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Rocket Lab

Amy Damian
Academy for Math, Engineering and Science
Written for Mr. Hendrickss Honors Physics Class

Multiple rockets heights were mathematically predicted, after that the rockets were shot
and the real height was calculated. The two heights were compared. To predict the height, the
different engine thrusts were calculated, and also the drag coefficients of the rockets. The final
heights were measured by using protractors to get angles, and trigonometry. The predicted and
actual heights of the rockets were very close. One of the rockets, which was the red/yellow with
an A engine, actual height was the same as the predicted height, which was 63 meters. The white
rocket with an A engines predicted height was 28 meters and the actual was 21 meters. The
Black/Red rocket with a C engines predicted height was 184 meters and the actual was 105
meters. The red/silver with an A engines predicted height was 32 meters, and its actual height
was 27 meters. The last rocket, Red/Silver with C engine, had a prediction height of 204 meters
and its actual was 134 meters.

In physics it is very important to know how Kinematics and Dynamics work. Kinematics
is the study of motion and dynamics is the study of forces and how they affect motion. The goal
of this lab was to understand these two concepts and to review them. In order to do this, model
rockets were shot, but before the heights were mathematically predicted and once they were shot,
they were calculated. In order to predict the heights there were many steps to accurately find
In order to calculate the height, the impulse and force of an engine had to be found.
Impulse is defined as force multiplied by the change in time. Momentum, P, is the tendency for a
moving object to continue to move. Momentums equation is P=Mass*Velocity. The impulse
momentum theorem is defined as FT=P. The way it was derived was, since impulse equals to
the change in net force, multiplied by the change in time(Fnett), and Momentum, is equal to
mass times velocity(mv). Impulse is equal to change in momentum, so this means that:

Fnett= mVfinal- mVinitial
Impulse is used to identify what type of engine is being used. There are different types of
model rocket engines that have a different impulse and force. The engines are labeled with a
letter then a number. The letter stands for the total impulse and the number stands for the force.
The three different type of rocket engines that were available were A, B and C engines. An A
engine had an impulse of 2.5, a B engine had an impulse of 5, and a C engine had an impulse of
10. For example, an A8 engine had an impulse of 2.5 and a Force of 8 newtons. The rockets were
going to be shot with any of these types of engines, so the thrust had to be calculated. In order to
do that, the impulse/momentum theorem was used.

After finding the thrust, air resistance had to be into consideration. Air resistance was also
referred as drag force. Drag force, was going to make a huge impact on the height of the rocket.
The drag force is define as, the amount of force that is acting on an object due to drag. The
equation for it is, FdV2. In order to make the proportion equal, a constant was needed. The
constant is the drag coefficient, which is kd. The constant plays an important role in shooting
rockets. The drag coefficient was calculated for all the rockets. In order to find the drag
coefficient, it had to be done in an experiment.
After the drag coefficient was found, the heights of the rockets needed to be predicted
mathematically. In order to do that, an excel sheet was used to do the work because doing it by
hand would have taken way longer. Numerical iteration was used to do this. The reason why was
because the force was always changing so for every different force, there would be a different
height. The time that t would take the rocket to reach the highest point was broken into little
pieces, and was assumed that the force was constant. This was only an assumption because it
made the math easier. The intervals were relatively small, so the results could be more accurate.
Once the heights were mathematically predicted, the rockets were shot and the heights were
calculated, and both were compared.

Engine Thrust Analysis

The purpose of this section of the lab was to find exactly how much thrust the engine puts
out at each tenth of a second interval because the data would be needed to predict how high the
rocket will fly. A smaller goal was to figure out what type of rocket engine was used in this
The materials of this lab were the rocket engine on a cart, digital force gauge, a
calculator, a rail, a book, and an igniter with a phosphorus head connected to a battery.

