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Storyline

Standards

Vocabulary

Teacher Background

Materials
Unit Plan
Student Portfolio
Resources

Grade 6-8 | 10 (45 min) Classes

In this lesson, students will answer the question, how does gravitational potential energy transform to kinetic energy in a model rocket flight? The students will read a story about humans living on Mars in the year 2343 who wish to launch rockets to the moons of Mars. They will anticipate how the gravitational force on Mars will affect their exploration.

 

Students will hypothesize how the gravitational force on Mars will affect the gravitational potential energy of a model rocket. After a review of potential and kinetic energy, students will practice what they learned and build and test a rubber band rocket. They will then review the data and apply their learnings to build a model rocket in groups to analyze its transformation of energy.

 

After the flight, the students will combine their data into a class data chart. They will compute how their rockets would be affected if they were being launched from Mars.
The student’s final product will be to complete a Claims- Evidence- Reasoning writing piece supporting their final conclusions. A traditional multiple-choice quiz is included for use if desired.

 

In 1949, a clandestine group of government scientists met at a secret airbase in Nevada to form Project Star Hopper. The goal was to produce a fast and maneuverable piloted vehicle to compete with the unidentified objects commonly referred to as “flying saucers.” With the nation’s best engineers on the task, plans were drawn up for a sleek and functional atomic-powered vessel that could be launched quickly to intercept the aggressors. The result was the Star Hopper – the world’s first interplanetary spacecraft. A small fleet was constructed and tested, and by 1955, they were ready to protect the skies from alien invaders. Or so we were told…

 

It was absolutely crucial that the Star Hoppers were able to land accurately on the stars if they were to be successful in identifying the aliens. The engineers at Project Star Hopper need your help to determine how to make the rocket land accurately for the pilots navigating space. The focus of your research will be on the recovery system and adjusting the length of the streamer

Standards

Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

MS-PS3-2

Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system.

MS-PS3-5

Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.

MS-ETS1-2

Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS1-3

Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

Common Core Standards - English

CC SS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3

Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

Common Core Standards - Math

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.EE.B.6

Use variables to represent numbers and write expressions when solving a real-world or mathematical problem; understand that a variable can represent an unknown number, or, depending on the purpose at hand, any number in a specified set.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.EE.B.8

Write an inequality of the form x > c or x < c to represent a constraint or condition in a real-world or mathematical problem. Recognize that inequalities of the form x > c or x < c have infinitely many solutions; represent solutions of such inequalities on number line diagrams.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.1

Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.3

Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.RP.A.2

Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities.

Vocabulary

APOGEE

The peak altitude or highest point of a rocket’s flight.

GRAVITY POTENTIAL ENERGY

Energy that is stored due to the gravitational force of the Earth, dependent on the object’s mass and height, and measured in Joules.

GRAVITY

Force that pulls everything down toward the center of the Earth.

STARTER

Device used to ignite a rocket engine

JOULES

Unit of work or energy, abbreviated as J

KINETIC ENERGY

Energy of motion that is dependent on mass and velocity, measured in Joules

DIRECT RELATIONSHIP

Relationship between two variables such that when one variable changes, the second variable changes in the same manner.

INVERSE RELATIONSHIP

Relationship between two variables such that when one variable changes, the second variable changes in the opposite manner.

Teacher Background

Energy Transformation

Potential energy is energy that is stored in an object and is dependent on its position. While there are several different types of potential energy, Gravitational Potential Energy is the focus in this lesson. Gravitational Potential Energy (GPE) is the energy that is stored because of the object’s height. It is a result of the gravitational force of the Earth. GPE is calculated by multiplying the mass of the object by the gravitational force (on Earth, this is 9.8 m/s2) by the height (or distance that the object can fall). It is written:

 

 

Gravitational Potential Energy = m x g x h
m = mass (kg); h = distance the object can fall (m); g = acceleration due to gravity (9.8 m/s2) 

 

Thus, a heavy object will have a greater GPE than a lighter object. The higher the object is (in other words, the farther away the object is from the center of Earth), the greater the GPE. The unit of measurement for GPE is the Joule, abbreviated J.


Since GPE depends on gravitational force, an object on a planet other than Earth will have a different GPE. As an example, the gravitational force on Mars is 3.7 m/s2. An object on Mars would have less GPE compared to its GPE on Earth, assuming the same mass and distance from the planets.


