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Rocket Report

By: Ema Condori-Teves

For Mr. Hendricks Honors Physics B4 class

Academy for Math, Engineering, and Science

The overall objective of this lab was to predict the maximum height of different rockets paired
with different engines when launched and compare those predictions with the measured results. The
purpose was to utilize all the knowledge that has been acquired in physics throughout the year and apply
and understand it. This was done in Hendricks honors physics class through a series of labs that
contributed to the final predicted height of each rocket. A total of 5 different pairings of rockets and
engines were then launched outside, and the actual heights were measured and then compared to what the
predicted heights were. The results were as follows: The red and silver rocket with a B-engine measured
height was 85 meters compared to its predicted height of 77 meters, the same rocket with a C-engine had
a measured height of 109 meters with it predicted value of 185 meters. A red and yellow rocket with a B-
engine had a measured height of 125 meters and a predicted height of 117 meters, the same rocket with a
C-engine had a measured height of 155 meters compared to the predicted height of 240 meters. Finally,
the small white rocket with a A3 engine had a measured height of 97 meters compared to it predicted
height of 112 meters.

Everything that has been done so far in honors physics has prepared the students to apply their
knowledge to this real world application. In this case, the knowledge acquired throughout the year so far
can be applied to this lab in which predicted heights needed to be calculated, and most importantly the
method used to predict the maximum heights for the model rockets needed to be understood before the
final heights were measured and compared. There are a few important terms that need to be understood
before the detailed explanations of these series of labs can be explained. They are as follows:

Kinematics: study of motion. It deals with pure motion, without reference to the masses or forces
involved in it.
Dynamics: deals with the motion and equilibrium of systems under the action of forces, usually from
outside the system
Momentum: Momentum is mass in motion. The equation for momentum is mass multiplied by velocity.
Impulse: An object's change in momentum is equal to its impulse. Impulse is a quantity of force times the
time interval. It is important to remember that impulse is not equal to momentum itself; rather, it's the
increase or decrease of an object's momentum.
Drag Force: drag force is always opposite to the object's motion, and unlike friction between solid
surfaces, the drag force increases as the object moves faster. Air resistance, also known as drag, is a force
that is caused by air, the force acts in the opposite direction to an object moving through the air.
Drag Coefficient: is a number that aerodynamicists use to model all of the complex dependencies of
shape, inclination, and flow conditions on aircraft drag.
The impulse momentum theorem is also a vital part of this report that needs to be understood. The
equation is as follows: (F t = P . The impulse-momentum theorem states that the change in
momentum of an object equals the impulse applied to it. The impulse-momentum theorem is derived from
Newton's second law of motion, F =ma, but applying it in term of impulse. This will be equivalent to J
(impulse) = F (force)* t (time). The force is then replaced with its definition which is m (mass) *a
(acceleration). The acceleration is then replaced with what it's equivalent to, which is v/ t,

where time then cancels out on the right side and the equation becomes F t = m( v). Delta
velocity is then distributed out to equal velocity final velocity initial (vf-vi). The mass is then distributed
into this making the equation F t = mvf- mvi. Everything on the right side of the equation is equal to
P making our final derived equation F t = P. The impulse momentum theorem is used in

the first of the series of smaller labs done out of this final report, where it was necessary to use when
predicting what kind of engine inside the rocket.
Regarding the engines used, it is also vital to understand what the letters and numbers mean. The
engines used in this lab was a: B6, C6, and 1/2A3. The letter corresponds to the total impulse and the
number corresponds to the average thrust of the engine in Newtons. Listed below are the impulses
according to each rocket: A= 2.5 N B= 5 N C= 10 N D= 20 N E= 40 N
The D and E engine will not be used in this lab at all, mainly because they will send the rocket up too
high and the students will be unable to measure those results. All these engines are of the same size, but
have different impulses with the exception of the small white rocket that was used. The small white rocket
that was used was too small to fix any of these engines, so a A3 engine was used which was smaller in
size than the other engines used.
Numerical iteration was also important to know, as it was used to predict the maximum heights.
Numerical iteration is the process using multiple equations in a sequence that is repeated until in this case,
the highest value, which will be the maximum height is predicted. This would be a very long process to
do by hand, but with the help of an excel spreadsheet mentioned in the numerical analysis lab section, it
can be done a lot faster, but it is vital that it is understood why each equation is used and how to solve for
it, which will later be explained.

