The Known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land.  -T.H. Huxley, 1887



I have built many rockets and had a lot of fun doing so. The largest rocket I've made was about 6 and a half feet long and 3 inches in diameter. I built this rocket with three of my fellow classmates during my senior year at MSOE.

If you are curious how a rocket works the picture below shows the basics. Towards the tail of the rocket are the fins. As the rocket flies through the air it will rotate around its Center of Gravity or CG, this is something you don't want it to do for it will spin out of control. The fins create a pressure force caused by the air going by them that pushes the rocket back into its vertical position. This maintains the straight flight of the rocket.

One of the design challenges of rocketry is how big and where to put the fins? If they are too small they will not make a large enough pressure force and the rocket will go out of control. If they are too large the rocket will fly, but it will curve into the wind and loose some energy; or if the fins are too far forward they will not correct the rockets rotation but instead will enhance it. There is a lot of balancing and calculation that goes into this.

After you have the rocket safely flying upwards the next challenge is getting it to come down gently. This is generally done with parachutes. A small parachute opens when the rocket gets to its highest point, or apogee. This parachute serves to slow the rocket and maintain its stability. However, the rocket falls quickly enough so that it does not drift too far away with the wind. After the rocket gets low enough an electronic circuit deploys the main parachute. This parachute slows the rocket enough so that it lands nicely. Many other details go into the design of a rocket. The strength of the materials must be sufficient, the aerodynamics need to be stable and efficient, the parachutes need to be large and strong enough to bring down the rocket safely. These are just a few of the details. To see the report and presentation we made about our senior design project rocket the link below.

Senior Design Final Report.doc

Senior Design Final Presentation.ppt