Ever wanted to launch model rockets but didn’t have a clue where to start? Rockets can be a fun parent-child or family activity but it can be overwhelming when you walk into Turner Toys & Hobbies and see a huge array of rockets and accessories. Follow these easy tips so you can be a hero in your child’s eyes when you introduce them to rocketry.
Have kids under 10? Start off with rocket “toys” that are propelled by baking soda and vinegar. The Meteor Rocket Kit or Rocket Car Kit both by Scientific Explorer are great choices. If you have a group of kids, go for Science Wiz’s Bottle Rocket Party pack. It has the basic tools but you’ll need to supply the baking soda & vinegar. Note: all of these rocket toys require adult supervision.
Ready For “Real” Model Rockets?
Estes Rockets are the granddaddy of rockets. Turner Toys & Hobbies also carries FlisKit rockets. They’re quirky, inventive (the Nantucket Sound Lighthouse Rocket, anyone?) and are made in the USA (in New Hampshire) but they require more skill than the beginning rockets I’m listing below.
All of these model rockets are designed for kids 10+. Adult supervision is still recommended for kids under 12.
Rockets are graded so you know what you’re getting in to. For beginners, look for rockets that say “RTF” or “Ready To Fly”. These don’t require any cutting, gluing or painting. The next level is “E2X” (Easy to Assemble). Then they are graded 1-5 depending on the complexity of assembly.
What do I need to get started?
· Rocket with included parachute
· Recovery Wadding
· Launch pad
· Launch Controller
· Batteries for the controller
The nice thing is the rocket, parachute, launch pad and controller are reusable. All you need to replace is the wadding and the engines.
You can buy all these items separately, but if you don’t already have a launch pad and controller, it’s cheaper to buy a set that includes the rocket, pad and controller. In any case, you’ll still need to buy the “consumables”: engines and recovering wadding.
You can’t launch your rocket without the right engines. Each rocket comes with a recommended assortment of engine sizes. The last ones on the list are the largest recommended engine size for that model. If you are a novice you should try the engine marked “First Flight.” This will give you a sense of how the rocket will fly and descend. The engines are marked with letters and double in power as you go up. For example, a “B” engine is twice as powerful as an “A.” You will need a new engine for each flight.
How High Will it Fly And Where Will It Land?
This depends on your rocket and the size of the engine you use (see above). RTF rockets can go anywhere from 675-1200 feet depending on the engine size. As I mentioned above, I recommend starting with the smallest engine (marked “First Flight.”)
Landings will depend on wind and drift. It’s unlikely that your rocket will shoot straight up and land in the same place. Tracking and finding your rocket is half the fun!! I’ve got some more tips below on how to handle drift.
Best Rocket Kits for Beginners
The Riptide Model Rocket Launch Set RTF is a good choice for beginners. All you do is add engines, recovery wadding, batteries for the launch controller and you are ready to go! This rocket can fly up to 675 feet depending on the engine you use.
The Rascal & Hi Jinks Launch Set RTF includes two rockets, along with the launch pad and controller. This way you can prepare the second rocket while the first is flying and descending. No need to wait to recover the first rocket. These can fly up to 1200 ft with the largest recommended engine (C6-7).
The Flash Model Rocket Launch Set E2X requires more assembly and tools. This is great for the kid who has already flown RTF model rockets and wants to try a little more hands-on construction. You’ll need to assemble the motor mount, attach the fins, assemble the nose cone, tie on the reusable parachute, apply the decals and head out to the launch pad! The Flash Rocket can fly up to 925 feet with largest allowable engine (C6-7) and can be used over and over again. In addition to the recovery wadding, engines and batteries, you’ll need to have glue and a hobby knife and paints on hand.
Don’t have a lot of space? A lot of folks like the Moon Mutt Model Rocket Launch Set because it’s small and inexpensive and you can launch it in a small space. It’ll fly up to 200 feet. The only thing is that it uses mini engines and has a small launch pad that you can’t use with the other rocket models. It can be assembled in less than an hour and has a plastic nose cone and fins and self-stick decals.
There are loads more RTF and E2X model rocket sets. Once you have the launch pad and controller you can experiment with other model rockets. Check Turner Toys & Hobbies for more models.
Flying & Weather-Related Tips
This is kind of a no-brainer but make sure that you have the space to launch a rocket – make sure that there aren’t trees or overhead wires. Remember that the rockets will drift as they float down to earth. It might end up on a neighbor’s property. The wind will affect drift so think about launching on days without much wind.
How quickly a rocket descends will help cut down on how far it drifts. Each rocket comes with a parachute. You might want to cut a circle in the parachute’s peak or slit the parachute. This will vent the parachute so it will descends more quickly. If it comes down too quickly, you risk damaging it on impact. You can also angle the launch pad SLIGHTLY (just a few degrees) so it points into the wind. This way, it will drift back to you.
For more tips, read our earlier post about flying model rockets. What are your best tips and model rocket stories?
Ready to Launch?
Now you know what you need to launch your first rocket:
1) RTF or E2X model rocket kit
2) Make sure you have a launch pad and controller and batteries
3) Recovery wadding
4) Engines – look at the packaging to decide which engines your model can use.
Remember: Model rockets are not toys and are not recommended for kids under 10. Kids under 12 really need adult supervision. But why would you let your kids have all the fun? Of course, you’ll be launching with them!