Engine Thrust Analysis

The overall purpose of this lab was to understand how the Impulse Momentum Theorem applies
in the case of predicting what type of unknown engine was placed inside of a rocket, and finding out
exactly how much thrust the engine outs puts out every 10th of a second. What first needed to be done
was measuring the force the engine would exert once ignited, until it had burned out. To do this, an
experiment was set up that consisted of a large metal track beam with a digital force gauge attached to it.
A car like contraption was pointed towards
the gauge with a cardboard box attached to
the top with an engine attached.
The engine was lit by connecting an igniter wire that was coated in phosphorous (similar to that
on a match head) to a battery, which when turned on, would burn the engine. When the engine is ignited,
the car is supposed to exert its force on the digital force gauge, where the force will be measured and
recorded through a calculator that is plugged into the gauge. Before any measurement are taken into the
calculator, it is necessary that the calculator is configured correctly to collect the data. In the case of this
lab, the calculator was set up in the data mate program to pre-store 10% of the data. A trigger was set up
to begin recording the data after the numbers in channel one begin to decrease (decrease, not increase,
because it is a pushing force) with a threshold that was setup to record data after it was below -2
Newtons. The threshold is a convenient tool to use so that the data can start being collected automatically
without the worry of human error. The time values were saved in the L1 list while the thrust values were
saved in the L2 list. It is extremely important that the calculator is re-zeroed before you begin recording
any data or else the results wont be accurate.

Once everything is set up, the unknown engine can be lit and the data can be recorded. The type
of engine can be predicted by figuring out its impulse and average thrust. With the data recorded, a graph
of time (in 1/10 second intervals) and force is made. At this point, it is relevant to make a table with this
data alongside with the graph to better represent the data. It just so happens that the impulse is equivalent
to the area under the curve of the graph. This is because impulse is defined as Force*time, and the graph
that was made is a force time graph. To calculate the area under the curve of the graph, the area under the
curve is split up into a bunch of rectangles, where their areas can be calculated by multiplying the height
(force) by the width (time), each rectangle with a width of 0.1 seconds. All these smaller rectangles are
added up to figure out the area under the curve, which turns out to be the impulse.
When that was done, an impulse of 8.2 was calculated. Listed are the types of model rocket
engines with their corresponding impulse.

A=2.5 N B=5 N C=10 N D=20 N E=40 N

Now, the average thrust was calculated. To do this, all the forces were added up and divided by
the amount of forces, in other words, the mean of the forces was calculated. This resulted in the average
thrust being 3.9, which was rounded to 4.

Now everything necessary to predict the unknown engine is collected, and this turns to be a C4
engine. The engine was actually a C6 engine, but when the experiment was being done, the car like
contraption shifted slightly sideways, which caused the average thrust results to be lower than what they
actually should have been if it had pushed directly into the digital force gauge.

Drag Force Analysis

The purpose of this lab was to calculate the drag coefficient of the rocket. This is important
because it is a force that greatly impacts the flight of the rocket, without it, the predicted results would be
significantly higher and not very accurate at all when shooting these model rockets from earth. The drag
coefficient depends on a few things, including the shape of the object and its size. Objects with sharp
corners will have a higher drag coefficient because this causes for turbulence in the air instead of the air
smoothly going around the object. This is why cars like box cars are not very gas efficient, that have
larger drag coefficients, while newer modern cars are
more round with smooth edges, this results in a smaller
drag coefficient, so they get better gas mileage. Now, the
force of air resistance is proportional to the velocity
squared, but, there are other variables to consider to have
that equal to a constant equation, this is where the drag
coefficient comes in. The drag coefficient considers the
shape, size, air pressure, air temp, etc. of the object. So
with all these factors being a part of the air resistance,
the constant equation that will be used is Fd= kv .

To determine the drag coefficient of the model rocket, which in this case was the red and yellow
rocket which weighed 61 grams, an experiment was done where the rocket was hung from a string to the
ceiling of the inside of a wind tunnel. A protractor was placed accordingly so that when the air was turned
on, a measurement in degrees can be recorded of how far back the rocket moved. An extremely important
factor that needs to be noted, is the honeycomb like structure on both ends of the wind tunnel. The
honeycomb structure in important because it helps distribute the air evenly reducing the turbulence and
allowing the air to blow straight through, this is called laminar flow. Without the honeycomb structure,
the turbulence would cause for the rocket to bounce around too much to be able to record an accurate
reading of the angle.

