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Basic Rocket Knowledge

1. What is rocketry?
2. Parts of a rocket
3. Rocket engines and a typical flight
4. The !R "odel #afety $ode
%. &'ties of la'nch officers
(. )ngine classes and so*e rocket +*ath,
-. $o**on con.ersion factors for rocket /*ath/
1. What is rocketry?
Rockets ha.e a si*ple 0o12 they are 1'ilt to lift a certain weight 3the payload4 to a certain height5 's'ally as high
as possi1le. The power to do this is al*ost always acco*plished 1y a rocket motor or rocket engine. Rocket
*otors work 1y 1'rning so*e kind of f'el .ery fast and 'sing the recoil fro* the +ash, to p'sh the rocket
6deally the payload is s'pposed to s'r.i.e the trip7 all rockets sho'ld 1e 1'ilt with a reco.ery syste* of so*e
kind so that 1oth the rocket and payload can ret'rn to the gro'nd safely.
The story of the 1eginning of a*ate'r and *odel rocketry is well doc'*ented in the 1ook 8Rocket Boys95 1y
!#! engineer :o*er :ickha*7 a * was *ade fro* the story2 October Sky. )ssentially... the R'ssians
la'nch #p'tnik5 the first satellite to or1it aro'nd the earth. Beca'se of #p'tnik5 !*ericans tho'ght they were
1ehind the R'ssians in rocket technology5 and so there was s'ddenly a lot of p'1lic interest in rockets. "any
+non;professional, people e<peri*ented with rockets witho't really knowing anything a1o't the*7 so*e people
got .ery 1adly h'rt as a res'lt of this and a few e.en died.
6n 1=%- *odel rocketry was in.ented5 as defined 1y the !R #afety $ode. "odel rocketry allows children and
ad'lts to safely e<peri*ent with rockets 1y agreeing to follow a set of r'les. The ational !ssociation of
Rocketry was for*ed 1=%>. The !R tests rocket *otors5 sponsors regional and national contests5 offers
ins'rance5 and o't acade*ic scholarships to yo'ng rocket st'dents.
2. Parts of a Rocket ? see +Parts of a "odel Rocket, diagra*
a. ose cone ? +c'ts thro'gh the air, ? caps off top of 1ody t'1e and strea*lines rocket so that it can
fly faster and higher. $o*es off at *otor e0ection so that reco.ery syste* can ret'rn rocket safely to
the gro'nd.
1. Body t'1e or airfra*e ? the *ain part of the rocket to which all the other parts are attached7 ho'ses
the reco.ery syste*5 payload5 and *otor *o'nt.
c. Reco.ery syste* ? co'ld 1e a parach'te or a strea*er 3a long ri11on of so*e light *aterial4 attached
to nose cone and 1ody t'1e with a shock cord. #lows down rocket fro* the top of its flight so that
the rocket and payload are not da*aged.
d. #hock cord ? a length of elastic *aterial connecting the nose cone and reco.ery syste* to the 1ody
e. @ins ? keeps the rocket flying straight d'ring flight.
f. "otor *o'nt ? hold the rocket engine sec'rely 1't allows it to 1e re*o.ed easily after 'se.
g. Aa'nch l'g or 1'tton ? attaches rocket to la'nch pad and g'ides it after la'nch 'ntil the rocket is
* fast eno'gh for the fins to hold it straight.
3. Rocket )ngines and a typical flight ? see +"odel Rocket )ngines, and +Rocket @light,
Parts of an engine
a. $asing ? holds all the parts of the engine together and contains the co*1'stion of the f'el so it can
1e directed o't of the noBBle.
1. oBBle ? steers the e<ha'st of the 1'rning f'el so that it all * away fro* the engine in one
direction. The shape of the noBBle,s throat deter*ines how well it does this.
c. Propellant or @'el Crain ? the engine 1'rns this f'el to prod'ce power or thrust. "odel rocket
engine f'el is 's'ally co*pacted 1lack powder 3g'npowder45 while *id; and high;power *otors
's'ally 1'rn a**oni'* perchlorate 3!P4.
d. &elay chargeDtracking s*oke ? after the propellant is e<ha'st5 this charge 1'rns for a set period of
ti*e to gi.e the rocket ti*e to coast to its *a<i*'* height. The delay charge also contains a
*aterial that creates s*oke so that the rocket is *ore .isi1le d'ring flight.
