“A Hitchhiker’s guide to Model Rocketry”: The what, why and how of it all!

Model Rockets are a great way to learn and practically experience the fundamentals of science. Here is a simple guide to basics of model rocketry.

The vast expanse of space appears to us as a wondrous and mysterious bastion, and it is

probably this mystery that intrigues us. Mankind’s efforts to understand and charter space is

never ending and so is our fascination for it. It is thus no surprise that the very vehicles that take us to space receive similar adulation and adoration. Rockets are a perfect amalgamation of science, technology and mathematics and the perfect symmetry and a harmonious balance among the three create perfect ones. Rocket science is no longer a just term used to express complexity. With the increase in awareness and the Indian advances in space technology, model rocketry is quickly ballooning into more than just a hobby.

What are model rockets?

Essentially, model rockets are miniaturized working representation of the large rockets,

designed to reach low altitudes and be recovered by various means. They work on the same

basic principle as their larger counterparts albeit simplified and deconstructed for a smaller

scale. The model rockets differ based on the heights they reach and their recovery systems.

This in turn influences the payload they are able to carry, their size, fuel required etc.

Model rockets are classified mainly based on the motor used. They are:

Class (Base 26)

Total Impulse (N.s)

US Requirements






























The largest model rocket motor according to TRA and NAR.



Level 1 Certification required from Tripoli or NAR. Under 125g propellant is Federal Aviation Administration exempt.






Level 2 Certification required from Tripoli or NAR.









Level 3 Certification required from Tripoli or NAR.









FAA/AST Permit or License required.









The largest motor used by amateurs.[6]

The Wikipedia page on model rockets hosts quite a lot of information on this:


What makes them different from just a toy is the level of skill and technical knowledge required. A basic model rocket comprises of a removable engine (which is usually filled with solid fuel), a recovery system and recovery wadding on the inside. These are housed in an air frame tube that has a nose (where generally the payload goes) and fins for aerodynamic control.

To have an interactive understanding of the basic model rocket components, the link below



Now, there are enhancements to these basic parts that creates a better rocket. Model rocket

enthusiasts are excited by the opportunity rocketry provides for creativity. Coupled with the its inherent DIY nature, many materials, fuel mixtures, body design and recovery systems can be explored. There are however, guidelines that need to be followed. Many countries have their own institutions that monitor, regulate and certify the techniques and procedures. Although India doesn’t have a independent governing body or model rocketry as of now, these other agencies can be referred to where the basic guidelines remain broadly the same and primary focus is on safety and precautions.

Why build model rockets?

Quite simply put, it’s a excellent way to learn basic math and science. It is fascinating to

experience something seemingly daunting like rocket science, being broken down into simple math, physics and chemistry. Both children as well as adults get a hands-on approach to learning these fundamentals and can see the their hard work yield physical results that soar through the skies. Moreover, rockets themselves have applications that far exceed those that meet the eye. Not just space exploration, rockets are used in weather forecast, communication, navigation, agriculture, to name a few. It is hence intriguing to understand the scale of impact and in our own very backyard, try to replicate it on a smaller scale. If we think about it, many of the private space research organization started out as mere hobby groups for model rockets and look where they are now.

Let us consider Planet Labs . Set up in 2010 by a few ex-NASA scientists and physicists in a

garage, Planet Labs uses space to help life on earth. They miniature satellites called doves

which they launch into an orbit around the earth. These doves are equipped with hi-res cameras and telescopes that capture images of specific sections of the earth. All the satellites collectively can create a periodic up-to date picture of the earth, which is then used for climate monitoring, crop yield prediction, urban planning, and disaster response. In fact, in Feb 2017, 88 of these doves were launched using our very own PSLV.

There’s also Rocket Lab , a private Aerospace manufacturer that make launch vehicles that will carry payloads into low altitude orbits. They provide the opportunity for others to use their launch vehicles to put instruments into orbits.

But, perhaps the most convincing argument for the “why” of it all is that it’s just damn good fun. What’s not to love? You get to launch rockets that you have worked on yourself. The sheer process of failure and eventual success is a high like no other. Plus, you will end up meeting other model rocket enthusiasts who, in our humble and unbiased opinion, are some of the best people on the planet.

How to start to building model rockets?

To put it bluntly, there is no right way to get started with model rocketry. It is similar to

asking what book to read first when starting off to read seriously. Like with any other hobby,

there a few basic steps one could take to delve deeper. A simple online search brings up a

tsunami of information. It’s very important to understand the basics first and then start applying, which will help you appreciate the effort that you will have to put in. Use an encyclopedia or the vast resources on the internet to grasp the fundamentals.

Additionally, you could also read up on how model rocketing shapes up in other parts of the

world in order to draw inspiration.

Listed below are a few links that might come handy while doing your basic research









To start off initially, you could use simple DIY kits that are easily available these days. We,

Rocketeers, also have model rocket kits available for sale at our online store . Most of these kits come with simple instructions and all the equipment you will need, including safe to use fuel cartridges.

[ Link: https://www.rocketeers.in/shop-rockets ]

Interaction and networking with like minded people who share the same passion will heighten your model rocketing experiences. Sharing experiences and knowledge will help you be a part of a community and will make it a more rewarding and engaging journey.

Utmost importance must be given to safety. Since combustible materials are being handled,

make sure that all the necessary protective measures are taken to ensure safety not just for

yourself, but for those around you all well. These safety instruction are also available online or with the kits you purchase. It is strongly recommended that the safety guidelines be studied before planning to build or launch a model rocket. The link the National Association of Rocketry safety hand book is given below


The possibilities are endless and so is the joy of model rockets. You would have realized by

now that there’s no real elaborate procedure to start off model rocketing. It is literally as

simple as Googling it. We have learnt the Newtonian basics in school. As you delve deeper, you will realize that there is so much more than just what we learnt as children.

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