Grades 6-8 | 10 (45 min) Classes

Topics Covered

Forces of Flight | Graphing

Essential Question

How does the length of a streamer affect the accuracy of a rocket's landing?


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.


Each Student Needs:

  • Student Portfolio
  • Safety Goggles
  • Clipboard
  • Calculator
  • Mylar Sheet
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Meter Stick
  • Snap Swivel

Each Classroom Needs:




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


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.


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.



Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements.


Represent and interpret data.


Convert like measurement units within a given measurement system.


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


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


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.


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).


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.


The propulsive force that moves something forward.

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!