In a model rocket, the transformation of energy is related to the momentum of the rocket. The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, it is transformed. In a model rocket, the GPE is transformed into kinetic energy. Kinetic Energy (KE) is the energy of motion. KE is calculated by multiplying two variables – mass and velocity. The equation for KE is as follows:


Kinetic Energy = 1/2 x m x v2
m = mass (kg); v = velocity (m/s)

KE is a scalar quantity. Since it does not have direction, KE is described in magnitude. The unit of measurement for KE, like the unit of measurement for PE, is the Joule, abbreviated J.

 

Energy in Rocketry

Review the steps of the rocket flight sequence, alongside the energy conversion:

Step Flight Sequence Energy Conversion
1 Electrically ignited model rocket engines provide rocket liftoff. Since there is nothing moving, the rocket’s KE = 0 and the GPE =0 since its height is 0
2 Model rocket accelerates and gains altitude.
3 Engine burns out and the rocket continues to climb during the coast phase. The rocket is gaining both speed and height, so GPE and KE are both increasing. Right before it coasts, the KE is the highest
4 Rocket reaches peak altitude (apogee). Model rocket ejection charge activates the recovery system. The rocket has the greatest height therefore the greatest GPE and there is no KE.
5 Recovery system is deployed. Parachutes and streamers are the most popular recovery systems used. Rocket returns to Earth. As the rocket falls, GPE is converted to KE.
6 Rocket touchdown! Right before landing the KE is greater than the GPE

Using the Estes Altimeter

Altimeter Functions: The altimeter will record the highest point that the rocket reaches. This is called apogee.

 

  1. To turn on and use the altimeter,
    1. Install the battery.
    2. Using a pen or screwdriver, slide the switch to ON.
    3. The Altimeter will display 0 feet or meters. (When not in use, always turn it off.)
    4. With the altimeter on, press and hold the button until the required function is displayed, then release it to provide access to that function.
  2. To change units from ft to m, press and hold button until UNIT is displayed, and then release the button. Press button until 0000 is displayed and altimeter is ready for flight.
  3. To clear the altimeter from the previous launch, press and hold the button until 0000 is displayed, then release. This will clear the display, but the altitude will still be stored in memory.  Data for up to 10 flights will be saved.
  4. To view recorded flights, press and hold the button until REC0 is displayed then released. Press and release the button quickly while in the REC0 mode to view each of the 1-10 recorded flights in order of “last flight first”.
  5. To exit REC0 mode, press and hold the button until the REC0 display starts to flash and release the button. Press the button until 0000 is displayed.
  6. To clear flight data memory, press and hold the button until the CLER mode is displayed and then released. Press and release once more to clear the memory of all the launch data. (Be sure you have written it down first!)

Installing the Altimeter: Attach the altimeter to the base of the nose cone with the clip. If launching the altimeter inside a rocket body tube, pack recovery wading and the parachute with sufficient room for the altimeter to fit easily.

Materials

Each Student Needs:

Student Design Portfolio

Safety Goggles

Clipboard

Calculator

Scissors

Ruler

Meter Stick

Rubber Band

Bamboo Skewer

Straw

Masking Tape

Pennies

Permanent Marker

Stopwatch (1 per group)

The Class Needs:

Potential and Kinetic Energy Slide Presentation (Available as part of the Unit Plan Download)

Green Eggs Rocket Kit

C11-3 Engines

Lifetime Launch System

Estes Altimeter

Glue

Exacto Knife

Camera (optional)

Unit Plan

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Student Portfolio

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Touch Down Lesson

Touchdown!

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Storyline

Standards

Vocabulary

Teacher Background

Materials
Unit Plan
Student Portfolio
Resources

Grade 6-8 | 8 (45 min) Classes

In this lesson, students will answer the question, “How does a parachute’s design affect the speed of descent of a model rocket?” The students will read a story about humans living on Mars in the year 2323. They must design a way to allow a rocket from Earth to land safely on their planet, Estesonia, as the rocket is carrying fragile, photovoltaic cells, their alternate energy source.

 

Students will hypothesize how the design of a parachute affects the speed of descent of a model rocket. After a review of different types of recovery systems, students will practice what they learned and build and test a parachute prototype. After analyzing the data, students will apply what they have learned to build the Green Eggs Rocket and plan the parachute for their flight. They will state a hypothesis and identify the independent and dependent variables.