Before the engine was actually fired, it had to be connected the digital force gauge to the
calculator to record data. Once that was done data mate, a program to record data was used. In
data mate it recognized it was a force sensor. The rocket engine had to be positioned on the cart
to zero out the gauge. Once that was done, set up mode was clicked, then to time graph and
programmed the calculator to record every tenth of a second. It was set to record 30 samples in 3
seconds. After that triggering was used, which was made to decreasing and added a threshold of
a Newton, which was put in as a negative number because if was calculating a pulling force
instead of pushing. The last thing that was done was that it was prestored to 10%.
After all that, the engine had to be lit outside. It was positioned on the rail at an angle
using a book so the cart wouldnt fall out of the rail. The rail had a force gauge on it and the cart
with the rocket engine was connected to it, and the gauge was connected to the calculator, to
record results. The igniter with a phosphorus head was put into the little hole of the engine
which was connected to a battery in order to make the engine fire from a distance.
Then finally the engine was fired by using an electrical current and the calculator
recorded the data.



Once the data was recorded the data had to be graphed, so on the calculator, the stat
button was clicked. The data was edited and then put it to the right window and the graph came
out looking like this:

Once the data was graphed, the area under the curve had to be calculated because it
represents the Impulse (p). In order to do that, rectangles were used. The area of those
rectangles would be added together. The intervals were, t= .3 to t=1.4. Between that there were
12 rectangles.
0.033+0.076+0.538+1.043+0.483+0.444+0.426+0.426+0.419+0.416+0.347+0.030= 4.681

What labels the type of engine it is, is A, B or C. The letters stand for how much impulse
it has. A has an impulse of 2.5, B of 5, and C of 10. After, all the areas were added together the
answer was 4.681, which is the Impulse (p). 4.681 is close to 5 which labels this rocket engine
as a B engine. Now the type of engine was defined, the next step was to figure out if it was a B4,
B6 or B8. In order to calculate that, what was used was the equation,

t is defined as (tf-ti). In this case, tf=1.4 and ti=0.3
So what was solved for was F since numbers for Impulse and t were given.

F= 5.0/ (1.4-0.3) = 4.545454545
It came out as 4.545454545 which just rounds off to 4. So according to the data the
rocket engine ended up being a B4 engine, but in reality it was a B6 engine. The engine that was
on the cart moved, it didnt fire in a right direction; the cart shifted which affected the results,
and thats why the number was smaller.
Drag Force
The goal of this section of the lab was to find the drag force of the rocket, in order to find
the drag coefficient so it could be used for when rockets are being launched. Not only was that
the purpose but it was also to finally deal with air resistance because in the past, it was not
mentioned. The materials of this lab was the ping pong ball tied to a string from above and air
pushing it, a wind tunnel, a rocket hanging from a string, and a protractor.
Physicists have found that the drag force on a fast-moving object is proportional to the
velocity squared, and they found this doing an experiment. The equation is,

Fd v2
In order for this to be equal a constant was added which is kd. The equation is now,

Because the purpose of this section of the lab was to find the coefficient, the drag force
was needed to be found. So in order to do that, an example was given, if a ping-pong pall was
hung inside the wind tunnel and the velocity and mass of the ball was given, then the drag force

could be calculated. In order to do that a free body diagram had to be drawn, and then use the
equation F=ma, which is Newtons Second Law, with the forces in the X direction and Y

In the equation in the X direction, T was solved for in order to plug into the Y direction
equation, and therefore the Ts could cancel out because originally there were two unknowns and
only one equation. But with two then only one unknown would be needed to solve.

Now that the drag force was derived, the coefficient can we calculated. The mass of the
ping pong ball is 2.3 grams or 0.0023 kg. The wind speed was 12 m/s and the angle was 73o. The
drag force (Fd) ended up to be 0.0737 N. To find the coefficient just solve for Kd and it ends up
being 0.0005. The ping pong example was a good way so the coefficient could be calculated, so
by placing a rocket in a wind tunnel, hung from a string with a protractor, the coefficient of the
rocket could be calculated, like shown below.

