Flying model rockets is a relatively safe and inexpensive way for students to learn the basics of forces and

the response of a vehicle to external forces. A model rocket is subjected to four forces in flight; weight, thrust, and the aerodynamic forces,lift and drag. There are many different types of model rockets. One of the first and simplest type of rocket that a student encounters is the bottle, or water rocket. The water rocket system consists of two main parts, the launcher and the rocket. On the figure we show a generic launcher, although launchers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The launcher has a base to support the rocket during launch. A hollow launch tube is mounted perpendicular to the base and is inserted into the base of the rocket before launch. The launch tube is connected to an air pump by a hollow feeder line. The pump is used to pressurize the inside of the body tube to provide thrust for the rocket. We have attached a pressure gage to the feeder line to display the change in pressure in the system. This part of the system is very similar to the simplecompressed air rocket. The other part of the water rocket system is the rocket itself. Usually the rocket is made from a 2-liter soda pop bottle. Before launch, the bottle is filled with some amount of water, which acts as the "propellant" for the launch. Since water is about 100 times heavier than air, the expelled water produces more thrust than compressed air alone. The base of the bottle is only slightly larger than the launch tube. When the rocket is placed on the launch tube, the body tube becomes a closed pressure vessel. The pressure inside the body tube equals the pressure produced by the air pump. Fins are attached to the bottom of the body tube to provide stability during the flight. The flight of a water rocket is similar to the flight of a compressed air rocket with one important exception. The mass of the bottle rocket varies during the flight because of the exhausting water plume. There are equations which have been developed for full scale rockets that account for this loss of mass. You can study the flight of a bottle rocket by using theRocketModeler II flight simulator. Because of the popularity of bottle rockets, we have an entire section of this web site devoted to water rockets.

Generally increasing a rocket volume will also increase altitude. The nozzle diameter should be optimized based on the various rocket parameters. Keep the body of the rocket as smooth as possible. 4. and adding a little weight to the rocket may increase altitude. A smaller diameter rocket can also hold higher maximum pressure. Consider your highly optimized rocket sitting on top of a booster. Also keep any payload weight to a minimum. The longer the launch tube the better. You can trickle fill the rocket before launch to make sure the optimal pressure is achieved. Keep weight to a minimum. Use a simulator to calculate the optimum weight for a particular rocket. 16. Streamline the leading and trailing edges of your fins. There should be no sharp transitions in the flow. although there is a corresponding weight penalty. 13. Small and simple single bottle rockets may sometimes be under their optimal weight. a minimal diameter rocket can reduce drag significantly. Use a launch tube on the launcher. Consider using a Tnozzle for better efficiency. 7. There may be limitations on changing the nozzle size due to the type of launcher and launch tube used. drag coefficient. Avoid any unnecessary protrusions into the air stream. Streamline the body of the rocket to reduce drag. Use higher pressures. Every rocket has an optimal weight. Large fins may also cause the rocket to be over-stable. It may be possible to reinforce the rocket to hold higher pressures without adding too much extra weight. Correctly designed multi-staged rockets can increase the altitude of the sustainer over single stage designs. As the air cools. increasing the pressure can have a significant impact on altitude gain. 10. 14. 15. While having the correct fin profile and shape is important. Use of real-time in-flight measured flight parameters for initiating staging can achieve best results. Increase rocket volume. Use a simulator to predict the best amount of water to use for each rocket configuration. 5. This doesn't increase drag significantly. See this document for more details. Use optimally shaped fins. Fins that are larger than what they need to be add to the drag and weight of the rocket. Use 3 fins instead of 4 or more. 12. A smooth transition from the rocket body diameter down to the nozzle will assist with base dragreduction. but more drag. Ensure smooth internal water flow through the nozzle. The optimal shape will vary based on the rocket design and the rockets flight profile. The diameter of the launch tube should be as big as possible and should be about the size of the nozzle to reduce the amount of water loss as the rocket accelerates up the tube. Use the right amount of water. every particular rocket will have an optimal water fill based on its weight. The best way to increase the volume is to make the pressure chamber longer. A launch tube can have a significant effect on the apogee of a rocket. 9. larger rockets typically come in above their optimum weight and as a result need to be built as light as possible. The best time to release the next stage is just after booster burn out just as the booster starts slowing down. The ideal shape is an elongated teardrop.Tips 1. 3. Use a boat-tail on the rocket. Note that a maximum sized nozzle may not be the most optimum size after the rocket leaves the launch tube. To reduce the profile drag of your fins they should have an aerofoil profile. pressure. Increase nozzle efficiency by ensuring non-turbulent flow of water and air from the pressure chamber and through the nozzle. Optimize stage release timing. The fins should have an optimal shape. While a third the volume may be a good approximation. 2. the use of less fins should result in less drag and less weight on the rocket. Use asimulator to figure out the optimal nozzle size. it is also important to not make the fins too large. If the launcher allows it. avoiding sharp transitions. Use an optimum sized nozzle. 6. Increasing the diameter of a rocket to increase the volume will not only result in more weight. the pressure will drop in proportion to the temperature decrease. and generally lower the maximum pressure the pressure vessel can hold. Allow the air to cool inside the pressure chamber. nozzle size etc. . See this document for more details. Use optimally sized fins. at the cost of volume. 8. As air is compressed inside the rocket it is heated. Use multiple stages. Polish the inside of the nozzle. As long as the rocket's pressure chamber remains within safe limits. Due to construction techniques. 11. and the rocket is otherwise designed to be stable. Depending on the construction materials available. Releasing the next stage of a multi-stage rocket is critical in maximizing the altitude reached.

