Model Rocketry first came into existence during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, a period known to many of us as the “Space Race”. The Soviet launch of Sputnik and the early US manned missions caught the imagination of millions of people and developed into a popular hobby.
Before the establishment of model rocketry as a hobby grownups and kids alike were busy mixing dangerous chemicals in attempts to shoot there rockets skyward. Unfortunately, many people were seriously injured mixing their own propellants.
Along came the hobby industry and some savvy entrepreneurial chemists who developed single use rocket motors which removed the hazards associated with the previous amateur experimenters. Since that time the hobbyist does not have to mix, pack or handle any explosives or propellants. Life is safe again!
Now today, model rocket motors and rocket kits can be purchased at almost every hobby shop or toy store. These kits have been designed for any level of expertise from beginner to expert. Simple starter kits are available that lead you step by step into this fascinating hobby.
Model rockets are classified as those having motor power ranges beginning from “1/4A” which is the smallest made on up to “G” sized motors, the largest which can be purchased without special certification. A “G” sized motor will loft a six foot rocket a good distance into the air.
High power rocketry involves everything using a motor larger than a “G” size. These require all sorts of special clearances and will not be discussed here.
How Rockets Work
Rockets work according to one of the laws of physics first defined by Sir Isaac Newton some 350 years ago. That law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that as the rocket fuel burns and expels the hot gases out the rocket nozzle the mass of gas being pushed out pushes against the rocket motor with an equal force. Contrary to common belief, it has nothing to do with the resistance of air in the way of the hot exhaust. That is why rockets can work in the vacuum of space. In fact, they work better in space because the resistance of air flowing around the rocket does not exist. Just a bit of physics I am sure you wanted to know!
One of the best ways to get started in model rocketry is to find a local club and join. This will give you the chance to find someone to help you understand some of the basics and avoid mistakes. Make sure you attend the clubs launch days when members launch their rockets.
You will find it best to begin with a rocket kit. These will come with everything you need to build your first model rocket. After mastering the basics, you can graduate to more complex kits which let you develop techniques to assemble the recovery system, motor mounts and the fins.
Develop your skills further by adding attractive paint schemes and decorative trim.
Scale modeling involves building exact scale models of the actual rockets NASA uses. These will require significant research to discover the specifications used by manufacturers to build their huge full size rockets. You will want to finish your scale model with the same paint and trim schemes.
Increase your fun by adding a cameral or video recorder to your rocket nose cone. The photos from several hundred feet in the air can be spectacular.
Children need to be carefully supervised when rockets are being launched and recovered. Simple models can achieve speeds of 100 miles per hour, so it is important that no one gets in the way.
Never launch your rockets in populated areas. Not only will you risk injury to someone, your chances of losing your rocket when it comes down are far greater.
Do not launch your rocket in areas prone to fires. A bad launch could start a serious wildfire that you would likely be responsible for.
Some states have age limits for purchasing model rocket motors and may require launch site permission or permits. Best to check with your local city hall, fire department or police department if not launching with a club.