 

After the flight, the students will combine their data into a class data chart to allow better analysis. They will compare the results and determine the answer to the essential question, “How does a parachute’s design affect the speed of descent of a model rocket?”.

 

The student’s final product will be to complete a Claims-Evidence-Reasoning writing piece supporting their final conclusions. A traditional multiple-choice quiz is included for use if desired.

Standards

Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

MS-PS2.1

Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.

MS-ETS 1-1

Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-ETS 1-2

Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS 1-3

Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

MS-ETS 1-4

Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Vocabulary

APOGEE

The peak altitude or highest point of a rocket’s flight.

DRAG

The aerodynamic force that opposes an aircraft’s motion through the air.

GRAVITY

Force that pulls everything down toward the center of the Earth.

LIFT

The force that directly opposes the weight of an aircraft and holds an aircraft in the air.

PARACHUTE

Drag-producing device, generally hemispherical (halfsphere) in shape. Parachutes used in model rockets are generally made from light plastic and are used to gently recover the payload package, rocket body, etc.

RECOVERY SYSTEM

A device incorporated into a model rocket for the purpose of returning it to the ground in a safe manner. All model rockets must employ a recovery system (such as a parachute).

RECOVERY WADDING

Flame resistant tissue packed between the streamer or parachute and model rocket engine protecting the recovery device from hot ejection gases.

THRUST

The propulsive force that moves something forward.

VELOCITY

The rate of motion or speed in a given direction. Measured in terms of distance moved per unit time, in a specific direction.

Teacher Background

Newton's Third Law of Motion

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

With rockets, the action is the expelling of gas out of the engine. The reaction is the movement of the rocket in the opposite direction. The rocket is pushed by the escaping gases produced by the chemical reaction of fuel and oxidizer combining in the combustion chamber.

Parts of a Model Rocket

Rocket PartsThe main parts of a model rocket are the body tube, engine holder assembly, fins, launch lug, nose cone, shock cord and recovery system. Model rockets are made of lightweight materials like paper, balsa wood, and plastic. The body tube is the main structure of the rocket. It determines the main shape of the rocket and is usually long and slender. All other parts are attached to the body tube. The engine mount holds the engine in place inside the rocket. Fins give directional stability and help the rocket fly straight. The launch lug is the hollow tube that slips over the launch rod. The nose cone is attached to the top of the rocket and is tapered to cut through the air more efficiently and reduce drag. The rubber shock cord, which attaches the nose cone to the body tube so the rocket is recovered in one piece. The recovery system returns the rocket to the ground safely.

 

A Typical Model Rocket Flight

Thrust is the upward force that makes a rocket move off the launch pad. This is a demonstration of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: The action of the gas escaping through the engine nozzle leads to the reaction of the rocket moving in the opposite direction. The casing of a model rocket engine contains the propellant. At the base of the engine is the nozzle which is made of a heat-resistant, rigid material. The igniter in the rocket engine nozzle is heated by an electric current supplied by a battery-powered launch controller. The hot igniter ignites the solid rocket propellant inside the engine which produces gas while it is being consumed. This gas causes pressure inside the rocket engine, which must escape through the nozzle. The gas escapes at a high speed and produces thrust.

 

Located above the propellant is the smoke-tracking and delay element. Once the propellant is used up, the engine’s time delay is activated. The engine’s time delay produces a visible smoke trail used in tracking, but no thrust. The fast moving rocket now begins to decelerate (slow down) as it coasts upward toward peak altitude (apogee).The rocket slows down due to the pull of gravity and the friction created as it moves through the atmosphere. The effect of this atmospheric friction is called drag. When the rocket has slowed enough, it will stop going up and begin to arc over and head downward. This high point or peak altitude is the apogee.

 

At this point the engine’s time delay is used up and the ejection charge is activated. The ejection charge is above the delay element. It produces hot gases that expand and blow away the cap at the top of the engine. The ejection charge generates a large volume of gas that expands forward and pushes the recovery system (parachute, streamer, helicopter blades) out of the top of the rocket. The recovery system is activated and provides a slow, gentle and soft landing.

