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Ten Interesting Things about Model Rocketry

Updated on July 30, 2010

Our fascination for flight began when we were envying the birds. Since then, humans have tried to find ways to launch themselves off the ground. One of the earliest attempts at making something fly was the primitive rocket, which has been around since the 13th century. Ever since then, scientists and flight enthusiasts have been creating and re-creating models rockets both experimental and successful, and these have contributed largely to the knowledge we now have today.

Fascination With Rockets Starts at a Young Age
Fascination With Rockets Starts at a Young Age

But the fascination for model rockets did not stop with the white-coated scientist. It soon became a hobby, a highly enjoyable past-time, and even became a regular science project at school. It became so popular in fact, that many organizations were founded for the sole purpose of catering to the hobbyists. The hands-on nature of rocket modeling, as well as the thrill of making something just to see if it would fly or simply blow up appeals to many people from all ages and all walks of life, since it revives that spark of wonder and curiosity in all of us. Building homemade rockets is a thoroughly enjoyable pastime for many individuals and families and enjoyed by thousands around the world.

Basic Structure of a Model Rocket

Original patent drawing of Carlisle Brothers Model
Original patent drawing of Carlisle Brothers Model

In awakens the scientist in us, arousing not only feelings of achievement at a successful launch, but teaching us the value of relationships based on teamwork, perseverance, patience, and positive thinking. Below are 10 interesting facts and useful trivia about model rocketry.

1. The Alpha Launchers

First model rocket was put together and launched by Orville Carlisle and his brother Robert Carlisle. Orville was the owner of a shoe store in Norfolk, Nebraska but had great interest in pyrotechnics and always used to experiment while, Robert was a model aircraft enthusiast. With Robert’s assistance, Orville designed the very first model rocket in 1954.

Orville Carlisle with a model rocket in back of his Norfolk, Nebraska shoe store. This place also served as his little pyrotechnic museum cum workshop.
Orville Carlisle with a model rocket in back of his Norfolk, Nebraska shoe store. This place also served as his little pyrotechnic museum cum workshop.

2. The Founding of the 'Rocket Society'

Model rockets quickly appealed to so many people that in 1957, the National Association of Rocketry was founded in the United States by the joint effort of Orville Carlisle and George Harry Stine. The NAR would later popularize model rocketry as a highly enjoyable and educational hobby and establish the basic safety guidelines still used today.

3. Popularizing the Hobby

At the same date, Stine also founded Model Missile Incorporated, which was the first model rocket company. It was based in Denver Colorado.

Aerial photography for varied number of reasons is possible because of rockets
Aerial photography for varied number of reasons is possible because of rockets

4. Scientific Uses

Model rockets are not only for recreation. Some geographers and scientists use it for aerial photography, which is highly helpful in the creation of maps and in designing roadways.

5. Purpose in War and Espionage

Rockets equipped with cameras may and have been used as spy rockets. During the Cold War, Russians used rockets to spy on the U. S. forces, and vice versa.

6. The 'Eye-In-The-Sky'

Weatherologists and meteorologists use model rockets to monitor atmospheric temperature and wind currents.

Ancient Chinese Rockets
Ancient Chinese Rockets

7. Knowledge from the Ancients

The earliest forms of the rocket were made by Chinese alchemists, and resembled the rocket-shaped fireworks we now see today. These rockets were used not only during war, but also during holidays and ceremonies.

8. Upgrading the Toys

Aside from conventional low explosive rocket fuels, model rockets sometimes use hydrogen peroxide to propel it. Most of the rockets that use hydrogen peroxide as fuel are the large scale model rockets, also known as High Power Rockets, which use materials such as fiberglass and aluminum in the construction, which are more durable, and are able to withstand the stress of faster flight. These High Power Rockets also use motors, which are often re-loadable.

9. A Contest of Dreamers

Team America Rocketry Challenge, also known as TARC, which is funded by the Aerospace Industries Association, and the National Association of Rocketry holds an annual competition for 7th to 12th grade students. This competition helps develop the student's interest not only in the hobby of rocketry itself, but in its science. Most model rocket hobbyists have a tendency to study aeronautics, rocketry, engineering, ballistics, or general science later on in life.

10. Let's Up-size

The largest model rocket to date is the Saturn V which was successfully launched on April 25, 2009. The designer, Steve Eves, worked for two years building the 36-foot model.

Rockets have held for us some minor achievement in the history and science of flight. It holds its own place next to the airplane and the helicopter. It has become a living testament that what was once impossible has become reality. Since 1865, when the French author Jules Verne published his novel entitled, 'From the Earth to the Moon' people have been speculating about sending things up the sky, and maybe even perhaps through space.

On July 20, 1969, the first men landed on the moon. It was, as the popular saying goes: 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind'. Today, we can experience the same excitement through model rocketry. Although it's not the same as launching a huge rocket to the moon, or to Mars, who knows? Maybe what starts as a hobby will become the stepping stone that will one day lead us to make rockets that will reach the farthest reaches of space? It is from the little things that big things come from - and in model rocketry, that saying holds true.


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    • CarNoobz profile image

      CarNoobz 5 years ago from USA

      Me and my friend Gabe were totally into model rockets in the 80s. We each had several. My favorite was my Alpha III, but I was always jealous of his Mean Machine (I think that's what it was called). It was like 6 feet tall, towering above all our other models (and even over us LOL...we were what 12? 13?)

      Good fun.

      Voted up

    • BillyDRitchie profile image

      BillyDRitchie 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Wow, a great informative article on rocketry. I am a "born again rocketeer", getting out of the hobby when I was 13 and back in the hobby at age 39!

    • johnsams profile image

      johnsams 7 years ago

      Hi Michael, your comments are very much appreciated and I hope that I'll continue to publish hubs on interesting topics. :)

    • Michael Jay profile image

      Michael Jay 7 years ago

      Great hub,johnsams! I really liked the way you presented the information with great images and videos. Thank you very much for sharing.

    • johnsams profile image

      johnsams 7 years ago

      Thank you Mentalist acer, I am glad that we both share the same passion for model rockets. They are just so fascinating!

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      My favorite event at air shows are the model rocket events...Great Hub Johnsams!