Optimize direction of second stage after staging. The amount of weathercocking will depend on the rocket's stability design and the wind speed. Misaligned fins can cause more drag and potentially excessive rotation of the rocket. Use a rounded nosecone. Use a less dense liquid. Launch rockets on a hot day. Lower density air will lower the drag on the rocket. 26. However. how they work and how to find them. but is essential in reaching maximum altitude. Higher air temperature means lower density. Fins should also be as rigid as possible to prevent fins fluttering. Parabolic nosecones are the most efficient for water rockets as they travel well in the subsonic range. Less friction will result in higher take-off velocity. using a liquid other than water may mean that the rocket may not be considered a water rocket.17. Starting at a higher altitude means the air is less dense and therefore the rocket will experience less drag. See here forelevation vs air density graphs. 100% humid air is approximately ~1% less dense than dry air. 18. Changing the density of water can be achieved by aerating the water such as in a foam. 27. air density and temperature. Use a heavier gas. 24. 29. 25. 23. Launch rockets into thermals. Lower density liquid can have a positive effect on raising the apogee of the rocket. and a rocket that flies 5 degrees away from vertical will fly about 2-3% lower. Use a simulator to predict the altitude of a rocket with a lower density liquid. Fly on a windless day. Remove internal obstructions. 30.5% lower. Here is a nosecone shape comparison document detailing common nosecones used by model rockets. 28. Wind will cause the rocket to weather-cock into the wind causing it to fly in an arc and achieving a lower altitude than if it went straight up. Flying a rocket in a thermal can add extra tail wind to the rocket reducing drag. Rockets should be designed to bestable when they are dry. See the air density calculators for more information. An unstable rocket will not fly straight and achieve a lower altitude. At standard temperature and pressure at sea level. If the construction techniques allow. Thermals are also useful for increasing the air time of your rocket. 19. Make the rocket stable. consider removing flow constrictions such as couplings/baffles to insure most efficient flow and prevent water being retained during the thrust phase. Align the fins properly. a rocket that flies 2 degrees away from vertical will fly about 0. Colorado is ~15% less dense than at sea level. Some gasses like CO2 can provide better performance due to their heavier molecular weight and hence provide a greater reactive mass. A rocket that is overstable will tend to weather-cock more. The boost phase is generally very short with larger nozzles and so the rocket spends most of its ascent dry. Fly from higher elevation launch sites. Grease the launch tube for less friction. 20. The rocket looses energy due to drag and some of the energy goes into the rotation of the rocket. 21. make sure friction is reduced by lightly lubricating the launch tube. For example on average the air in Denver. Point the launcher as vertically as possible. Ensuring the next stage of a multi-stage rocket leaves as close to vertical as possible can be tricky. If you are using a launch tube with your launcher that has a relatively tight fit on the nozzle. Here is a document relating air pressure. When using smaller nozzles. See the air density calculators for more information. . 22. the rocket should be designed to be slightly more stable to account for the longer duration of the water being in the tail of the rocket. All things being equal. Streamlining the internal water and air flow adds to the efficiency of the rocket. Here is anextensive document on thermals. Launch rockets on a humid day. Humid air is less dense than dry air.

