Ready, Steady, Go! - Unit Plan

Grades 7-10 | 9 (45 min) Classes

Topics Covered

Newton's Laws | Forces of Flight | Center of Gravity and Pressure

Essential Question

How does the relationship between center of pressure and center of gravity affect stability of a rocket?


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.


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)

Each Classroom Needs:



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.



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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


Live, Online Training and 1:1 Support!

Estes Education has been a leader in STEM education for over 60 years. We know that STEM is a vital interdisciplinary topic that requires hands-on and inclusive learning. Explore these supporting materials to take learning to new heights!

Should you have need, you can meet with a member of Education team for FREE, 1:1 online support to learn rocketry basics, how to apply our curriculum, and discover unique teaching strategies. Our team is eager to answer your questions!



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.


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


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


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.


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


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


The amount of matter in an object


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


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.


The propulsive force that moves something forward.

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review

Learn About Model Rocket Safety!

Not sure how to safely launch a rocket with your group? Head over to our dedicated Safety instructions page for videos, support, and more!