 

To summarize, the steps of the Flight Sequence of a Model Rocket are:

  1. Electrically ignited model rocket engines provide rocket liftoff.
  2. Model rocket accelerates and gains altitude.
  3. Engine burns out and the rocket continues to climb during the coast phase.
  4. Engine generates tracking smoke during the delay/coast phase.
  5. Rocket reaches peak altitude (apogee). Model rocket ejection charge activates the recovery system.
  6. Recovery systems are deployed. Parachutes and streamers are the most popular recovery systems used.
  7. Rocket returns to Earth.
  8. Rocket touchdown! Replace the engine, igniter, igniter plug and recovery wadding. Rocket is ready to launch again!

Recovery Systems

Various recovery systems are used depending on rocket size and weight. While this lesson focuses on the streamer as a recovery system, the systems used in Estes model rockets include:

 

  • Break-Apart – Recovery is accomplished by the rocket separating in the middle and free falling back to the ground.
  • Featherweight – Used strictly for light rockets. When the ejection charge activates, the engine is ejected, and the rocket falls lightly to the ground.
  • Glide – The engine’s ejection charge converts the rocket into a glider by separating the glider from the booster rocket. The glider’s wings then generate lift, allowing it to settle slowly to the ground.
  • Helicopter – Vanes on the rocket are activated when the ejection charge fires. Lift is created when the vanes rotate and the rocket settles slowly to the ground.
  • Tumble – The center of gravity is shifted behind the center of pressure. (The center of gravity is the point where the rocket balances evenly. The center of pressure is the point where the aerodynamic forces are evenly distributed.) Tumble can be accomplished by allowing the ejection charge to push the engine casing backwards, but not out of the rocket. The rocket is unstable and tumbles end over end producing high drag which slows the rocket as it falls. This method is often used for recovering lower stages of multi-stage rockets.
  • Parachute – The parachute is the most common form of recovery. Drag is produced by the parachute to slow the rocket. The parachute is attached to both the nose cone and the body tube. Flame-resistant recovery wadding must be placed between the engine and the parachute. If wadding is not placed in the rocket, the engine could melt or burn holes into the parachute.
  • Streamer – A streamer is attached to the rocket and ejected by the ejection charge. It whips through the air causing drag to slow the rocket. The larger the streamer, the slower the rocket descends.

Materials

Each Student Needs:

Student Design Portfolio

Safety Goggles

Tape

Scissors

Plastic Grocery Bag

Ruler

String/ Dental Floss (about 4 feet)

Toothpick

Market/Highlighter or Small Toy

The Class Needs:

Rocket Recovery Slide Presentation
Stopwatch
Meter Sticks
Green Eggs Bulk Pack
C11-3 Engines
Pocket Lab
Glue
Hobby Knife
Camera (optional)

Unit Plan

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Student Portfolio

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Ready, Steady, GO Lesson

Ready, Steady, GO!

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Storyline

Standards

Vocabulary

Teacher Background

Materials
Unit Plan
Student Portfolio
Resources
Ready Steady Go Banner

Grade 7-10 | 9 (45 min) Classes

In this lesson, students will answer the question, How does the relationship between the center of pressure and the center of gravity affect the stability of a rocket? Working in teams of three, students will be challenged to design and market a rocket prototype to NASA for its Artemis Program that will be stable enough to carry commercial passengers to the Moon.

 

Students will be working for R2 Manufacturing, a company revolutionizing spaceflight and rocket technologies. Their new propulsion technology has been a breakthrough, but development on the airframe has been challenging. Their first attempt veered wildly from the flight path, slammed into the ground and was destroyed. Stability has been a huge concern, and they worry that their latest design will suffer the same fate. Students will be placed into 3 different roles – Head Engineer, Head of Manufacturing, and Program Manager – to provide an independent review, measure and verify the stability of the rocket. They will then provide recommendations for the next design iteration.

 

Through this lesson, students will learn about the center of gravity and center of pressure to hypothesize the best way to have a stable rocket flight. They will then build their first rocket prototype to determine the center of gravity and the center of pressure for their rocket design. They will analyze their own results and the results of their classmates. Following stability tests, they will plan and build a second rocket prototype with a different configuration and identify the center of gravity and the center of pressure of this rocket. Students will make a scientific drawing of a stable rocket, identifying the location of the center of gravity and the center of pressure.

