch Vehicle 2.3 — Attempted Launch July 31st 2011


We want to be able to communicate with the rocket in real time during launches. Real time data from the rocket lets us monitor the flight and helps us find the rocket as it drifts down on parachutes. We decided to use the Wi-Fi standard for our communication.

"Wi-Fi" is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance and the brand name for products using the IEEE 802.11 family of standards. When most people think of Wi-Fi they think of coffee shops and free internet, but the 802.11 standard can be used for any kind of communication. Part of the radio spectrum that Wi-Fi uses is also available for licensed amateur radio operators so we can use Wi-Fi at a higher power over further distances that normal. Wi-Fi hardware is also readily available and cheap. This makes it a very attractive standard for use in a rocket.

We are the first group to use Wi-Fi on a rocket and the first to have a Wi-Fi link with off the shelf hardware faster than the speed of sound.

Introduction to IEEE 802.11

IEEE 802.11 is a set of standards for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 2.4, 3.6 and 5 GHz frequency bands. It uses spread spectrum techniques for high bandwidth and throughput and to mitigate interference with other radios. One of the interesting things about 802.11 is that its radio frequencies overlap with amateur bands which lets us legally use it at a much higher power.


IEEE 802.11a-1999 is amendment to the original standard with a very high data rate (up to 54 Mbit/s) using the 5 GHz band (C band).


Our Project

We have built two 802.11 rocket systems. One with 802.11b at 2.4 GHz in 2005, and another in 2011 with 802.11a at 5.8 GHz.

Launch Vehicle 2.2



Launch Vehicle 2.3




Launch Vehicle 2.2 — Launched August 22nd 2005

Failed landing, but real time data

Mach 1+

Launch Vehicle 2.3 — Attempted Launch July 31st 2011