Astronomy

How to Purchase the Perfect Hobby Rocket



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Look at the streaming vapor following a jet; look closely at the lifting of an unbelievably heavy space shuttle and imagine what science creates these spectacles: rocketry. For some of us, model rocket kits are the closest we'll come to space, a sometimes one-thousand-foot or higher voyage into the lowest levels of the troposphere. Rocket kits allow us to send something into areas we could never reach, challenging gravity itself. But, what tips should you follow when buying model rocket supplies? What exactly do you need before you brave the local soccer field for your maiden voyage?

Rocketry is simple in principle. A charged propellant is essentially shoved into an aerodynamic tube and, when ignited, will force a tremendous amount of energy out of the end of said tube, forcing Newton's laws concerning equal reactions into effect. Yet, if things concerning rockets are so simple, why is the anecdote: "I'm not a rocket scientist" so frequently used? Because your rocket may lift off when ignited, but getting it back in one piece is a different story.

Rockets will usually come packaged as a cardboard paper towel shaped roll, several plastic payload and nose cone areas, and a set of balsa fins for straight flying. Rockets are exciting, because they vary in size; some rockets are under a foot long, while others are over two feet. Construct your rocket using lightweight glue and make sure all fins are sturdy, and that your glue has fully hardened before your launch.

Most rocket sets will include a recovery system, a simple plastic parachute that if constructed properly will deploy when gravity tugs tightly enough on the releasing nose cone. The parachute will assist in slowing the rocket down so that it does not free-fall at speeds that would bring it crashing back to Earth in splinters. It is very important to not only use the parachute you are provided, but fold it in the manner your instruction manual describes. Also very important to the recovery system is rocket wadding. Wadding is essentially a tissue paper material that will burn up inside the rocket to keep the motor from incinerating the parachute.

Motors are another factor to consider. For instance, some rockets are much too small for certain high-powered motors, while some are so large that small motors are impractical for use. It is important to understand your launch location and realize how far a motor will take your rocket, and into what kind of terrain. If obstructions abound, and you can find no other place to launch, make sure you are using low-powered motors (in the A variety) to keep your rocket from making a permanent home in a tall tree.

Remember also to buy a proper launch pad, these usually run about twenty-five dollars and will electronically ignite your motors, making your rocket hobby a legal, and safe one. Igniting using any other method is not only idiotic, but illegal almost anywhere you go.

Be safe with your hobby, and touch the sky!

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