Whether you're a first time flyer yourself, buying for a loved one, or a teacher who wants to get your kids involved, if you don't know where to start, we're here to help!
A rocket typically looks much like the one in the image below. A tube with a pointed nose, fins and a hole on the bottom end where the propellant goes. The propellant is often called a motor or engine as well, and all three terms are used interchangably.
While similar in concept, a "model rocket" has a few key differences to distinguish it from a "real rocket:"
- 4 phases throughout entire flight.
- All of flight in atmosphere, so aerodynamics are very important.
- Very short powered flight.
- Solid rocket engine with small propellant-mass fraction.
- Passive stability with no controls.
- Low speed, so heating not important.
- Inexpensive materials such as balsa, cardboard, and plastic.
- 4 phases during atmospheric flight.
- Shorter time in atmosphere, so aerodynamics are less important.
- Long powered flight.
- Liquid or solid rocket engine with large propellant-mass fraction.
- Passive stability with active controls.
- High speed, so shell heating is important to consider.
- Expensive materials such as aluminum, titanium, and nickel alloys.
Comparison list courtesy of NASA.
Electricity flows through the starter, heating it up and creating a spark. That spark ignites the propellant in the motor, and the combustion pressure. That pressure pushes out of the motor and the rocket takes off. A burst at the end of the motor's burn provides enough pressure to separate the nose from the body tube and the rocket then comes down with one of a variety of recovery methods, but most commonly a parachute. Once you recover your rocket after landing, you can remove the spent motor, insert a fresh one, put the rocket back together and go again!
Rockets can be flown over and over, providing nothing breaks on them in the air or upon landing. Motors and their starters can only be used once, and need to be replaced for each flight.
For more information on model rocketry flight and motors, check out our in-depth explanations on:
Now that you've got the concepts down, you need an actual rocket, motors, and launch equipment.
For the rocket, check out our varied collection of Skill Level 1 kits. These kits are great for beginners in kindergarten or beginners in adulthood. Be sure to click and visit the individual kit pages for a ton more information on each! Two of our favorite Skill Level 1 kits are the Apprentice and the Avion.
The Apprentice is perfect for young beginners, impatient modelers, or really, anyone with little time on their hands because instead of gluing on individual fins and having to worry about them being straight, all you have to do is glue the pre-molded fin can onto the tube. Motor mount assembly is still required, but the detailed instructions guide you through that.
The Avion is the next step up in that instead of a plastic fin can, there are individual balsa fins to glue on. This requires a bit more patience, and guidance if teaching a young rocketeer, but it is still a beginner kit and goes together very quickly.
Once you've picked a rocket kit, check the recommended motor charts at the bottom of the kit page.
For first flights and smaller fields, we recommend sticking with A-size motors, and moving to the B and Cs once you're comfortable with flying. Why? Because the higher the letter, the more powerful the rocket and the higher the altitude and speed. If you have a high take-off speed on your very first kit, you run into the danger of causing a weak fin joint to break, or if you have a very high flight, the rocket's parachute could catch the wind and drift into trees or on top of a roof.
For more information on what all the numbers and letters in the motors mean, read up here! Starters are always included with motor packs, but, as there is only one for each of them, it doesn't hurt to pick up extras!
To ignite the motor, a current needs to be sent through the starter for it to heat up enough. This is done with a launch controller. The Sky Launch System is your best choice for beginner kits. It includes both a launch pad and controller!
Don't forget your wadding, either! The burst at the end of the motor burn is very hot and can melt your parachute if it's not protected. The easist solution to this is disposable wadding. Just put a few sheets of this fire-retardant tissue paper into your rocket before you pack the parachute
Got it? Not really? Want us to just give you everything you need in a tidy little package?
Pick up the Apprentice Starter Set!
It's got the rocket, motors, launch pad, launch controller and wadding. You'll just need some glue, maybe some paint, and a space to launch it.
If you don't want the Apprentice, look for the "Starter Sets" below add to cart button on a Skill Level 1 rocket's information pages and click the "Buy The Set" button for a starter package with a discount!
Don't want the starter set? Here's what you need from us to fly your rocket.
- Launch Pad
- Launch Controller
If you're looking for classroom packs and deals, have a gander at our Educator quick-start guide.
If you have any questions that weren't answered here, don't hesitate to give us a call.
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