It is necessary that a few trials are done and averaged to measure the most accurate result. Now,
first the drag force (Fd) needs to be determined, but it is vital that it is understood where the equation
comes from. A free body diagram as pictured below is drawn of this experiment, now the horizontal
components are accounted for and simplified into the equation Fd=Tsin. Then the vertical components
are accounted for and simplified for a value of T since the value for T (tension) is still unknown from the
horizontal components. The value for T is then plugged into the horizontal component equation which
turns out to be Fd=(mg/cos)sin. This equation simplifies to be Fd=mg*tan.

Now the drag coefficient can be calculated because the data necessary was collected and can be
plugged into the equation Fd=k v . The equation is rearranged to solve for k (drag coefficient).

k=mg*tan/ v

The data collected earlier was now plugged into the equation to calculate the drag force as shown:
mg*tan = 0.061*9.8tan32= 0.3735
The velocity was given: 30 meters/second
2 4
Now its just plug and chug: 0.3735/ 30 = 4.2* 10
(keep in mind that this isnt the exact answer and in this case one significant figure would be more
2 2
accurate, and also that the units for drag coefficient are N* s /m )
There was also a larger rocket, which was the red and silver one that could not fit in the wind
tunnel, and a smaller model rocket, which was the small white rocket, that was not placed in the wind
tunnel. Both of these rockets are launched in the end of the report as well, so drag coefficients for these
two model rockets need to calculated as well. Earlier in class, the drag coefficient for a ping pong ball
with a similar circumference of the red and silver rocket was calculated, and although they are different in
size and shape, an assumption was made that the ping pong ball would have a similar drag coefficient to
the model rocket which was 5.0* 10 because the air resistance would react to the model rocket in a
similar way as the ping pong ball which had the same circumference of the model rocket. A similar
thought process was considered for the small white model rocket and its drag coefficient was predicted to

be 1.0* 104 .

Numerical Model of the Predicted Flight

In order to predict the maximum height the rockets will go, many steps need to be taken and
different equations need to be used in order to predict the maximum height at which the rocket will go.
This process is called numerical iteration, which one value from an equation is plugged into another
equation, in a sequence that is repeated until the maximum height is predicted. Using the Microsoft Excel
spreadsheet that was already provided, certain data could be entered into certain columns that were
already set up to run a specific equation, and an answer could be produced. Although that excel worksheet
was provided in the physics website for this class, the purpose of this lab was to understand how to solve
for the maximum height using numerical iteration without the convenience of the excel spreadsheet. It is
expected that the students know what each column does and how to solve for the maximum height by
hand before using the Excel program.

The maximum height was predicted for different rockets paired with different engines. The type
of rocket and engine used must be identified before anything else can be done. It is important that the
proper mass for each is listed correctly, as they need to be added together in order to predict a maximum
height that is going to be most accurate. It is important that the mass is in kg as that is the standard
physics unit. This step is also important as it will determine what the drag coefficient is according to what
rocket is used. The drag coefficient (kd) is different for each rocket that is used as they will each have a
different air resistance depending of its size and shape. A worksheet was used in class to predict the
maximum height, each column represented a different equation, which are the same one programmed into
the excel spreadsheet.

The first column represented time, which was measured in intervals of 1/10 th of a second. The
time will be the same for all the rockets that are launched. The second column represented the thrust. A
separate worksheet was provided with the thrust in Newtons for each type of engine for every 1/10 th of a
second. The thrust was listed according to the type of engine that was used (this being that it was assumed
that the total mass of the rocket and the engine wont change). The third column was for the average
thrust. To calculate to average thrust, the first and second thrust were added together and then divided by
two. In simpler terms (thrust1 + thrust2)/2 =the average thrust.
The fourth column is where things start to get a little more interesting. The fourth column will
represent the drag force. To calculate the drag force, the previous final velocity (found in the eighth
column) was taken and used in the equation Fd=Kd*v2. For the first row, since there was no previous
velocity, it was reasonable to assume that the drag force for that row would be zero. The final velocity is
calculated in the 8th column. To calculate the final velocity, the equation (vf + Fnet t/m) which was

rearranged to solve for the final velocity, vf= F* t + mvi/ m. the numbers are plugged in accordingly
and the result of that should be the final velocity.

