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Rocket Lab reports

By: Vaish Thiraviyarajah

For: Mr.Hendricks’ Honors Physics
Academy for Math, Engineering and Science
December 5, 2016

Vaish Thiraviyarajah 1

This lab was done to predict the height of different rockets with different engines before
launching it and to compare the results when the rockets were actually launched. In order to
calculate the height, different values had to be known and in order to gain those values, smaller
labs had to be done. One of the lab was to obtain the engine thrust value of an unknown engine,
this was done by putting a rocket with an engine connected to battery against the digital force
gauge, then a lab to find the drag force of each rockets by putting the rocket in the wind tunnel
and measuring the angle. Using the calculated information, the predicted height was obtained
through numerical iteration.The predicted heights matched the measured heights quite well for
two of the rockets, but not so well for the other three.
The purpose of this lab is to gain better understanding of the concepts that was taught in
physics. A few of the concepts that are being reinforced are kinematics and dynamics.
Kinematics is the branch of motions that deals with pure motion and not related to mass or the
forces acting on the system. Dynamics is the branch of motion with forces acting on the system.
In this lab, 3 different types of rocket with multiple combination of engines were to be launched,
but before the rockets were launched, the goal was to calculate the expected height of each
rocket. In order to calculate the height, few things about the rockets and engines needs to be
One of the most important thing to know is the drag coefficient of each rocket. Drag
coefficient is unique to each rocket based on its shape, size , air temperature and air pressure and
it doesn’t change based on the velocity. Drag coefficient(k) is needed to find the drag force(Fd)
using the equation kv2 = Fd . Drag force is the force that would be y component of the rocket that
acts against the rocket as air resistance. Impulse is another important thing to calculate the
height. Impulse is defined as force times time which is equal to Δ p or momentum. This is
derived by Σ F = ma, which is the Newton’s second law. Acceleration is equal to , this
definition will replace the “a” in Newton’s second law giving the equation Σ F = m .
Change in time will be multiplied to the force giving the equation F Δ t = m Δ v. momentum
is defined as mv, therefore impulse is equal to change in momentum, F Δ t = P. Using the
impulse, the type of engine can be calculated. Each engine is marked with a letter, number -
number, an example would be A8-3. A is the impulse, 8 is the average thrust and 3 is the delay
time for the parachute. An A engine has a 2.5Ns, B engine has a 5Ns, and a C engine has a 10Ns.
Predicting the height is the harder part as the thrust is constantly changing, it requires
complicated calculations, therefore, an easier method was devised. In this method called
numerical iteration, it was to assume that the thrust is constant rather than changing, this will
allow the height to be calculated; this is the easiest and most accurate way possible so far.


● Rocket
● Engine
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 2

● Ignitor
● Battery
● Ramp
The purpose of this specific lab is to find out the engine thrust of the rocket and find
whether the engine was C-6, B-6 or A8. Before the experiment starts, the calculator needs to be
set up to collect the data accordingly. The calculator was connected to the CBL and set to collect
the force vs. time. The CBL was setup to collect data every 1/10
second with a maximum of 30 points which means the data will be
collected every 0.1 seconds for 3 seconds. The prestore was set to 10%
which ensures that 10% of the data before the actual data will be
recorded as well, The threshold was set as - 2 Newtons. The triggering
channel was set as decreasing since the force gauge measures the
pushing factor and it is recorded as negative. The triggering was set so
that the calculator would already start to record the data when it
notices that the thrust is changing, this ensures that all of the necessary
data is recorded.
The equipment was setup by securing the rocket to the ramp to
hold it in place. The engine was inserted in the rocket followed by the
ignitor. The ignitor was bent down and connected to the battery. The
gauge was re-zeroed because it was already reading due to the track
being at an angle. The battery sent power through the ignitor, it starts
up the engine and the CBL records the force of the engine through the
digital force gauge.
The first 2 times the data was messed up due to the ramp not being set straight. Once that

Digital force gauge
Ignitor wires coated with

Ramp / track
mistake was fixed, the data points seemed right, these data points were shared with the class.
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 3

