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Rocket Science Projects Basics

Yes.. it really is rocket science!

We’ll help you put the basics to work in your own rocket science projects.

Believe it or not, you are already familiar with the forces behind rockets. A rocket in its simplest form is just a chamber with gas or another type of propellant inside. A small opening on one end allows the gas to escape, providing a thrust that propels it in the opposite direction. Balloons are a good example of how this works. All of us, at one time or another, have blown up a balloon and released the nozzle. The pressure from the balloon collapsing forces the air through the small opening very rapidly, creating a thrust that forces the balloon to take off in the other direction.

There are two types of propellants, solid and liquid. Fireworks such as skyrockets and rockets used for hobbyists are good examples of solid fuel rockets. These are a mixture of gunpowder, charcoal and sulphur. In theory, liquid fuel delivers a higher thrust. Sophisticated warhead rockets and NASA’s space rockets are examples of liquid fuel rockets, although a few still use solid fuel.

Rocket Science Projects Basics

Remember, regardless of the type of fuel, the principle is still the same as with the balloon. Compressed gas (air) is being forced through a smaller opening.

What does bamboo have to do with rockets?

The history of rockets dates back to the Greeks at around 400 BC. Archytas flew a wooden pigeon suspended on wires and propelled by steam. In the 1st century AD, the Chinese made fireworks by filling bamboo tubes with a simple form of gunpowder. After experimenting with these tubes a bit, they found that they could attach them to an arrow and launch them by harnessing the power of the escaping gas. By 1232 the use of rockets in warfare was underway. The Chinese and Mongols were at war. The Chinese repelled the Mongol invaders with a massive launch of flying arrows. Rockets have been used for war ever since.

Newton’s Laws of Motion

The science of rockets began in the 17th century with the printing of a book by Sir Isaac Newton. His book, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, described physical principles in nature. Three of these principles had to do with the laws of motion, today these are known as Newton’s laws of motion.

To put it simply:

1. Objects at rest will stay at rest and objects in motion will stay in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

2. Force = Mass x Acceleration.

3. For every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction.

Because of these laws rocketeers have been able to build the modern giants of today – such as the space shuttle.

Hands-On Rocket Science Projects

Alright, alright! Enough about theory and history, it’s time to do some rocket science projects of your own. Projects can range from using simple plastic bottles to competing for $10 million dollars by building a rocket that will propel a person into space. Rocket Science For Kids will focus on the simpler ones and, who knows, you may get ambitious enough to move on to the larger ones later!

One of the simplest rockets we can build uses water, Alka seltzer and a film canister. Try using different weights, cone shapes and fins. Do these change the distance and stability?

A rocket-powered boat would be a great project on a hot day. Water rockets are easy to build using a soda bottle and reach heights of up to 100 feet. Air rockets reach up to 250 feet!

Once you understand the concept and have mastered these simpler rockets, there are more powerful ones to move on to. There are kits and books available to help you build your own rocket science project. Be sure to read the cautions! Here’s another great book to get you started.

Have fun and shoot for the stars