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You are on page 1of 12

By Dylan Hansen B3

Experiments Took Place at Mr. Hendricks’s Honors

Physics Class at the Academy of Math, Engineering, and

Science (AMES)

Abstract

For this lab, there were four major sections.

First there was the Thrust Analysis, which

involved an experiment testing the thrust of

a rocket engine and some calculations to go

along with it. Then there was the Drag

Force section, which involved another

experiment and set of calculations, but

these ones were for a different reason than

the last. After that there was the Numerical

Analysis section, which involved combining

the results of the first two sections and

some extra calculations to make predictions

of the results of the next section. The final

thing done was the Flight Results section,

where the rockets were launched in the

main experiment this lab is based on.

Introduction

The reasoning behind doing this experiment was to use it as a way to tie together the previously

taught concepts of physics all into one project. The experiment uses both kinematics, the study

of motion, and dynamics, the study of why properties of motion are true, to predict the maximum

heights the rockets would reach. The rockets used in the experiment either had an A8 engine, a

B6 engine, or a C6 engine. The letter of the engine tells the user what the impulse of the rocket

is. The impulse of an object is defined as the amount of force exerted on an object at a given

time (Force * time). The letter A on an engine means that the engine has an impulse of 2.5 Ns

(Newton-seconds), and each consecutive letter multiplies the previous impulse by two (so a B

engine is 5 Ns, a C is 10 Ns, etc). The number tells the user the average force of the rocket, so

a C6 engine has an average force of 6 N and a C4 engine has an average force of 4 N.

For this experiment lots of numerical iteration was used so that the math could be done in a high

school level physics course. This experiment also used the impulse momentum theorem, which

states that the impulse of an object is equal to the object’s change in momentum. Momentum is

defined as the quantity of the motion of a moving object, which is represented mathematically as

𝑃 = 𝑚𝑣𝑓 − 𝑚𝑣𝑖, where P is the momentum. The impulse momentum theorem can be derived,

and to prove that this theorem is true the derivation goes as follows:

1. Take Newton’s second law (𝐹 = 𝑚𝑎) and replace a with 𝑣/𝑡 using 𝑎 = 𝑣/𝑡

𝐹 = 𝑚𝑣/𝑡

2. Multiply both sides by t

𝐹𝑡 = 𝑚𝑣

3. Impulse is defined as F*t and Momentum is defined as mvf-mvi, which is equivalent to mv, so

therefore Impulse is equal to the change in momentum

Some of the calculations for the lab involved the rocket’s drag force and drag coefficient. The

drag force of an object is how much air resistance that object receives in motion, which is

defined mathematically as 𝐹𝑑 = 𝑘𝑑 𝑣 2. Fd in this equation is the drag force and kd is the drag

coefficient. The drag coefficient is a number that is determined by the size and shape of the

object.

Thrust Analysis

The purpose behind doing this lab before launching the rockets was to do two necessities:

figure out the engine that we would be using and figure out how much thrust the engine puts out

at every tenth of a second interval.

Logger Pro was used to record the

rocket’s thrust. On Logger Pro trigger

mode was used, which makes it so

the data starts recording once the

thrust reached a certain number. This

number was set at -1N, and the

reasoning for it being negative was

because the program had pulling

forces as positive and pushing forces

as negative. The thrust is a pushing

force, so thus it was negative. Before the thrust was tested, the force gauge was zeroed to

avoid recording errors at the beginning. The rocket was then taped down to a slider that was

pressed against a taped down block to avoid the engine moving.

After the data was recorded it was graphed (graph and data shown on next page) using

desmos. To figure out the impulse of the thrust the area under the graph was calculated, which

is the impulse because the graph is a Force over time graph, so the area is Force * time which

is what impulse is defined as. To calculate the area under the oddly-shaped graph, the graph

was divided into rectangular sections that add up to approximately the same area as the graph.

The area of these rectangles were added together to get a final impulse of around 5 Ns, which

is the impulse of a B engine. From this experiment the impulse data for a B engine is now

known and ready to use for later on in the lab.

Drag Force Analysis

Before the height of the rockets can be calculated, the drag coefficient needs to be known. The

drag coefficient is needed to determine the air resistance of the rocket, and the rocket moves so

fast that if air resistance is ignored then the predicted height will be inaccurate. Through

calculations, previous scientists have determined that the equation to figure out the force of the

air resistance on an object is equal to its drag coefficient multiplied by its velocity squared

(𝐹𝑑𝑟𝑎𝑔 = 𝑘𝑑 𝑣 2 ). The drag coefficient is a number that stays constant, as long as the same object

is used and its size and/or shape doesn’t change. Sharp surfaces greatly increase the drag

coefficient while smooth surfaces greatly decrease it (that’s why cars have smooth surfaces, it’s

to decrease the air resistance on the car), and increasing the size of an object also increases its

drag coefficient. Because the rocket’s size and shape stay constant throughout the experiment,

the drag coefficient will also stay constant.

coefficient the drag force and

velocity need to be known, an

experiment using a wind

tunnel was used to determine

the drag force. The wind

tunnel blows air at the object

through a honeycomb

structure, and the protractor

measures the angle that the

wind moved the object at. The

honeycomb structure makes it

so the air is not turbulent,

because if the air is turbulent

then the object will bounce around so the angle will be very difficult to read accurately.