The fifth column represents the average net force. This was measured by using the equation
(thrust average-mg Fd). The average net force must be in Newtons. In the 6 th column, the average net
impulse is stated by multiplying the average net force in that row by the change in time as shown in the
equation (Fnet* t). The 7th column accounts for the initial velocity, which would be the last rows
final velocity. For the first row, the initial velocity is zero.

The 9th column represents the average velocity which can be easily calculated by adding and final
velocity together and dividing by 2 as shown in the equation (vi + vf)/2. The final height which will be
represented in the 10th column is calculated by using the equation height initial + average velocity *
t which is simply stated as (hi + Vavg * t). This is the final height in meters (for that specific


In order to find the maximum height of the rocket and its engine, the largest value in the final
height columns (10th column) will be the maximum height. After the students understand what each
columns represents and how to solve for each row until the maximum height is discovered, it is
acceptable to use the excel spreadsheet for faster results. A link to the spreadsheet was available in the
physics website, which included the different types of engines thrust values for each 10 th of a second, and
the weight of each engine and rocket. The values that must be input into the Excel spreadsheet is the mass
of the rocket + the engine that was used, the drag coefficient for that specific rocket, and the thrust values
for that specific engine. (Attached is an Excel spreadsheet for the predicted results of one of the rockets
and its engine).

Below are the predicted results for the max height assuming that the rockets flew in a straight line

It is important that the drag coefficient for each rocket is identified correctly. Each rocket is going
to have a different drag coefficient according to its size and shape. If there were no air resistance for any
of the rockets, the predicted results would be drastically different, as in MUCH larger than the predicted
height with the drag coefficient (kd) taken into account. For example, if the red and silver rocket with a
B6 engine were to have a drag coefficient (kd) of zero, the maximum height prediction would change
from 77 meters to 120 meters. This is a dramatic difference. If the engine used was a C6 engine, the
difference would have been much more dramatic, which is why it is important to not ignore to drag
coefficient. For example, for a red and silver model rocket with a C6 engine, the predicted max height
without a drag coefficient would be 466 meters compared to the 186 predicted max height with the drag
Type of Model Type of Engine Mass of Rocket Drag Maximum Height
Rocket +Engine in kg Coefficient(Kd) in Meters

Small white 1/2A3 .003 .0001 112

Red and Yellow B6 .057 .0004 117

Red and Silver B6 .083 .0005 77

Red and Yellow C6 .063 .0004 240

Red and Silver C6 .089 .0005 186

These are the results on

the excel worksheet for
the Red and Silver
model rocket with a B6

Flight Results
In this lab, the rockets were finally launched and the actual heights were calculated. Before the
actual launching occurs, the method used to measure the maximum height needed to be decided. The class
decided that it would make most sense if a person stood a certain distance from the rocket and measured
the angle at which the rocket reached its maximum height forming an invisible triangle (its base being the
height of the eye) giving the class all necessary values to solve for the height. The average height at which
the students eyes were was at 1.5 meters. This is absolutely necessary to know because it will need to be
counted for when the height is calculated (that is where the angle starts to be measured making the
horizontal line from where the eye is to be the base). It was then decided that one person measuring the
angle would not produce accurate results, as the rockets rarely shoot up in a straight line, when the rocket
leans more or less towards the person measuring the angle of its height, the measurement will become
more or less of what it actually was. It was decided that 3 people would
measure the heights, standing in a circle around the launch pad of the
rocket, each the same distance from the rocket. This step is absolutely
necessary if the most accurate results are wanted. The average of these
student results will be taken. It was decided that each of these students
would stand 50 meters from the launch pad. A tool was used to
measure the angle of the max height of the rocket that consisted of a
protractor, and a string that hung from the center with a weight.

Visual example of why its important that more than one student
measures the height of the rocket. As shown in the picture, the average
must be taken because the rocket wont shoot straight up.