The wind tunnels speed was measured; it blew at 34m/s, for the rocket. On the end of the
tunnel it contained a fan that created wind. The chamber, where the rocket is located, was
connected to the tunnel. In the tunnel was a honeycomb pattern, which was designed to blow the
wind evenly, to prevent an uneven and rough flow, which is called turbulent flow. The smooth
flow that is blown because of the honeycomb is called laminar flow. The honeycomb pattern
helped so the rocket wouldnt sway as much and could calculate the angle much more accurate.
The rocket had a mass of 61 g., and was hung with a string taped to the top of the
chamber. There was also a protractor, like I mentioned before, so the angle could be calculated.
When the air tunnel was off, the rockets string read 90 degrees. When the wind tunnel was
turned on, the rocket moved to the side at an angle.

The angle calculated was 30o vertical. There may be an inaccuracy error due to the fact that it
was calculated with the human eye. The angle, the wind speed and the mass can be used in the
equation that was derived.
Fd= (0.061) (9.8)(tan(30))

*61 grams was converted to kilograms*

Fd=0.345 N
Now that the drag force was calculated, the drag coefficient could be calculated as well.
Using the equation:

Since the drag coefficient is what needs to be solved for, using this equation, the
coefficient just needs to be solved algebraically. Once it is solved:



Now that all is needed, is to plug in the numbers to find the coefficient.

Kd =



Kd = 0.00029
Kd =0.0003

*Round to one Sig Fig*

The drag coefficient ended up being 0.0003. Afterwards a larger rocket was given to
calculate the coefficient, but unfortunately it could not fit into the chamber of the wind tunnel,
but it could still be approximated. To find the ball park, the ping pong ball and the smaller rocket
were used. The ping pong ball and the rocket were viewed from the head. They both looked like
circles. The ping pong ball is a perfect circle whiles the rocket had a pointed shaped. Therefore,
the drag coefficient of the larger rocket would be in between the coefficients of the ping pong
ball and the rocket that was just calculated. The drag coefficient of the larger rocket would have
to be between 0.0003 and 0.0005. Therefore the estimate of its coefficient would be 0.0004.

The coefficient will help to calculate how high a rocket will shoot out, because air
resistance needs to be put into consideration.
Numerical Model
The goal of this section of the lab was to calculate how high each of the three rockets will
go with what type of engines, so there were a total of 9 different possibilities. Not only was that
the purpose but it was the prediction of how high the rocket will go. The materials of this lab was
the excel sheet with all the formulas and all that was left to do was to plug in the numbers. What
was done was that an assumption was calculated. Something very important was that, the mass
being lost was ignored.
Before the numbers could be plugged in, the actual equations needed to be known how to
do. What was done first, drew a free body diagram of a rocket that had a mass of 70 grams and
had a C6 engine with a mass of 24 grams (this information came from the excel sheet which had
information about the engines). The total mass ended up being 94 grams or 0.094 kilograms. The
drag coefficient of the rocket was 0.0004. The assumption made was that FT=3.0 newtons, for
that one small time interval.

To fill out the chart, or excel sheet, the thrust was calculated by using the C6 engine
thrust that was on one of the pages of the excel sheet. These numbers came from the company
who makes the engines. After that to get average thrust, the thrust of time zero and the next time,

was averaged. After that the drag force was calculated and in this case it was zero because it was
not moving. The average net force was the Average thrust minus the mass times gravity minus
the drag force. The average net impulse was the Net force multiplied by t. Then the initial
velocity was zero as well because it was not moving. The final velocity was calculated by the
impulse equation, and just solved for Vf, like so:

Impulse= p=mvf-mvi
p= tF
Vf= (Ft+mvi)/m
That ended up being 2.21. The average velocity was the initial velocity and the final velocity
averaged. The final height was calculated using D=RT. So the final height ended up being

0.1105. Then the rest of the time was calculated like so:

(The circled number is the highest point)

In order to find the highest point, on the excel sheet, the numbers started decreasing. The
number before it started decreasing is the number that was the highest point of the model rocket.
In the end all three types of rockets were calculated using the excel sheet with
information, and all the different type of engine thrusts. Here is a chart of all the different heights
that were calculated with different engines.