Vaish Thiraviyarajah 4

The impulse is found by calculating the area under the curve of the graph of force vs.
time. Due to the complicated math needed to calculate the precise impulse, an easier and simpler
method was devised. The area under the curve could be found through separating the graph into
small rectangles and finding the rectangle’s area first and then adding them all together in the
end. The graph was divided into pieces by the width of 0.1. Since the area of a rectangle is base
times height, every triangle will have the base as 0.1 and different height. Instead of finding the
area of each and every rectangle, the heights were all added together and then was multiplied by
h = height

0.1 h = 8.2

the impulse is 8.2

example: 0.1(0 + 0 + 0 + 1.3 +4.6 +9.5 + 5.7 +4.3+4.1+4.1 + 4.2+...)

The impulse of 8.2 shows that it is in fact a C engine but the average thrust is needed as well. In
order to find the average thrust, add all of the forces and divide by the number of the force. All
the forces add up to 82 and the number of forces with actual data was 20. = 4.1. This can
be rounded to 4. This shows that the Engine is in fact a C4 engine.
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 5

● Rocket
● Wind tunnel
● Protractor
The main purpose of this lab is to calculate the drag coefficient in order to calculate the
drag force. Drag coefficient is defined as kv2 which is proportional to air resistance. Since the
rockets move so fast, the air resistance can’t be ignored. If it was ignored, an accurate predicted
height could not be reached. Drag coefficient depends on size of the object and the shape. A
rocket was placed in the wind tunnel along with a protractor. When the wind tunnel is turned on,
the rocket will move a certain number of degrees. The number of degrees can be found using the
protractor.The wind tunnel has a honeycomb structure through where the air will come through.
This structure’s purpose is to make the air force a laminar force. laminar force is where the air
flow is going straight and smooth. In this case, the air flow will be going straight, leading the
rocket to only move horizontally. This experiment is to find the drag force, then using the drag
force to find the drag coefficient of that specific rocket.
A rocket of 61g was placed in the wind tunnel by tying a string to the middle of the
rocket. After the rocket was placed,the wind tunnel was turned on. Once the wind tunnel was on,
the rocket moved horizontally due to the air flow.The movement of the rocket will move the
string which in return will give an angle. This experiment was done three times to attain an
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 6

accurate data. The recorded data will be averaged. In order to average the results, the results were
30+ 30+35
added and divided by 3. = 31.7 → 32. The average angle turns out to 32°.

T or


❑ ❑
∑ ❑ Fx = max ∑ ❑ Fy = may
Tsin ❑ ❑

Fd - Tsin θ = 0 -mg + Tcos θ = 0

Fd = Tsin θ =T
cos θ
Tcos mgsinθ
Fd =
cos θ

Fd Fd = mgtan θ
Using the x and y components of the free body diagram an equation was
created to find the drag force. The 32° was inserted into the equation and
the drag force was found. However, the mass and the gravity needs to be
in the standard physics unit.
Fd = (0.061 kg)(9.8 m/s) tan 32
Fd = 0.374 N
The drag force could be used to find the drag coefficient through the equation Fd = kv2 .
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 7

Fd = kv2 The k is the drag coefficient and the v is the velocity of the wind tunnel which
Fd / V 2 = k was already determined to be 30 m/s.
0.374 N
= 4.15 E - 4 .
(30) 2
It is determined through calculations that the drag coefficient of the red and yellow rocket is
4.15 E- 4 but due to sig figs and uncertainty the drag coefficient would only be 4 E- 4 . The red and
silver rocket was a bit bigger than the red and yellow rocket therefore it was hypothesized that
the drag coefficient is 6 E-4. The small white rocket was about half the size of the red and yellow
rocket, therefore the drag coefficient was determined through educated guess as 2 E-4.

