How to Make Miniature Rockets
Design and Planning
- 1). Some model-rocketry companies offer prepackaged collections of parts intended for experimental design. These kits are readily available online or from hobby stores. They generally contain lightweight, durable materials that are easier to manipulate and work with than improvised pieces.
- 2). Even if you do not have a formal design for your rocket, it is always a good idea to have, at a minimum, a rough idea of what you want your rocket to look like. The five basic parts of a miniature rocket are the nose cone, fuselage, fins (guidance and stability), engine mount and recovery system. A quick sketch of the outside view of a rocket will show the nose cone, fuselage and fins.
- 3). The nose cone, fuselage and fins are the most visible components while the internal engine mount and recovery system ensure the safe and continued operation of the rocket. The engine mount, generally located at the rear of the fuselage, accommodates the rocket engine; its size contributes to the speed and altitude the rocket is capable of reaching. The recovery system, generally either a small mylar parachute or aerodynamic streamer (a long, straight fabric that flaps in the windstream to slow the rocket’s descent), reside just behind the nose cone at the front of the fuselage and deploy for recovery of the rocket.
- 1). From your kit or available components, select the nose cone that most closely resembles the appearance of your rough draft or the image you have in mind. It is important that the nose cone is proportionate and balanced with the fuselage and fins; if you are using a small fuselage or fins, do not use an oversized nose cone or the rocket may not be stable in flight.
- 2). From your kit or available components, select the fuselage (long, cylindrical body) you wish to use. As with the nose cone, ensure that the fuselage is proportionate to the other components or the rocket may behave erratically in flight.
- 3). Most kits contain a small elastic cord (“shock cord”) that join the nose cone and the fuselage. This cord connects the two components but nestles inside the fuselage when the nose cone is inserted. One end of the cord can simply tie (in a tight knot) around the plastic bar on the back of the nose cone. The other end should be securely glued to the inside of the fuselage. Note: Do not insert the nose cone into the fuselage until the glue is completely dry, or the recovery system may not effectively deploy.
- 4). If your rocket is intended for low flight or if it is very heavy, a parachute is a great recovery method as it provides the most protection. If the rocket is designed for high altitudes, though, a parachute could carry the rocket away in the wind. For high-flying rockets, an aerodynamic streamer is a better choice. The recovery system attaches to the shock cord so it can deploy behind the nose cone. The streamer simply ties to the elastic cord and the parachute’s support lines can be looped around the cord for a secure attachment.
- 5). The fins attach to the rear of the rocket’s fuselage and guide it through the air. Properly attached (very straight) fins give the rocket a straight and stable flight, while slightly tilted fins may cause the rocket to spin in flight. Misaligned or improperly spaced fins may make the rocket unstable, and fins that are too small for the rocket may cause it to be erratic in flight. The fins should be evenly spaced around the bottom of the fuselage and proportionate to the size of the fuselage and nose cone. These fins are usually made from balsa or other lightweight material and are attached to the rocket fuselage with glue. Fins should be evenly spaced to ensure a safe, stable flight.
- 6). Kits includes several engine mounts. Select the engine mount appropriately sized for your rocket’s fuselage, apply glue to the internal surface of the bottom of the fuselage and insert the engine mount while being sure the glue evenly spreads around any engine mount surface that touches the interior of the fuselage. The engine mount should fit flush with the bottom of the fuselage. Allow all glue to thoroughly dry before proceding.
- 7). If you plan to paint your rocket or apply finishing aesthetic touches, they should be the last step as they are secondary to the main importance of the rocket’s stable flight characteristics.