Type of Rocket

Type of Engine

Height (meters)



24 m


67 m


184 m


28 m


75 m


197 m


63 m


132 m


281 m

Big White


Air resistance is really important, without it, it would change the predicted heights
because it acts as a force when the rocket is in the air. Air is pushing the rocket while in the air
and if it is ignored then that force will be completely gone which will change the numbers of the
predicted height to a much bigger height. At first the numbers look the same as if there was air
resistance, but then the numbers get bigger, and it makes a huge time difference on where it
reaches its highest height.

With air resistance the height was 197.32 meters, and without it, it was 412.92 meters.
That is a 215.6 difference. Its such a huge amount that they were not at all close, thats why air
resistance is important, in order to get accurate results.
Now, all 9 possibilities have been calculated and now rockets can be launched.

Flight Results
Finally it was time to launch the rockets; the purpose of this section of the lab was to
calculate how high the rockets went using a type of engine. The materials of this lab were the
four different types of rockets, engines (A engines and C engines), an igniter coated with
phosphorus, a launch pad and a battery connected to the igniter. Also what was used was non

flammable toilet paper to protect the parachute from burning, so when doing that, it was called

When the rockets were launched it was important to have three people, at exactly 50 feet
away from the launch pad so they could calculate the angle, which was calculated using a
protractor. The three angles would then be averaged in order to get a much better calculation,
because with one person it wouldnt be very accurate due to the fact that when rockets are
launched they dont go straight up but curve a bit.
In order to find the height, trigonometry was used, as mentioned before the three people
used protractors and another person was looking at the angle that the protractor read as the
person with the protractor looked through a straw. When measuring the height, what had to be
considered was the height of the person, which was approximately 1.5 meters, so when the trig
was done, at the end 1.5 had to be added. The triangle used to calculate the height looked like

The trigonometric equation used to calculate the height was:

An example of how to use this equation would be:
(50tan(21.67))= 19.8670970577
19.8670970577+1.5= 21.3670970577, this is rounded to 21 meters.
After all rockets were launched these were the results:





d Height


























28 meters 21
63 meters 63
32 meters 27

Something to keep in mind is that the Black/Red rocket was crooked when launched and
that is why it is not close to the prediction, also the Red/Silver rocket with a C engine was
crooked and that affected the results.

In conclusion, the predicted heights and the actual results were very close. One of them,
which was the red/yellow rocket, was 63 meters for the predicted height and the actual height.
There are many different things that could have affected the results. For the mathematical model
it was assumed that the rocket would go straight up, but in the real world, rockets usually curve a
little bit when going up. Wind is what causes them to curve, one day it could me windier than
another one, and it could affect the height of the rocket. Also the angles measured were by the
human eye which would give angles that werent exact, which would give different results.
Something that made a huge difference was that for all the other rockets the drag coefficient was
estimated. The drag coefficient for one of the rockets was calculated but for the others it wasnt.
In order to estimate, it would be between 0.0003 and 0.0005, it was assumed that it would be

0.0004. This coefficient only had one significant figure, which means that the drag coefficient
could have been 0.00035 or even 0.000321512. The actual heights werent all exactly the same
as the predicted heights but they were very similar.
I personally enjoyed this lab because it was really fun. My older sister, Evelin, had been
asking me if we had done the rocket project. One thing that I really hated was that it took a lot of
time, and I just wanted to sleep by the time I was almost finished with it. One thing that really
helped was that we did the labs separately and wrote a separate lab, then combined them into a
big one. It took much less work than what I anticipated. I was grateful that I typed them in the
first place, because I cant imagine how much of a pain it was to those who hand wrote their lab
reports. In my opinion the best part was when we actually launched rockets, it was a really fun
experience and I can see why my sister kept asking about it. In all fairness Im proud of the work
I did, and how long I spent on it to make it perfect.