rockets: Red/Silver Red/Yellow Small white

drag coefficient: 6 E-4 Ns2/m2 4 E-4Ns2/m2 2 E -4Ns2/m2

The purpose of this part of the lab is to find the highest height that a specific rocket would go
with a certain engines. There are 4 engines available: A3 , A8, B6, and C6 and 3 different
rockets available. In order to find the highest height certain things need to be found such as:
thrust for every 0.1 s, average thrust, drag force, average net force, average net impulse, initial
velocity, final velocity, and average velocity. The easiest way to find the
Ft height is to assume that the force is constant for each time and to calculate
the height for each specific time. Using this method, the highest height could
hr be found for a specific time.The thrust for every 0.1 second is found through
us the digital force gauge and cbl calculator. The average thrust can be found
t (Thr 1+Thr 2)
using the the thrust1 + thrust2 divided by 2( ). The drag force
Drag m is found through multiplying the drag coefficient and final velocity squared
force (F d = k d v ). Average net force is found by taking the average thrust and
g subtracting drag force and mass times gravity from it (Thravg - mg - Fd).
Average net impulse is found through time times average net force (Favg net*
Δ t). The initial velocity is the final velocity of the last time or 0 for the first time (last row’s
Vf). Final velocity is found by adding the average net impulse and mass times initial velocity and
mv i+ F ne t∗Δt
dividing the entire thing by the mass ( ) . the average velocity is initial and
v i+ vf
final velocity added together and divided by two ( ). The final height would be the
average velocity times time and add the initial height to it (hi + vavg Δ t).

Vaish Thiraviyarajah 8

mass of rocket: 65 g type of engine: B6 mass of engine: 18 g drag coefficient: 5E- 4

total mass: 65 + 18= 83g = 0.083kg mg = 0.8134 N

Avg thrust Drag force Avg net Avg net initial final average final height time
(N) (N) force (N) impulse velocity velocity(m/s) velocity( (m) (s)
(m/s) m/s)

0+6.0 (5E-4)(0)2 = 0 3-0.81-0 2.19*0.1 0 (0+0.219) 0+2.64 0 + 1.32*0.1 0.1

= =
2 = 2.19 = 0.219 0.083 2 = 0.132
3.0 2.64 = 1.32

6 +10 5E- 4 * (2.64)2 8-.81-.00 7.2*0.1 = 2.64 (0.083∗2.64+0.72) 0.132+6.97*0

(11.3+2.64 ) 0.2
2 = 0.0035 35 = 7.2 0.72 0.083 2 .1 = 0.829
= 11.3 = 6.97

It can be clearly inferred from these 2 samples that doing these calculations for each and every
one of these is tedious and time consuming therefore an easier way was devised. An Excel was
prepared with all the equations and columns, this made it easier so that only the mass, drag
coefficient and the thrust needs to be input and all of the other necessary data such as average
thrust, drag force, average net force, average net impulse, initial velocity, final velocity, average

velocity and height will be outputs. This is the excel without the inputs.
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 9

The table down below is for the B6 engine and the red and silver rocket with
the 5E- 4 drag coefficient. The highest height that this rocket could go would be found
by scrolling down in the final height column and finding the highest height out of all
of it. According to the excel, the highest this rocket could go is 77.17 m at 4.1 s taking the air

resistance into consideration.

Vaish Thiraviyarajah 10

Using the same exact engine and

rocket, the results would be vastly
different if the air resistance was not
taken into account. This theory was
tested out. According to the same
exact calculations, it is shown that the
highest it can go is 118.59 at 5.3 s.
This is exactly 1.5 times higher than
the height calculated with air
resistance, this shows that air
resistance is a vital part to calculate
the rocket’s height precisely. These
calculations were done to different
rockets with different engines to
calculate their expected height. B6 and
C6 engines are way too big for the
small white rocket and A is too small for the red/silver and red/yellow rockets. The drag
coefficients for red/silver, red/yellow and small white are 5E- 4, 4E- 4 , and 2E- 4 respectively.

