First of all - read Air Command's recovery-guide.
This is the most comprehensive writeup of water rocket recovery systems there is, and it is a great
starting point if you want to make sure, your new rocket does not commit suicide the first time it is
I have used a number of different techniques over the years, but the most reliable method i have flown
is my radio-controlled in-line deployment.
The Dual Independant In-line Parachute System (DIIPS) grew from my needs to reliably recover
a rocket regardless of launch-conditions. I decided to try a remote-controlled device,
because this would give me full flexibility: push a button -> parachute deploys !
I am now on the 4th iteration of my system and it has proven very reliable. In 18 launches,
i have had just 3 failures;
in the first, i didn't pack the main chute well enough, and it got stuck in the nosecone.
The second failure was probably due to human error (me forgetting to turn it on). The rocket
crashed from about 80m but the dual nosecones slid into one another upon impact with the ground
and thus acted like pneumatic dampeners, and two broken nylon screws and the very tip of the
nosecone were the only casualties - everything else worked fine!
The 3rd failure happened when i had a rocket blow up on the launcher. The top of the rocket traveled
about 20m up, and the immense g-force caused by the explosion, bent the two pins that acted as
I will do a full description of the system, when my latest edititon is finished soon.
This is a test of my last system. My newest edition hasn't flown yet.
There is not a lot of hang-time because it was a low-pressure test, to prove the design. It also gives
for a better view of the parachutes deploying.