Standards

Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

MS-ETS 1-1

Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-ETS 1-2

Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS 1-3

Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

MS-ETS 1-4

Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Common Core Standards - English

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2

Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.D

Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1, SL.7.1, SL.8.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.4, SL.7.4, SL.8.4

Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.5, SL.7.5, SL.8.5

Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.6, SL.7.6, SL.8.6

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate

Vocabulary

CENTER OF GRAVITY

The point in a rocket around which its weight is evenly balanced; the point at which a model rocket will balance on a knife edge.

CENTER OF PRESSURE

The point where the total sum of air pressure forces act on a body.

DRAG

The aerodynamic force that opposes an aircraft’s motion through the air.

FIN

The stabilizing and guiding unit of a model rocket (which should be in a symmetrical form of three, four, or possibly more and made of reinforced paper, balsa, or plastic); an aerodynamic surface projecting from the rocket body for the purpose of giving the rocket directional stability.

GRAVITY

Force that pulls everything down toward the center of the Earth.

LIFT

The force that directly opposes the weight of an aircraft and holds an aircraft in the air.

MASS

The amount of matter in an object

NOSE CONE

The foremost surface of a model rocket, generally tapered in shape to allow for streamlining, usually made of balsa or plastic.

STABILITY

A stable and safe rocket where the nose of the rocket travels forward and moves in a predictable flight path. For a stable model rocket, the center of pressure should be located below the center of gravity.

THRUST

The propulsive force that moves something forward.

Teacher Background

Forces of Flight

There are four forces (drag, gravity, thrust, lift) that act on all objects that travel through the air. Drag and gravity are the two unbalanced forces that act on a model rocket. Drag is the resistance or frictional force between the surface of a moving object and air. Drag increases with speed. Gravity is the force pulling an object back to the surface of the Earth. The amount of this force is proportional to the mass of the object.

 

When the rocket lifts off the launch pad it is guided by the launch rod in a straight line upward. The unbalanced forces (drag and gravity) cause it to arch and fall to the ground.

Center of Gravity / Center of Pressure

The basic principle of rocket stability is the center of gravity must be ahead of the center of pressure for the rocket to be stable. The center of gravity (CG) is the point at which the mass of the rocket is balanced because the weight forward from this point is equal to the weight to the rear of this point. (Think of this as balancing a pencil on your finger. The pencil will balance when there is an equal amount of mass on both sides of your finger.) The center of pressure (CP) is the point on the rocket at which half of the aerodynamic surface area is located forward and half to the rear.

 

Fins make the rocket fly straight. A rocket without fins will tumble around its CG (also called the balance point) when flying through the air like a balloon that is inflated and then let go. The balloon will fly erratically because it is uncontrolled. With fins, a rocket has more surface area behind the CG than in front. When the rocket is flying through the air, the air has more surface area to push against behind the balance point than in front because of the greater surface area provided by the fins. Therefore, the rocket tends to stabilize itself. The rocket will rotate until the nose is pointing forward in the air and the fins are pointing backward.

 

If you point a rocket straight up, the CP should be below the CG. This will allow the rocket to have a stable flight. You can accomplish this by adding fins (as noted above) or by adding mass to the front of the rocket meaning if the rocket is pointed upward, the CP should be below the CG. Neutral stability is when the CG and CP are at the same point and the rocket’s flight will be random. If the CP is in front of the CG (in other words, the surface area is greater towards the front or top of the rocket), then the flight will be unstable.

Materials

Each Student Needs:

Student Design Portfolio

Rocket Stability Kit

Glue

Hobby Knife

Safety Goggles

Pencil

Ruler

Cardstock

String (60 cm)

Permanent Marker

Small ball of clay

Colored Pencils, Markers, or Paint

Computer (optional)

The Class Needs:

Unit Plan

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Student Portfolio

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Resources

PowerPoint Presentations

Videos

NASA Artemis Overview – The NASA program that students are designing towards

 

Launch 1

Launch 2

Launch 3

Shoot For the Stars Lesson

Shoot for the Stars

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Vocabulary

Teacher Background

Materials
Unit Plan
Student Portfolio
Resources
Shoot for the Stars Banner

Grade 6-8 | 10 (45 min) Classes

There had been strange lights in the sky before 1947, but never like this. In June of that year, an experienced civilian pilot reported “saucer-like discs” over Mount Rainier. By July, the papers were running stories about a rancher who discovered strange wreckage in the desert near Roswell. Accounts of mystery “aircraft” and other unknown aerial phenomena were gaining public attention. Something strange was going on and the people in charge wanted answers.

