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How to build a rocketPlease feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about any of the information on this page.
These materials are useful for constructing model rockets. For the more specialised materials like balsa or rocket engines, Howes Models in Kidlington is a good place to look. Materials marked with an * are optional.
- Cardboard tubes - from wrapping paper, or use a rolled up piece of card.
- Cardboard - used to make fins and nosecone
- * Balsa - used to make fins and nosecone
- * Plastic nose cone - difficult to get hold of individually
- Drinking straws - make excellent launch lugs
- Plastic bag - to make a parachute
- Elastic - for shock cord
- Recovery wadding - Estes pack, or use baby wipes
- Reel of cotton - used to attach parachute
- Engines - Estes from Howes Models
- PVA glue and Sellotape
- * Sandpaper - to shape balsa fins
- Scissors and craft knife
To make sure a new rocket is stable before its first flight, all new rockets must undergo a swing test. Attach a length of string around the rocket at its centre on gravity (i.e. its balance point) and swing the rocket around your head. Don't try this indoors. If the rocket is stable it should point in the direction in which it is travelling. If it doesn't, don't panic. Add extra weight to the nose, in the from of Blu Tak or small stones and try the test again. Finally, even if you don't manage to produce a rocket, come along to the society's Rocket Launch (see the list of events this term for details).
Components of the rocket
Essential for the safe recovery of your rocket. Make one by cutting a circle out of a plastic carrier bag and punching holes on 8 places around the edge. Attach the parachute to the nosecone using lengths of cotton.
Probably the most difficult bit to find. Plastic or balsa nosecones from Estes kits are best, but those feeling adventurous can make one from balsa or card, or use a nosecone-shaped object. These are rare, and should be hoarded.
A piece of elastic connecting the nosecone to the fuselage.
Prevents the engine from melting your parachute. Estes packs are available, or use baby wipes which make your rocket smell nicer.
Cardboard tubes (from wrapping paper, cling film or Estes kits) are a ready-made fuselage. Alternatively, roll up and glue or tape a piece of card. Hint: Make your rocket fuselage a bright colour if possible as it will make your rocket easier to spot when it lands.
These are used to attach your rocket to the launch pole which prevents the rocket from falling over on the launch pad. Made form bits of drinking straw.
The fins should be made from card or balsa and strongly attached to the fuselage as far back as possible, and must be behind the centre of gravity of the rocket complete with engine to make the rocket stable. Make the fins as large as possible.
Buy a pack of Estes engines (e.g. C5-3). Attach them very firmly inside the rocket. There are various methods of doing this so ask if you need advice.
Site design by Sophie Dillon, 2013. Background image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)