This is how the experiment was done

The tool used to measure the angle of the max height of the model rocket was a hard cardboard
like paper with a protractor attached along the top edge, with a string hanging from the center of the
protractor with a weight on the end of the string. The students held this device up to their eye and
followed the rocket all the way up to its maximum height, and recorded that angle measurement with
another students help. where the string laid on top of the protractor was the angle that was measured and

Now that the method that the angle of the max height was decided, the class went outside and finally got
to launch the rockets. There were 3 different kinds of rockets launched with different kinds of engine
combinations. Before they could be launched, a parachute needed to be placed inside them so that the
rockets wouldnt crash land. There is only a small problem with this, which is that the parachutes will
burn from the engines because they are plastic. To fix this problem, fire resistant material, called wadding,
was placed inside the rocket's first before the neatly folded parachute. The top of the model rockets was
then placed back on, and an engine was inserted into the rockets. An igniter is placed in a small hole in
the bottom of the igniter and a small plastics plug is put in the engines hole to prevent it from falling out.
The rockets were now placed on the launch pad. Two alligator clamps that were connected to a battery
were connected to the igniter in the engine. When the battery was turned on, the engine would ignite. The
class launched 3 different kinds of rockets. The larger two rockets being the Red and Silver, and the Red
and Yellow. These rockets were each shot with a B and C engine each. The last model rocket was the
smallest, and had a special engine that would fit in it, being the 1/2A engine.

These were the results:

Type of rocket + Angle measurement Angle measurement Angle measurement Average angle
engine 1 2 3 measurement

Red and Silver B 58 58 61 59

Red and Yellow B 64 71 68 68

Red and Silver C 61 70 64 65

Red and Yellow C 68 67 82 72

Small White A 61 65 61 62

One of the results for the Red and Yellow with a C engine was scratched out because the results were not
accurate, mainly because the rocket did not fly straight up. The rocket with this engine was launched
again, and those results were used instead.

Now the heights for each of these rockets were calculated. Because of the values that were
collected for the triangle, the equation tan=y (the max height)/d (the distance) was used. This equation
was rearranged to solve for y (the height) and 1.5 meters was added to that because that was the average
height of where the measurements started to be recorded.

The final equation being: y=(d*tan) +1.5

Type of rocket:
Y=(d*tan) +1.5 Height

Red and Silver B (50tan59) +1.5 85 meters

Red and Yellow B (50tan68) +1.5 125 meters

Red and Silver C (50tan65) +1.5 109 meters

Red and Yellow C (50tan72) +1.5 155 meters

Small White A (50tan62) +1.5 96 meters

In the end, it turned out that although some of the results were similar, the predicted values and
the measured values didnt exactly match up. Part of the problem was that the predicted values were
measured to be correct only if the rocket flew in an upward linear motion, which rarely happens. For
example, one of the rockets launched flew in a really curved direction and we had to disregard those
results and shoot the rocket and its engine again. Another issue that could contribute to why the predicted
values and the measured values didnt match up, could be because the drag coefficients were predicted
and not exact, but when played around with a little, can change the predicted results to more accurate
ones. Another issue can also arise if the students who measured the angles were as few as one degree off,
which is very likely. When measuring a distance as big as the height of the rockets, one or two degrees
can change the final measured results by a significant amount of meters. The concepts and methods as far
as our knowledge in physics applies were applied throughout the lab to predict these results, although
they werent exact, and in the end, there is a lot of room for improvement in the predicted results as well
as the measured results.

Type of Rocket and Engine Predicted Heights Measured heights

Red and Silver B 77 m 85 m

Red and Yellow B 117 m 125 m

Red and Silver C 185 m 109 m

Red and Yellow C 240 m 155 m

Small White 1/2A 112 m 97 m

Overall, I really liked this lab and being able to visually see this experiment done by our class and
learn in a kinesthetic way was great. I really liked that we had the opportunity to shoot the rockets, and I,
along with most of the class have never shot rockets before and we were able to learn how to do this and
take part in shooting the rockets. I did struggle in writing the lab reports because I struggle when putting
my thoughts into words, and in this lab everything must be explained step by step to demonstrate that I
understood the reason why everything was being done, which definitely made me think more deeply
when figuring out a way to explain why certain equations were used or how things worked. I also
struggled when writing in 3rd person passive, and found myself going back a lot to tweak a few sentences.
Throughout this lab, I was able to gain a better understanding of how the equations we learned in physics
throughout the year applied in a real life example. Throughout these series of labs, I was also able to
understand why each part of the lab was important and vital to the final prediction. I really liked the
amount of time we spent to apply what we had learned in physics through the rocket lab.