Budding scientists and rocket enthusiasts alike will enjoy the thrill that bottle rockets provide. A simple construction task with everyday household items can provide hours of outdoor summer entertainment. The rockets are an interesting example of Newton's laws of motion, but do shoot up with great velocity and should be enjoyed responsibly.
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Stabilising your Rocket
Clean out the bottle and remove the cap from the bottle top. Fashion a piece of poster board into a nose cone and tape it in place with clear office tape. Experiment with nose cone height to find the one that works best for your rocket; its open-end width should equal the width of the bottle. Placing a weight, about 85.1gr., in the inside top of the nose cone will help stabilise your craft. Metal nuts or modelling clay make perfect nose cone weights. Cut the bottom of the nose cone straight and tape it to the bottom of the bottle. Cut 4 fins (any shape) from poster board and glue them, spaced evenly, around the sides of the rocket. Experiment with different fin shapes and dimensions. The fins should be glued around the top of the bottle; tips of the fins should be in line with the top of the bottle.
Making a Launch Pad
Select a site that is open and free of children or pets. The rockets have high velocity and may injure observers. Get a 1/4-inch metal rod and push it into the ground at a 45 degree angle. Tape a straw, vertically, to the side of your rocket and, when the time comes, thread the straw onto the metal rod. This will provide a stable launch pad for your bottle rocket.
Making the Rocket Fly
Get a rubber stopper that fits into the lid of your bottle. Using a drill, make a small hole in the centre, just big enough to snugly fit the needle of a bicycle pump. The stopper and needle should be a tight fit or air pressure will escape and the rocket will lose altitude. Fill your soda bottle 1/4 to 1/3 with water and push the stopper (with the needle) in. Slide the straw over the metal rod and connect the needle to the bicycle pump. Start pumping and, when the pressure pushes out the rubber stopper, the bottle will fly into the air.
Decorating your Rocket
If you are making the rocket for a school project or science fair, dress it up. Wrap an additional piece of poster board around the middle of the soda bottle; use a medium-heat glue gun instead of tape. Use markers, stickers or paint to turn your rocket into your favourite cartoon space ship, an aeroplane or a NASA rocket. You can tie streamers to the fins for added effect. Keep in mind, though, that adding decorations, fins and tape can affect the bottle's performance. If it's speed and height you are after, you should consider a minimalist approach.
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