Apollo 15 launch

Rocketry, 1926 – “Our only way off the planet—so far.” — George Dyson

A rocket in its simplest form is a chamber enclosing a gas under pressure. A small opening at one end of the chamber allows the gas to escape, and in doing so provides a thrust that propels the rocket in the opposite direction.

Modern rockets – Today, rockets are much more reliable. They fly on precise courses and are capable of going fast enough to escape the gravitational pull of Earth. Modern rockets are also more efficient today because we have an understanding of the scientific principles behind rocketry. Our understanding has led us to develop a wide variety of advanced rocket hardware and devise new propellants that can be used for longer trips and more powerful takeoffs.

  • Rocket Engines and Their Propellants
  • Engine Thrust Control
  • Stability and Control Systems
  • Mass

Here are some rocket projects

Straw rocket template

  • Soda-Straw Rocket

This rocket activity is easy to do with just paper and soda straws. Follow the steps in the Engineering Design Process.

Additional information and the template for the rocket are available.
NASA Soda-Straw Rockettemplate .PDF

  • Ask – Most people can not visit NASA. So NASA put together ideas for projects that show how rockets work. How do rockets work? Does a model rocket work the same way a NASA rocket works? What are the similarities?
  • Imagine – What are all the things we can learn about rockets with a model?
  • Plan – What if the model rocket doesn’t work? What if it works really well?


  1. Print the template .PDF file with the pattern and the Data Log.
  2. Carefully cut out the rectangle. This will be the body tube of the rocket. Wrap the rectangle around a pencil length-wise and tape the rectangle so that it forms a tube.
  3. Carefully cut out the two fin units. Align the rectangle that extends between the two fins with the end of your body tube and tape it to the body tube. Nothing should stick out past the body tube! Do the same thing for the other fin unit but tape it on the other side of the pencil so you have a “fin sandwich.”
  4. Bend the one fin on each fin unit 90 degrees so each fin is at a right angle to its neighbor. When you look along the back of the rocket, the fins should form a “+” mark.
  5. Using the sharpened end of your pencil, twist the top of the body tube into a nose cone. Measure your nose cone from its base to its tip and record the length on your Data Log and on the rocket itself. (For the Data Log, create a chart on a piece of paper with columns labeled Rocket Length and Distance Traveled. For every attempt, fill in the log.)
  6. Remove the pencil and replace it with a soda straw. Blow into the straw to launch your rocket! Record the distance it travels on your Data Log.
  • Improve – How could the rocket be modified to fly further? How much difference does the change make?

Engineering ideas

  • rocket, fin, nose cone, thrust, propellent, control systems, Newton’s Laws

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Build a Self-Powered Rocket – Use a simple chemical reaction to launch a small object.
  • Soda Pop Can Hero Engine – Newton’s Laws of Motion – Water streaming through holes in the bottom of a suspended soda pop can causes the can to rotate.
  • Ultimate straw rocket – video instructions, [[|fin pattern]] – more printing and cutting
  • NASA straw rocket
  • Gravity Launch (game-based learning, app, free) – Start out with Get to Orbit and Land on the Moon missions to perfect your technique with the controls and then go forth on the mission of your choosing. They’re divided into three levels of difficulty. Play on your own or race against a friend

Learn more…

Teaching and learning