Make the fins from a lighter material Rocket flies straight but spins around its axis Misaligned fins. you may need to fix another. Rocket will 'weathercock' into the wind if th .Common Flight Patterns Here are some common rocket flight patterns. Of course a typical rocket may be influenced by a number of factors simultaneously. Asymmetric protrusions from rocket body such as camera housings or components of recovery systems such as air flaps. They should not flop around. one or more fins Use fin alignment jig to ensure proper orientation are not aligned with the rocket axis Warped fins Unevenly sized or irregularly shaped fins Use materials that don't warp when exposed to m Make fins using a template to ensure same size a fins Fins unevenly spaced around the Accurately measure the spacing of your fins arou rocket body Use a fin alignment jig. Try to make any protrusions symmetrical. The fins should be a possible. Rocket flies in an arc Cross wind Fly on less windy days or wait for calmer conditio gusts. After fixing one. A protr a rocket to both spin and fly in an arc. Flight path Rocket tumbles end over end soon after launch Probable Cause Rocket is unstable Potential Remedy Make the rocket stable by doing one or more of th       Add weight to the nose [1] Increase the fin size Lengthen rocket Move the fins further back Attach fins properly. their likely causes and suggestions on how to correct them.

increase the pressure. Water slosh due to the rocket not Water may be sloshing in the rocket as its launch pointed vertically on the launch sideways motion. Reduce the amount of water in the rocket. Practice good construction techniques to prevent rocket. The re payload components should be spread around th rocket to keep it balanced. Nozzle too small Too much water Not enough pressure Rocket performs an 'S' or fishtail Rocket is marginally stable in flight Rocket may be marginally stable until water runs improve stability. This can the launcher is not levelled properly and the wate the side of the rocket. If it is safe to do so. [2] Misaligned nozzle/ obstruction in Ensure the nozzle is aligned with the rocket axis nozzle Uneven airflow over rocket due to protrusions such as camera housings. Rocket body is bent Make protrusions from the rocket symmetrical an around the rocket. The rocket may also bend due to pressure Rocket flies in an arc but when water runs out flies straight Rocket is marginally stable Improve rocket stability. Increase the nozzle size if possible. air flaps etc. and then swings back when the pad reflects from the other side of the rocket. .Axially unbalanced Balance internal components in the rocket. Rocket is marginally stab water phase.

cameras. Plasticine or modelling clay are good options for this. Increase size of nozzle if possible. Secure launcher to the ground. Don't leave your rockets resting on their fins. [3] To check nozzle alignment. This will a reach stable flight sooner while pointing in the rig Wait for calmer conditions. Try to move things like batteries. Adding too much weight will reduce altitude. Practical Tips  [1] When adding weight to the nosecone. If the rocket consistently tips over to one side. Low takeoff acceleration potentially due to: Too much water Not enough pressure Nozzle too small Rocket is too heavy Reduce the amount of water in the rocket. then it is not axially balanced. or the rocket explodes on the pad. They are likely to warp over time and cause the rocket to spin on the next flight. insert tight fitting dowel in the nozzle and see if is aligned with the rocket's centerline. [2] To check if a rocket is axially balanced. parachutes around until it is balanced. nose weights. Reduce weight of rocket Rocket flies straight for first part of flight but tips over soon after Loss of power due to blow through effect This flight path is more obscure but has been obs that use narrow Robinson couplings and large no instance some of the air escapes leaving some w Try to match the nozzle size to the size of the Ro Use a baffle over the Robinson coupling to preve Broken fin(s) A fin may come off during launch or become loos of stability. Increase weight in 20 gram increments so that you add just enough to be stable.Rocket flies straight normally but No or too short guide rail veers off course at launch Cross wind Unstable launcher Increase the length of the guide rail(s). stand it up only on its nozzle.    . The launcher may launch string is pulled inducing a pitching motion it releases. try to use heavy yet soft materials in case the recovery system fails. Increase the pressure but stay within safe limits.

Try to design your rocket so that take off acceleration is 3G or higher in order to reach stable flight sooner. You can videotape the flight and then step through frame by frame to get a better idea. When using restricted nozzles.    Sometimes it is hard to see what a rocket is doing in flight. make the rocket more stable since the rocket will spend more time in flight with a heavier tail. . Adding more than 4 fins to the rocket will not increase stability significantly.