Mostly, I learned how easy it is to forget one of the most important lessons of construction: it is infinitely easier to get it right in a CAD model than in real life!
I had a lot of trouble with the top piece you see there, the one that keeps all the motor holders in their correct orientations. I couldn't build the motor holders perfectly straight , so I had to oversize the holes on that top piece, and it doesn't look pretty.
I also saw that the CAD model for how to attach the camera would have been really difficult to implement in reality, so I moved the latches to the side of the body and latched it on there.
More, after the break:
The small, 1" cubes you see are glued onto the side of the rocket body, and an internal piece similar to the one you see latched on in the above photo is glued onto them. The picture below shows what it looks like without the top piece.
So most of the construction is done. I'll still need to build a nosecone, and the fins you saw in the CAD package. I'm not sure yet if I'll use the nosecone on the first flight, since the first one may simply be a test flight with no rockets. The test would determine the max attainable altitude, and verify the ignition and electronics systems.
Working with the Inventek chip has been a pain. Initially I thought making a PCB won't be so bad, then I balked at the price for a few decent PCB articles from PCB artist (>$200 for just a couple pieces!). I could some without silkscreen and soldermask for $51, but that was from a company whose software sucked. Then I thought I might make my own, since all you really need is a printer, a few chemicals, and maybe a drill. But then I'd still have to surface-mount the chip, which means buying flux, and a special soldering iron with a small tip and overall the complexity started rising and rising.
So, while I hate to back away from a challenge, I decided on a different GPS system, the Garmin GPS-18x LVC. This comes with bare wire connections that should make it dead simple to attach to the arduino. I've already ordered it, so it should be coming in soon. Once that's tested, I just need a cellphone for communicating GPS (probably one from boost mobile), and a camera for the actual picture taking (kind of important).
I was hoping to launch while I'm in NJ for the winter break, but I'd rather not rush things. I need to take my time on this project and do things right, as opposed to shoving a square peg in a round hole and potentially not recovering the system.