e. )0ection charge ? an e<plosi.e charge that is triggered when the delay charge is done 1'rning. The
e<plosion p'shes the nose cone and reco.ery syste* o't of the rocket so that it can ret'rn gently to
the gro'nd. )0ection charges are 's'ally *ade of loose 1lack powder.
f. 6gniter ? a piece of wire coated with so*e kind of fla**a1le *aterial5 or pyrogen. The igniter is
placed in contact with the end of the propellant grain 1y inserting the igniter thro'gh the noBBle of
the engine. When a 1attery is connected to the ends of an igniter5 the wire gets .ery hot and sets off
the pyrogen5 which in t'rn starts the propellant in the *otor 1'rning.
"odel Rocket @light
a. 6gnition ? the propellant in the rocket,s engine is started 'sing an electric ignition syste* that
connects a 1attery to an igniter inserted into the engine.
1. Powered flight ? while the engines propellant is 1'rning5 the rocket accelerates rapidly off the pad
and 'p into the air. The rocket reaches its *a<i*'* speed at the *o*ent the propellant is
c. $oast phase ? the rocket engine is 1'rning the delay charge d'ring this phase7 the rocket is slowing
down d'e to air resistance 3drag4 and gra.ity as it coasts 'pward.
d. )0ection ? at or near the peak of the flight5 the delay charge is e<ha'sted and the e0ection 1charge is
triggered5 p'shing o't the reco.ery wadding5 reco.ery syste*5 and nose cone.
e. Reco.ery ? the rocket floats gently down to the gro'nd5 slowed 1y its reco.ery syste*. $heck the
rocket for da*age5 prep it for la'nch with a new engine5 and fly it againE
4. #afety $ode ? see the +!R "odel Rocket #afety $ode, sheet attached
F'st like the g'ys on 8"yth1'sters95 *odel rocket flyers are pro'd to 1e +professionals,. The "odel
Rocket #afety $ode is a set of r'les that we .ol'ntarily follow7 no +police, are going to arrest 's for .iolating it.
The $ode is there to *ake s're that we don,t h'rt o'rsel.es5 so*eone else5 or da*age so*eone,s property
while flying rockets. #ince 1=%> at least (GG *illion *odel rockets ha.e 1een flown with H serio's in0'ries
or deaths7 this is an a.erage of *ore than ten *illion safe flights a yearE #ince o'r cl'1 will sponsor la'nch
e.ents where the p'1lic is in.ited to o1ser.e and participate5 it is especially i*portant that we set an e<a*ple of
how rocketry #:HIA& 1e done7 and that *eans doing e.erything we can to *ake o'r ho11y as safe as possi1le
for e.eryone in.ol.ed.
!ct'ally5 the @ederal !.iation !d*inistration 3@!!4 does reg'late so*e *odel rocket flights7 yo' *ay
ha.e to get per*ission fro* the @!! for any acti.ity near an airport or for the flight of any rocket hea.y
eno'gh or high eno'gh to 1e dangero's to an airplane. We only need to worry a1o't this with the larger *odel
rockets5 tho'gh.
!ll these r'les *ay see* like a 1ig +1'**er, 1'tJ. 6f yo' play .ideo ga*es5 yo' pro1a1ly know what
happens when yo' start to 'se +cheat codes,7 the ga*es aren,t near as *'ch f'n to play. 6n rocketry5 there are
so *any different things yo' can try that it can 1e diffic'lt to *ake 'p yo' *ind what to do7 the #afety $ode yo' so*e li*its and helps narrow yo'r choices.
%. &'ties of la'nch officers
Aa'nch officers 3ad.ised 1y ad'lts4 are appointed on rotating 1asis 1y the cl'1 Board of &irectors. !ll
la'nch officers are responsi1le for *aking s're safety code is followed d'ring la'nch e.ents. Aa'nch officers
are official witnesses of cl'1 record and K'alification flights7 these flights *'st 1e declared ahead of ti*e in
order to co'nt. The *ost i*portant la'nch officers are2
Aa'nch $ontrol Hfficer 3A$H4 ? Responsi1le for *onitoring safety in the la'nch area. $hecks in
flights5 *anages pad assign*ents5 s'per.ises flights. $o**'nicates with other la'nch officers5 tracking and
reco.ery crews. "aster of cere*onies d'ring rocket flights.
