Rocket Report

By Laurel Howard

February 13, 2000


What is a rocket?

Do you know what a rocket is? In order to understand rockets, you need to know a few things.

A rocket is an object that flies through the air. It can carry a satellite into orbit, it can carry people for exploration, and it could be used in warfare. Rockets are usually tube shaped and very streamlined. A rocket is a flying object that runs on jet propulsion.

(McDonnell Douglas Delta II Rocket lifting off)

The McDonnell Douglas Delta II Rocket is the rocket that put the Mars Rover on Mars!

According to the Rocket Manual for Amateurs, by Captain Bertrand R. Brinley, jet propulsion is the "force, motion or thrust resulting from the ejection of the propelled matter within the propelled body." This means that when the fuel is ignited, it starts to take up more room than it did, and it is the change in the size that makes it eject, or propel the rocket. This happens when the fuel ignites for both solid and liquid fueled rockets. Newtonís Law of Physics states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So if the fuel shoots out the back of the rocket, then the rocket is propelled forward.

History of rocketry

The Chinese used paper rockets in warfare as early as AD 1232. The discovery of gunpowder helped to create the hobby of model rocketry. Some people that had a hobby of flying model rockets in 1957 still fly them today. The movie October Sky is the story of some kids who learned how to build model rockets. One of the kids went on to work for NASA.

There are three different kinds of rocketeers - professional, amateur, and model. A professional needs a license to launch their rockets. These are men and women that make their living through the use of rockets. They can launch large model rockets. Some rockets need to be OKíd by the FAA before launching because they might get in the way of low flying planes.

Model rocketeers build their own rockets to launch. They use a solid fuel engine. Model rockets need a new engine with each launch. The size of the engine is determined by the size of the rocket. If you use too large an engine, the rocket might blow up, but it most likely will just go too far and get lost. Big rockets only use liquid fuel, because the amount of solid fuel needed to get to the moon would take up a lot of room. An external fuel tank is reusable. Back in the 1960s, the liquid propellants were used more often than the solid propellants.

Here is a timeline of some of the major events in space exploration using rockets, from a website at


There are two kinds of groups of rockets to look at. One is Model Rocketry; the other are rockets that are used by space agencies for use in the real world.

Model Rocketry

Model rocketry is five things at once: it is a sport, a hobby, science, research tool, and an education aid. Model rocketeers sometimes compete in tournaments, and you keep in shape by running after them, so it is a sport. It is a hobby because you can do it for fun. It is part of science because you have to work with physics, and jet propelled engines. It is a research tool because you can try experiments with them to see what happens. Itís an education aid, because it teaches a lot of different things, like science, building things, safety, and art.

Do you know the parts of the model rocket? The parts of a model rocket are the shock cord, shock cord mount, body tube, launch lug, engine holder assembly, the fins, nose cone, screw eye, shroud lines, parachute, spacing ring, engine hook, engine holder tube.

(Information from the Estes Rocket company website)


Solid fuel rockets run on propellant grain. There is a hollow core so the burning propellant grain can come out the back end of the rocket. Liquid fuel rockets have oxygen and oxidizer that mix together to power the rockets. Simple rockets have paper shells instead of metal or plastic shells. Model rockets mostly use solid fuel engines for safety. Model rockets just have the nose cone come off and big rockets have a big external fuel tank that comes off.

Most people who do model rockets as a hobby are very safe. They follow the rules, and make sure they only launch rockets where there are no problems. The engines can start fires, so it is important to be safe. You should launch from concrete or sand not off grass.

(Information from the Estes Rocket website)


Real World Rocketry

Rockets are fascinating things. One of the most amazing things a rocket has ever done is when they put the Mars Rover on the planet Mars in 1997. It was pretty amazing because there were not any people in the rocket so they had to control the rocket from NASA.

NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Agency for the United States. NASA sends up rockets to deploy satellites in the Earthís orbit. NASA also launched many rockets in the race to the moon in the 1960s.

Neil Armstrong was the first man to step foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong's first words when he was on the moon were, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

John Glenn was one of the oldest people to go up into space. The first time John Glenn went up into space was in 1962 and John Glenn was 41 years old. The second time John Glenn went up into space was in the year 1998 and he was 77 years old. That is about 30 years between space travel!

The U.S. is not the only country interested in space exploration and rockets. Ariane is the European Space Agencies rocket. Ariane and the USSR competed against each other in the years 1960 and 1970. Ariane Three was launched in 1984 but crashed before it got out of the earthís atmosphere.


I have learned a lot about rockets, as I have described above.

I like rockets for their size and what they can do. My favorite large rocket is the one that put the Mars Rover on Mars. It was a McDonnell Douglas Delta II rocket. My favorite model rocket is the ExoSkell that I built for this report. I plan to build and launch model rockets as a hobby. If you like space, and building things, model rocketry might be for you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!