How to build a winning S3A rocket

DSC 8268How to build a winning S3A rocket

The S3A category tests rocket’s ability to stay in the air for as long as possible. With a fixed amount of power from the solid fuel engine, lightness is key to get the highest altitude. Most rockets weigh just a few grams.

Engines burn for one second, getting the rockets briefly up to speeds around 200km/h. Then after a four second delay, they fire a back charge. This pushes a piston up through the inside the rocket, forcing the nosecone off, and the parachute out of the top.

Parachutes are made of the same material as space blankets, but are one tenth of the thickness. The size of parachute depends on the conditions. Too small and the rocket will come down too quickly. Too big and it may catch the wind and be blown miles away, out of sight of the timekeepers, and make it impossible to recover in time for the next round.

Competitors use lightweight materials, like plastic films, foams, carbon fibre and balsa wood to make various components; the nose cone, fins and body of the rocket.

The smaller the rocket the less air resistance. And each category of rocket has strict criteria on the length and width the rocket must be.

Kids launch

Children (and their enthusiastic parents) learned about rocketry as the 2016 FAI S World Championships for Space Models continued into the weekend today. Families that had come to see the event were invited to make and fire a rocket of their own.

Children as young as seven were shown how to add fins, a nose cone and a streamer to the rocket fuselage before getting to launch their own creations, many of which had personalised with colouring pens.

Workshop organiser Yuri Krupickiy has been teaching people about rockets for 45 years. He said “This is where the future scientists and engineers start. There’s no minimum age, if you can tie a knot in a piece of string, you can make a rocket.” Over the course of the competitions he’s helped over 1000 novices make rockets which when launched reach up to 100m into the sky.

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Photo credit: FAI / Andy Pag