Red/silver 65g C6 24g

Red/ yellow 39g B6 18g

Small white 23g 1 7g


1 A8 B6 C6

Red / Silver x 31.37 m ~ 2.7s 77.17 m ~ 4.1 s 185.65m ~ 6.1 s

Red/ Yellow x 58.31 m ~ 3.5 s 117.29 m ~ 4.6 s 240.44m ~ 6.3 and


Small white 36.42m ~ 2.8 s x x x

This is an example excel of the estimated height of the A8 engine of Red/Yellow.
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 11

These are the thrust for each


● Protractor
● weight
● string
● rockets
● types of engine pr
● launcher w otr
● meter stick
e act
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 12

This part of the lab is to perform the actual experiment that was being build up to, which
was launching the rocket. The height of the launched rocket was to be calculated using the angle
of the rocket in regard to the horizontal axis. The angle was recorded with the protractor by
putting it to the eye level and following the rocket to its highest height and recording the angle
shown by the protractor. There is a highly likely chance of the rocket going curved, therefore the
data collected will be skewed. In order to avoid that three average heighted students were placed
around the launcher so the average angle of the three could be taken. The average height of a
student is 1.5 meter. These students were placed 50 meters away from the launcher.
In preparation for the launching, the rockets were prepared by putting wadding in the
Top rocket so the heat from the engine won’t melt the parachutes. The wadding is treated
down with fire resistance substance. After the wadding is placed in the rocket, the
view parachute is neatly folded and placed inside. Then the engine and the ignitor is
0 inserted and the ignitor will be connected to the battery. Then a small plastic plug
La was inserted so that the igniter won’t fall out. The rocket will be placed on the
unm st launcher. Once everyone is in position, the battery will be turned on, the battery will
ch ud sent electricity through the ignitor and launch the rocket. The three students will
er en follow the rocket with their respective protractors and record the angles down. These
angles will be averaged. the angle will be averaged be adding the three angles and
then dividing by three. The average angle will be used to find the height of each
rocket with different engines.

Engine Rocket θ -1 θ -2 θ -3 Avg θ height

B Red/Yellow 64 ° 71 ° 68 ° 68 ° 125m

C Red/Yellow 68 ° 67 ° 82 ° 72 ° 155m

B Red/Silver 58 ° 58 ° 61 ° 59 ° 85m

C Red/Silver 61 ° 70 ° 64 ° 65 ° 109m

1 White 61 ° 65 ° 61 ° 62 ° 96m
Since the distance from the rocket and the angle is known, a triangle can be made to find
the height. The height would need to have 1.5 m added since that is the height from where the
angle is being measured. Tangent can be used to find the
tan θ = x tan θ = y
h y + 1.5 = height of the rocket

average height of B engined Red/Silver : 58 + 58+ 61 =

1.5 50 m
177 177/3 = 59 °
Vaish Thiraviyarajah 13

height of the B engined Red/ Silver : x tan θ = y 50tan59 ° = y = 83.21

83.21+1.5 = 84.71 → 85m
These results show that 2 out of 5 predicted height were good. These calculations were done by
assuming that the rocket will go straight but that assumption is not always correct, Assuming that
the rocket will go straight will give a close enough prediction but not the best. The results that
were far from the predictions were due to the rocket curving when it was launched. Even though
all rockets curved, the really bad results were from the rockets that curved a lot. Another
possibility of a bad prediction could have been due to the fact that the drag coefficient was
assumed for the small white and the red/silver rocket. If the accurate drag coefficient was
achieved, a more accurate prediction could have been made. One way to achieve a more accurate
drag coefficient is to test the rockets in a bigger wind tunnel or just to use rockets that is shorter.
The Red/Silver rocket’s drag coefficient was assumed to be 5 E-4 , this worked well with the B
engine but for the C engine, it was vastly different. The rocket could’ve had a higher drag
coefficient, therefore the calculations were redone with a drag coefficient of 6 E-4 and even then
the prediction showed 170 m which is still not in the range of error. This shows that the
inaccuracy of drag coefficient did not impact the prediction that much to make a difference.
This lab required lots of hard work and focus.One thing that I found hard is to keep up
with the dead lines sometimes.I learned a lot about how the rockets are launched. I liked how
each of us were able to participate in different part of the lab and gain knowledge through
actually doing it. I was able to tie in the things that we have been learning throughout physics
such as trigonometry, forces acting on a system, free body diagrams, and educated guess into
one physics lab. I feel like this allowed us to review the things that we learned with fun and
excitement added to it. This showed us how we can apply physics in real life application unlike
just teaching us each concept separately, it ties it all together which makes it more