Range #afety Hfficer 3R#H4 ? 6nspects rockets for sta1ility5 payload and reco.ery sec'rity5 co*pliance
with safety code. !ssists flyers with la'nch preparation. !ssists A$H 1y *onitoring la'nch area for safety
pro1le*s. $an stop la'nch operations at any ti*e5 and his word is final 3o.errides the A$H4 on any K'estion of
Refer to the cl'1 /Range #afety R'les/ doc'*ent5 as well as the /Range #afety Hfficer Training/ and
/Aa'nch $ontrol Hfficer Training/ *an'als for *ore infor*ation a1o't la'nch operations and the d'ties of the
A$H and R#H.
(. )ngine classes and so*e rocket +*ath,
The !R "odel Rocket #afety $ode reK'ires that all *odel rockets 'se !R;certified5 co**ercially
prod'ced engines. "odel5 *id;5 and high;power engines are organiBed into alpha1etical *otor impulse classes.
"odel rockets flyers generally 'se classes +!, to +&, or *id;power classes +), thr' +C,. :igh;power *otors
are 's'ally +:,class or larger5 'p to +H,. !n engine one letter higher in the alpha1et is twice as powerf'l7 in
other words a +B, engine is twice as powerf'l as an +!, engine. Twice as *'ch power can *ean *any different
twice as *'ch weight can 1e lifted
the engine 1'rns twice as long
the rocket accelerates twice as fast
Jor a co*1ination of all three of the a1o.e.
! co**only 'sed *odel rocket engine5 the )stes !> series5 can easily lift a rocket that weighs a1o't 2 o'nces7
fro* this fact we can g'ess that an )stes &125 which is a1o't > ti*es as powerf'l5 co'ld lift 'p to a po'nd 31(
:ere,s a handy ta1leJ
6*p'lse $lass )K'i.alent n'*1er of +!, engines "a<. 6*p'lse in ewton;seconds
! +*odel, 1 2.%
B +*odel, 2 %.G
$ +*odel, 4 1G
& +*odel, > 2G
) +*odel, or +*id;power, 1( 4G
@ +*odel, or +*id;power, 32 >G
C +*odel, or +*id;power, (4 1(G
: +high;power,5 le.el 1 12> 32G
6 +high;power,5 le.el 1 2%( (4G
F +high;power,5 le.el 2 %12 12>G
K +high;power,5 le.el 2 1G24 2%(G
A +high;power,5 le.el 2 2G4> %12G
" +high;power,5 le.el 3 4G=( 1G24G
+high;power,5 le.el 3 >1=2 2G4>G
H +high;power,5 le.el 3 1(3>4 4G=(G
)ngines and rocket *ath5 contin'edJ
!ll !R;certified engines are la1eled 'sing a co**on syste* that tells yo' so*e 1asic things a1o't the
engine2 the alpha1etical *otor i*p'lse class5 the a.erage thr'st of the *otor in ewtons5 and the length of the
delay charge in seconds. ! ewton is a *etric 'nit7 4.4% ewtons of thr'st eK'als 1 po'nd of thr'st. The la1els
are not always acc'rate 1't can gi.e yo' a good idea of how the rocket engine will perfor*.
What is i*p'lse5 yo' *ay ask? !n engine,s power or +i*p'lse, is a co*1ination of how hard it p'shes
the rocket 3the thr'st4 and how long it p'shes the rocket 3the 1'rn ti*e4. @or any *otor in a partic'lar
alpha1etical +class, the i*p'lse of the engine will 1e a1o't the sa*e. @or instance5 any +:, *otor will prod'ce
so*ewhere 1etween 1(G and 32G ewton;seconds.
#o5 if yo' know the a.erage thr'st and i*p'lse rating of the rocket *otor5 yo' can fig're o't the 1'rn
ti*e. 6f a partic'lar +:, has an i*p'lse of 3GG ;s5 this *ay *ean that it can +p'sh, the rocket with 3G ewtons
of thr'st for 1G seconds5 or 1%G ewtons for 2 seconds5 etc. Working 1ackwards5 yo' can see that an )stes !>;
3 rocket engine prod'ces >.G ewtons of thr'st for a1o't G.32 seconds7 > ti*es G.32 sec eK'als a1o't 2.% ;s
of i*p'lse5 which *atches the ta1le a1o.e.