𝑚𝑔𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃)

The equation to figure out the drag coefficient is 𝑘 = 𝑣2

(the derivation of this equation can

be found below), so to solve for k the mass, angle, and velocity of the rocket need to be known.

The rocket used in the wind tunnel had a mass of 61g and a velocity of 32m/s. To figure out the

angle an experiment using the wind tunnel was used. Once the wind tunnel was turned on,

three different people looked at the protractor and tried to determine what the angle of the

rocket was. The average of those three angles were used for the calculations, which was 23°.

Once the calculations were finished, the calculated drag coefficient was 2 ∗ 104 𝑁 ∗ 𝑠 2 /𝑚2 . For

the black and gold rocket, an assumption was made that it had around the same drag coefficient

as a ping pong ball, which is approximately .0005 𝑁𝑠 2 /𝑚2. For the red and silver rocket, the

drag coefficient was estimated based on the assumption that it was halfway between the drag

coefficients of the rocket estimated to be .0002 and the one estimated to be .0005. From this

assumption, the drag coefficient of .00035 was used.

𝑚𝑔𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃)

𝑘= DERIVATION

𝑣2

in the vertical direction in the horizontal direction

𝛴𝐹𝑣 = 𝑚𝑎𝑣

𝛴𝐹ℎ = 𝑚𝑎ℎ

2. Replace 𝛴𝐹𝑣 with the vertical 5. Replace 𝛴𝐹ℎ with the

horizontal

forces, and ma with 0 (because forces, and replace ma with 0

the a is 0 and 0*any number is 0) 𝑇𝑐𝑜𝑠𝜃 − 𝑚𝑔 =

0

𝑇𝑠𝑖𝑛𝜃 − 𝐹𝑑 = 0 6. Isolate

Tcosθ

3. Solve for Fd 𝑇𝑐𝑜𝑠𝜃 = 𝑚𝑔

𝐹𝑑 = 𝑇𝑠𝑖𝑛𝜃 7. Solve

for T

𝑚𝑔

------------------------------------------------ 𝑇 = 𝑐𝑜𝑠𝜃

𝑚𝑔

8. Plug 𝑇 = 𝑐𝑜𝑠𝜃into the T above

𝑚𝑔𝑠𝑖𝑛𝜃

𝐹𝑑 =

𝑐𝑜𝑠𝜃

9. Since sinθ/cosθ=tanθ, replace

sinθ/cosθ with tanθ

𝐹𝑑 = 𝑚𝑔𝑡𝑎𝑛𝜃

𝐹𝑑

𝑘𝑑 = 2

𝑣

11. Plug 𝐹𝑑 = 𝑚𝑔𝑡𝑎𝑛𝜃 into Fd

𝑚𝑔𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃)

𝑘𝑑 =

𝑣2

Numerical Analysis

For this section of the lab, a spreadsheet was used to predict the heights the rockets will go. On

the spreadsheet of the rocket’s predicted heights, there are columns that are results of certain

calculations that are used to determine the heights. The data in the Thrust column was provided

by the manufacturers of the engines used for the experiment. The data in the Average Thrust

column was calculated by taking the average of the thrust between the .1 second interval before

and after it. The data in the Drag Force column was calculated by multiplying the drag

coefficient by the previous row’s final velocity (which is the initial velocity of the current row)

squared (𝐹𝑑 = 𝑘𝑑 𝑣 2). The data in the Average Net Force was calculated by combining all the

forces, which is Average Thrust + the force of gravity + Drag Force (𝑇ℎ𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑔 + 𝑚𝑔 + 𝐹𝑑 ).

However, mg and Fd are going in the negative direction (downwards), so a more accurate

equation (and the one that was used) would be 𝑇ℎ𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑔 − 𝑚𝑔 − 𝐹𝑑 . The Average Net Impulse

was calculated the same way impulse is calculated (𝐹 ∗ 𝛥𝑡), but the net force calculated from

the previous cell was used for the force in this equation, resulting in the final equation of 𝐹𝑛𝑒𝑡 ∗

𝛥𝑡. The initial velocity is the final velocity of the previous row, and the final velocity is calculated

by using the equation 𝑣𝑓 = 𝑣𝑖 + 𝐹𝑛𝑒𝑡 𝛥𝑡/𝑚. This equation is the result of solving the Impulse

Momentum Theorem (𝐹𝑛𝑒𝑡 𝛥𝑡 = 𝑚𝑣𝑓 − 𝑚𝑣𝑖 ) for the final velocity. The average velocity was

calculated by taking the averages of the initial and final velocities. The final height, the number

that is used for the rocket predictions, was calculated using 𝐷 = 𝑅𝑇, in which the average

velocity is R and the change in time is T. The previous row’s height also has to be added to the

final height, so the final equation used was ℎ𝑓 = 𝑣𝑎𝑣𝑔 ∗ 𝛥𝑡 + ℎ𝑖 .

