In the fast-paced grind of the everyday 9 to 5, there’s little time to unwind by sharing precious moments and experiences with loved ones. As busy as life gets, hobbies allow you to slow down and take a break for a bit. They nurture your creativity and allow you to build new skills. They also establish new relationships with like-minded people or grow those that already exist.
One such creative and fulfilling hobby is building rocket models. It tests our reasoning and problem-solving skills and expands our need for knowledge. Truth be told, realistic rocket ship kits are super fun and easy to assemble, and watching these little creations fly and then land safely will always bring a smile to anyone’s face.
What Goes into a Model Rocket?
Getting round the parts is the first thing you need to do when putting together a model rocket. These parts closely resemble their real-life counterparts and function in pretty much the same way once they’re assembled properly.
In general, model rockets consist of an elongated tube that forms the missile’s body. This tube can be made of different materials, from cardboard to plastic or metal, but it needs to be lightweight. Pole-mounted launch lugs are attached on each side to provide more stability during lift-off.
On the bottom part of the body, you’ll find inserts for the engine mount as well as the recovery gear which is necessary for a safe landing. The recovery system is made up of two essential parts – the shock cord and parachute. The shock cord holds all the separate parts together, so the rocket doesn’t disintegrate once the ejection charge forces out the parachute. Safety wadding is installed between the engine and the parachute to prevent the model from catching fire.
The nose cone can be found at the top. Its main purpose is to cut through the air during flight, which is why it usually consists of lightweight materials, such as balsa wood. At the opposite end of the body are the fins, which can be differently shaped, and in varying numbers. Their base function is to allow the rocket to retain its course on the way up.
The engine is fitted to the bottom of the rocket body, inside the engine mount. Engines come in different sizes and have varying amounts of thrust force to push the whole assembly upward.
Most of them use condensed black powder as the ejection charge. More advanced rockets may have liquid fuel as a propellant, coupled with a separately-housed oxidiser for ignition. Both models are single use only, so after each flight, the rocket is disassembled and a new engine fitted.
Beginner vs Advanced Rocket Ship Kits
In newbie rocket ship kits, all the necessary items are supplied. This makes things easier for beginners to practice and develop their skills, all while minimising the risk of errors in assembly.
Alternatively, advanced models let you choose individual parts, so that more experienced rocket builders can experiment with different engine types. Engines are labelled with letters and numbers. These denote the amount of thrust and coasting time before the ejection charge kicks in. A, B and C engines are smaller at 18mm while D engines come in at 24mm. Make sure you check the size chart to see if the engine could fit inside your particular model.
Launching Your Assembled Rocket
Once everything is assembled and the decals applied, your rocket is ready for launch. The lugs on the body slide onto the launch rail that stems from the launchpad. To get your rocket into the air, you’ll ignite the propellant using a launch controller. Simply flip the switch on the controller and your rocket is ready to go.
How far the rocket flies depends on its weight, size and engine type. Some models can travel hundreds of kilometres and go as high as 800 metres. When the fuel in the engine is used up, the parachute is released and the model slowly finds its way back to the ground. To go for another round, you need to replace the wadding, add another engine and repeat the launch setup.
While most people would associate building model rockets with children, people of all ages can take part in this thrilling hobby. If you’re feeling a bit hesitant at the start, try out some of the more basic kits to help you hone your skills. And don’t worry – most of them have detailed manuals and instructions on how to put together all the parts, so you won’t be left to your own devices.
As you become more experienced, you can move up to the more complex models which can further develop your skills and expertise when it comes to building model rockets. After all, nothing beats the feeling of pride and accomplishment once you’ve finished a rocket that you’ve been building for hours.