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Model Rocket Maintenance and Technology

Lisa Richards, Educational Outreach Writer

Model rockets are small, low powered rockets designed to reach low altitudes and can be retrieved by various means. Plastic, wood, paper, and various other types of lightweight materials are used in their construction. The National Association of Rocketry provides guidelines and a safety code for selecting launch sites, launch methods, launcher placement, motor use, deployment, designs for recovery systems, and more. This code has been provided with the majority of model motors and rocket kits since early in the 1960s. Although rocket models are associated with flammable substances, pointed tips traveling at very high speeds, and various other concerns, it is a safe hobby and can provide inspiration for kids to eventually become engineers and scientists.

History of Model Rocketry

Model Missiles Incorporated was the first company that provided model rockets in America. A fireworks company in the same area, Denver Colorado, made the engines but due to delivery and reliability problems, the company was forced to seek engines elsewhere. Eventually Stine, the owner of (MMI) Model Missiles Incorporated, approached a man named Vernon Estes for help. After MMI closed, Estes founded his own company, Estes Industries. Estes Industries developed an automated machine that would manufacture motors for Stine"s company, MMI. Later Estes would be able to market the rocket motors and dominate the model rocket market. In 1961, Estes moved his company to Penrose, Colorado and in 1970 the company was acquired by Damon Industries. The company still operates in Penrose today.


Model rocketry is a widespread and safe hobby. Vernon Estes and G. Harry Stine are individuals who helped ensure this by publishing and developing the NAR Model Rocket Safety Codes and producing professionally manufactured and designed safe motors for model rockets. The code is a set of guidelines and only mandatory for people who are members of the National Association of Rocketry but are helpful for others as well. The main motivation for the hobby"s development was to provide youth with opportunities to construct models without engaging in the risky construction of motors and directly handling explosive propellants.


Most people who decide to get into model rocketry start with ready to fly kits. Then they'll move on to other kits in which they will have to construct the rocket or even design their own. Rockets have various parts including a nose-cone, a payload compartment, a body tube, fins, a launch lug, a motor tube, and a motor hook. When kits are purchased, they will come with an instruction manual that will help the owner build them. Some of the following resources provide instructions on how you can construct your own PVC and paper rockets:

Science and Model Rockets

Many educators struggle trying to figure out how to help their students become enthusiastic when it comes to learning certain subjects, as well as how to teach them how to apply their experiences to their lives. Memorizing and reading is not as interesting in helping students learn as hands on projects are. Using model rocketry will help students gain new insight, retain what they learn, and have fun in the process. Model rocketry can help people explore science as well as other curricula as they experience things similar to the great researchers they often only read about. With the guidance from an adult, students can design their own model rockets as well as conduct and modify experiments. They will construct the necessary tools in order to observe the experiment, collect the data, and verify the hypothesis. This is a unique way to allow students to become an active participant in discovering science.

General Fun and Interesting Facts

As the burning fuel from a rocket swells, it pushes the rocket forward. Rockets that use solid fuel are the oldest engines and the Chinese used these years before anyone else. Liquid fueled rockets are the most powerful of launch rockets; hydrogen is normally used in Space Shuttles and some rockets use kerosene as fuel. Only oxygen can burn liquid fuel so an oxidizer must also be carried by rockets. The first rocket using liquid fuel was launched in 1926 by Robert Goddard. Werner von Braun designed a war rocket, the German V2, which was the very first rocket with the capabilities to reach space.