Because these calculations would take a lot of time to do by hand, they were calculated using

an Excel spreadsheet. On the spreadsheet, the final heights were looked at until the highest

height was concluded upon. After the highest point has been reached the numbers start to

decrease rather than increase, so it was clear which one was the highest point once that point

had been reached. The predicted highest point for the B6 engine on the red/yellow rocket was

158m.

For this experiment, taking the air resistance into account was vital to insure accurate results.

When doing calculations on objects moving at small and medium velocities, the air resistance

doesn’t alter the results a significant amount. However, when there are calculations done on an

object with a large velocity, such as a rocket, the air resistance alters the result by a huge

margin. To show how much air resistance affects the rockets’ height predictions, the results of

the C6 engine on a red/yellow rocket is going to serve as an example. The predicted highest

point on that rocket with the drag coefficient taken into account was 349m. However, if you

predict the highest point ignoring air resistance, the predicted highest point is at least 964m. The

highest point occurs sometime after the time included in the spreadsheet, so the highest point if

the air resistance is ignored is a number that’s greater than 964m. This is a difference of at least

615m. This is why it was crucial to include the air resistance into the calculations, because

without it the results would be very inaccurate.

Flight Results

After the heights were predicted, the rockets were

ready to be launched. There were several steps

required to make the rocket launch successfully.

First, the engine needs to be inserted into the bottom

of the base. Then, an igniter needs to be inserted in

the hole on the engine, and a pin needs to be used to

keep the igniter from falling out. The rocket needs to

be placed on a launch plate with a vertical rod in

place to keep the rocket straight for the first few

milliseconds of the launch. After that, connect the 2

rods on the igniter to an engine. Once those steps

have been completed, there was a countdown to

launch the rocket. Once the timer reached 0, the

engine was turned on and off to launch the rocket.

For this experiment, there were 3 angles for each launch because we had 3 observers measure

the angle that the rocket goes up at (shown above). There were 3 observers to make the results

more accurate by measuring the angles from 3 different positions. Because the rocket curved

when it launched, measuring the angle from one position would be inaccurate. Another reason

there were 3 observers was to have the angles on the higher rockets be more accurate. When

the rocket goes really high, it can be hard to see and thus it is hard for the observer to get an

angle measurement as accurate as it would be otherwise. After the angles were measured, the

averages of the 3 observers’ angles were used for the calculations. By taking three angle

measurements and averaging them, the angle for the calculations become more accurate and

thus there are better results to the experiment. The average angle can be used to form a

triangle where the height is the opposite side and the distance is the adjacent side (triangle

shown on next page). To solve this for h, the trigonometric function tangent was used.

1. Use trigonometry to connect 𝜃, h, and d

ℎ

𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃) =

𝑑

2. Multiply Both Sides By d to solve for h

𝑑 ∗ 𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃) = ℎ

3. The distance in the experiment was 50m,

so replace d with 50

50𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃) = ℎ

4. The observer's eyes were approximately

1.5m above the ground, so add 1.5m for a

more accurate h

50𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃) + 1.5 = ℎ

5. Flip the equation

ℎ = 50𝑡𝑎𝑛(𝜃) + 1.5

TYPE TYPE ANGLE HEIGHT (m)

Red/Yellow A 46 44 70 53 68m

Red/Yellow B 65 65 70 67 120m

Red/Yellow C 70 73 70 71 147m

Black/Gold A 26 28 32 29 30m

Black/Gold B 50 45 52 49 60m

Black/Gold C 70 70 70 70 139m

Red C 80 70 75 75 189m

Conclusion

Rocket and Measured Predicted

Engine Type Heights Heights

Some of the measured heights were pretty close to the predicted heights (especially the rockets

that had the shortest max heights), but other measured heights were very far off from the

predicted heights (especially the rockets that had went the highest). The biggest source of error

came from the rocket curving when it launched rather than going in a straight line. This created

error in the predictions because all of the predictions assumed that the rocket was going to

launch in a straight line. This ended up being a very false assumption because the rocket

curved when it was launched. To get better results, the calculations for the predictions should’ve

been for a rocket that curves rather than a rocket that goes straight.

Reflection

I thought that this was a really cool experiment that gave more insight to what a real scientific

experiment is like. The experiment focused on the experiments and calculations that could be

present when trying to figure out a way to come up with a prediction for the big lab. It also

focused on the process of coming up with an educated prediction, the running of the actual

experiment, and how to compare and contrast the results of each and reflect on it. Another main

part of it was this lab report, which showed us the process of writing and editing a scientific

report based on the experiments you have just done. So overall I thought that this was a very

interesting and insightful lab, even though there was a lot of work involved in the whole process.

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