Build Your Own Rocket - Design Bureau

Build Your Own Rocket

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Even though the US has dialed back its space program, now you can go from earthling to rocketeer in the comfort of your own backyard. Just be warned that rocket construction isn’t as easy as YouTube makes it seem.

Step 1: Figure out how high, far, and fast you want your rocket to go. This will determine the amount of impulse — the fancy physics term for force — required to propel your rocket, which in turn determines the rocket’s other design details, including length, fin surface area, etc.

Step 2: Pick your propellant. Most home rocket builders choose Ammonium Percholate Composite Propellant (APCP) because it combines fuel, oxidizer, and binder catalysts all in one nice, pre-manufactured package.

Step 3: Decide on your special effects. Want your rocket to spit orange flames or leave a giant smoke trail? Just mix in the correct additives to your prepared propellant base, and voilà, these effects become realities.

Step 4: Load your propellant into your rocket motor, a cylindrical case usually made of aluminum. For frugal and/or lazy rocket engineers, cardboard can be used in a pinch. 

Step 5: Assemble all the parts for your rocket body. You will need: some fins, a body tube, the prepared motor, a parachute, and a nose cone. Now put the motor into the tube, pack the parachute on top, and attach the fins to the tube. Top it all off with the nose cone, which will keep your rocket aimed upward once it blasts off.

Step 6: Add your fuse to light the propellant. The most popular way to accomplish this is through the use of an electric match: a wire coated in igniter that, when electrified, will send your rocket skyward.

Step 7: Flip the switch. Hook your fuse up to a power source, turn the power source on, and watch your rocket blast off. If you manage to not set yourself, your house, or the surrounding vicinity on fire, congratulations: you’re a rocket-building genius.