The Hobby of Model Rockets

Model Rocketry is an amazing little hobby and it doesn't cost a whole lot to have a whole lot of fun! And there are a few different aspects to the hobby that are really appealing. First off you get to actually launch rockets right into the sky. And some rockets can go as high as a thousand feet or more. This is the outdoor fun component of the hobby. And secondly you get to spend some indoor, building something on the kitchen table fun. And if you are science minded there is also a third component to this whole hobby where you can design and build your own rockets. This is something you can do if you want to take this hobby to new heights - no pun intended!




About the Hobby of Model Rocketry

A Model Rocket not yet painted

The making rockets part of this hobby is shown by the picture on the left. In a basic rocket set up you build the tube of the rocket, add the fins and a few other things inside of the tube like the engine assembly. Then you attach it to the parachute and nose cone. It is now ready to paint and fly! This part of the hobby is easy and fun.

Depending on the complexity of the rocket you build you can have this done in an hour.

But there are a few questions about this hobby that people often ask like how does it shoot up into the sky? What propels it?

The propulsion of the rocket is what really makes this hobby special and the rocket companies have got this all figured out for you. They make something called "rocket engines". And all you have to do is insert the engine right into the rocket and you are just about ready to go.

A Rocket EngineThis is a rocket engine. It is pre made and ready to install in your rocket. And, once the rocket has fired off and returned to Earth you simply remove the used up engine and insert another one so you are ready to launch again.


You can buy these rocket engines at hobby stores, toy stores or online at many places including The picture here shows a few different packages of engines. Each package has three engines.




So how is the Rocket Engine Ignited?

An ignited and engine

This picture shows an engine and something called an igniter. The igniter is a small piece of wire with some flammable material on the end. This igniter is inserted into the engine. Once you are ready to launch the rocket you send a voltage to this igniter and it burns. This burning ignites the fuel inside the engine and the rocket takes off.

When you buy rocket engines you get these igniters with them.




Making the Rockets


Building the model rocketYou can buy rockets that are completely built and ready to launch. But you can also buy kits that give you the instructions and all the parts you need to build the rocket. For me this is a fun part of the project and I have built quite a few rockets of varying types.

You will just need a few extra things for the building like glue, scissors, a hobby knife, some tape, and a ruler.

And these rockets come in different skill levels. There are skill level 1 rocket kits for beginners and skill level 3 rockets for advanced builders. So, if you are just starting out in the hobby you should pick a skill level 1 just so you can understand how the whole process works.

The following picture shows the typical parts you get in a kit to make a rocket. This is for the estes alpha rocket.



Launching the Rockets


Launching a Model RocketThis is a lot of fun!

All you need is an open field that is large enough for the size engine you are using and you have a launch site. The National Association of Rocketry has some nice guidelines on this and it varies from 100 feet of open space to 500 feet for the larger and more powerful engines. You should look over the safety guidelines on the NAR site.





Rocket on the launch padYou set your rocket up on a launching pad as shown on the left. And then you connect the igniter to your launch controller. That is the wire you can see in the lower left. This wire goes to your launch controller which has the button that you press to launch the rocket.









This picture shows the launch controller you hold in your hand. It has the button that you press to launch the rocket.




And this picture shows the rocket on the launch pad and the two clips are the wires that are connected from the launch controller to the igniter. This is how the electricity ignites the engine.






Cost of the Hobby

When starting out in the hobby there are basically three things that you need.

  • A Model Rocket
  • A launching pad and controller
  • Rocket engines

Of course you will need a few extra things like tools and glue to make the rocket and batteries to go inside the launch controller but those are the three major things. And this can be simplified by buying a kit that has the launch pad and the rocket all in one kit.

The picture shown here is an estes package that includes two rockets, the launch pad and the controller. You just have to buy the engines.

This is available on and something like this usually costs around 25 dollars: Estes 1469 Tandem-X Launch Set




The biggest expense of this hobby, depending on how often you do it, will be the rocket engines. A pack of three will usually cost you around twenty dollars but you can shop around looking for bargains. Here is this pack on : Estes C6-5 Rocket Engine








The Estes Wizard They vary in price. You can get some great and easy beginner rockets for less than ten dollars like this Estes Wizard Rocket. (amazon: Estes 1292 Wizard Flying Model Rocket Kit ) From there they go up in complexity, size and cost to something like the estes Oracle rocket which has a video camera in the nose cone!




2187 Oracle Digital Video Rocket Kit E2X

This rocket has a video camera mounted on the nose cone. I have bought this rocket and I have launch footage and the video footage from inside the nose cone in a youtube video right here if you want to check it out: Launch footage from the Video Rocket



Resources, links, books and More

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50 Model Rocket Projects for the Evil Genius

Book Description
The fun, hands-on way to learn about rocket science
Yes, as a matter of fact, is IS rocket science! And because this book is written for the popular Evil Genius format, it means you can learn about this fascinating and growing hobby while having run creating 50 great projects. You will find a detailed list of materials, sources for parts, schematics, and lots of clear, well-illustrated instructions.

  • Projects include a camera rocket, video camera rocket, hydrogen-fueled rocket, UFO, and more
  • Projects start out basic and gradually become more sophisticated
  • Perfect for science fairs and school projects

Handbook of Model Rocketry (NAR Official Handbook)

A fully updated new edition of the bible of model rocketry and the official handbook of the National Association of Rocketry G. Harry Stine was one of the founders of model rocketry and one of its most accomplished and respected figures. His Handbook of Model Rocketry has long been recognized as the most authoritative and reliable resource in the field. Now fully updated and expanded by Harry's son Bill Stine, who inherited his father's passion for model rockets, the new Seventh Edition includes the many changes in the hobby that have occurred since the last edition was published, such as new types of rockets, motors, and electronic payloads, plus computer software and Internet resources. This new edition also includes new photos and a new chapter on high-power rocketry.
G. Harry Stine, founder and one-time president of the National Association of Rocketry, started the world's first model rocket company, whose kits are now in the Smithsonian. Bill Stine, also a model rocket expert, is the founder and president of Quest Aerospace Inc.



Actual launch footage from the camera inside the rocket as it is launched


Video showing the building and launching of an estes model rocket