 

In 1949, a clandestine group of government scientists met at a secret airbase in Nevada to form Project Star Hopper. The goal was to produce a fast and maneuverable piloted vehicle to compete with the unidentified objects commonly referred to as “flying saucers.” With the nation’s best engineers on the task, plans were drawn up for a sleek and functional atomic-powered vessel that could be launched quickly to intercept the aggressors. The result was the Star Hopper – the world’s first interplanetary spacecraft. A small fleet was constructed and tested, and by 1955, they were ready to protect the skies from alien invaders. Or so we were told…

 

It was absolutely crucial that the Star Hoppers were able to land accurately on the stars if they were to be successful in identifying the aliens. The engineers at Project Star Hopper need your help to determine how to make the rocket land accurately for the pilots navigating space. The focus of your research will be on the recovery system and adjusting the length of the streamer

Standards

Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

3-5-ETS1-1

Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

3-5-ETS1-2

Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

3-5-ETS1-3

Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved. 

Common Core Standards - Math

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.MD.A.1

Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.MD.B.4 and CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.B.2

Represent and interpret data.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.A.1

Convert like measurement units within a given measurement system.

Vocabulary

DRAG

The aerodynamic force that opposes an aircraft’s motion through the air.

FORCE

A push or pull upon an object resulting from the object’s interaction with another object. 

GRAVITY

Force that pulls everything down toward the center of the Earth.

LIFT

The force that directly opposes the weight of an aircraft and holds an aircraft in the air.

RECOVERY SYSTEM

A device incorporated into a model rocket for the purpose of returning it to the ground in a safe manner. All model rockets must employ a recovery system (such as a parachute).

STREAMER

A type of recovery system composed of a narrow piece of nylon or mylar. Once ejected from the rocket, it whips back and forth in the wind to create drag to slow the descent.

THRUST

The propulsive force that moves something forward.

Teacher Background

How does a Rocket Fly?

Students should be familiar with how a model rocket launches and all safety procedures that should be followed. The safety requirements can be found in the Model Rocket Safety Code of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).

A Typical Model Rocket Flight

Flight Profile

Thrust is the upward force that makes a rocket move off the launch pad. This is a demonstration of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The action of the gas escaping through the engine nozzle leads to the reaction of the rocket moving in the opposite direction. The casing of a model rocket engine contains the propellant. At the base of the engine is the nozzle which is made of a heat-resistant, rigid material. The igniter in the rocket engine nozzle is heated by an electric current supplied by a battery-powered launch controller. 

The hot igniter ignites the solid rocket propellant inside the engine which produces gas while it is being consumed. This gas causes pressure inside the rocket engine, which must escape through the nozzle. The gas escapes at a high speed and produces thrust. Located above the propellant is the smoke-tracking and delay element. Once the propellant is used up, the engine’s time delay is activated.

 

The engine’s time delay produces a visible smoke trail used in tracking, but no thrust. The fast-moving rocket now begins to decelerate (slow down) as it coasts upward toward peak altitude (apogee). The rocket slows down due to the pull of gravity and the friction created as it moves through the atmosphere. The effect of this atmospheric friction is called drag. When the rocket has slowed enough, it will stop going up and begin to arc over and head downward. This high point or peak altitude is the apogee. At this point the engine’s time delay is used up and the ejection charge is activated. The ejection charge is above the delay element. It produces hot gases that expand and blow away the cap at the top of the engine. The ejection charge generates a large volume of gas that expands forward and pushes the recovery system (parachute, streamer, helicopter blades) out of the top of the rocket. The recovery system is activated and provides a slow, gentle and soft landing. The rocket can now be prepared for another launch.

 

To summarize, the steps of the Flight Sequence of a Model Rocket are:

  1. Electrically ignited model rocket engines provide rocket liftoff.
  2. Model rocket accelerates and gains altitude.
  3. Engine burns out and the rocket continues to climb during the coast phase.
  4. Engine generates tracking smoke during the delay/coast phase.
  5. Rocket reaches peak altitude (apogee). Model rocket ejection charge activates the recovery system.
  6. Recovery systems are deployed. Parachutes and streamers are the most popular recovery systems used.
  7. Rocket returns to Earth.
  8. Rocket touchdown! Replace the engine, igniter, igniter plug and recovery wadding. Rocket is ready to launch again!

Recovery Systems