)<a*ple ; !n )stes B(;4 *odel rocket engine is2
a. ! +B,5 so it is a1o't twice as powerf'l as an +!, engine. This engine sho'ld 1e a1le to lift 4 o'nces
3incl'ding itself4 into the air safely.
1. The a.erage thr'st sho'ld 1e a1o't ( ewtons. ( di.ided 1y 4.4% L 1.34 so ( ewtons is a1o't 1.34
l1s. of thr'st.
c. The delay charge 3how long the rocket will 1e allowed to coast4 is a1o't 4 seconds.
d. The B( series has a1o't % ewton;secs of i*p'lse5 so the engine will 1'rn for %D( or G.>3 seconds.
)<a*ple ? !n !erotech C(4;1GW *id;power engine is2
a. ! +C,. 6t sho'ld ha.e a1o't (4 ti*es the power of an +!,. While this *otor sho'ld 1e a1le to
handle a 4;po'nd rocket5 an !erotech C(4 is a +wi*py, C 3it has less than 1(G ewton;seconds of
i*p'lse4 so it can only lift a1o't 3 l1s. with the engine and *otor casing incl'ded.
1. The a.erage thr'st is (4 ewtons5 *ore than 1G ti*es that of a B(;47 a1o't 1% l1s. of thr'st.
c. The delay is a1o't 1G seconds.
d. ! C(45 1eing wi*py5 is rated at 12G ;s of i*p'lse5 so the engine will 1'rn for 12GD(45 or a little
less than 2 seconds.
e. The +W, on the end tells yo' that this *otor 'ses a special type of !P propellant called +White
Aightning,. +W,;f'eled *otors are .ery lo'd and prod'ce lots of white s*oke.
The *an'fact'rers of rocket *otors can s'pply yo' with *ore detailed n'*1ers for their engines2 the
e<act +i*p'lse, the engine prod'ces5 the a*o'nt of ti*e it takes to 1'rn5 e<actly how *'ch the engine weighs
1efore and after it has 1een 'sed. Mo' can e.en get a thrust curve for the *ost pop'lar engines5 which tells
a1o't how *'ch thr'st the engine prod'ces at each point in ti*e 1etween ignition and 1'rno't. Nery few real
engines 1'rn e.enly5 so the thr'st that a *otor prod'ces can change K'ite a 1it fro* ignition to 1'rno't. #ee the
+Pop'lar "odel Rocket )ngines, sheet for *ore detailed n'*1ers on engines7 we will 'se so*e of those
n'*1ers for so*e *ore +rocket *ath, 1elow.
-. $o**on con.ersion factors for /rocket *ath/
Beca'se rocket science 'ses a lot of *etric 'nits instead of the co**on )nglish ones5 the following ta1le *ight
co*e in handy2
@ro* Init To Init
;;;;;;;;;;;;; ;;;;;;;;;;
1 ewton L G.22% po'nds 3force4
1 po'nd 3force4 L 4.4% ewtons
1 o'nce L 2>.3% gra*s
1 kilogra* L 1GGG gra*s
1 kilogra* L 2.2G4 po'nds 3weight4
1 po'nd 3wt4 L 1( o'nces
1 po'nd 3wt4 L 4%3.( gra*s
1 po'nd 3wt4 L G.4%3( kilogra*s
1 *eter L 3.2> feet
1 *eter L 3=.3-4 inches
1 *eter L 1GGG ** or 1GG c*
1 inch L 2%.4 ** or 2.%4 c*
1 *ile L %2>G feet
1 *ile L 1(1G *eters
1 *eter per second L 3.2> feet per second
1 *eter per second L 2.23( *iles per ho'r
1 foot per second L G.(>1> *iles per ho'r
1 *ile per ho'r L G.44- *eters per second
!nd here are so*e handy /constants/2
!cceleration of gra.ity L =.>1 *eters per second per second 3*etric4
!cceleration of gra.ity L 32.2 ft per second per second 3)nglish4
&ensity of air at sea le.el L 1.22% kilogra*s per c'1ic *eter