Model rocketry is a hobby that has been practiced by youth for generations. Some of my fondest memories of my teenage years include building and launching model rockets with my older brother. He would build the advanced rocket, requiring some extra steps while I preferred the easier projects that came practically assembled.
These days, I can enjoy firing off model rockets with our nephew, a curious and remarkably clever 5-year-old with an active imagination and a love for science. If he isn’t running around the house in a Buzz Lightyear costume, he’s fighting evil alongside Ironman.
Model rocketry is a great hobby that allows you to legally fire rockets hundreds of feet into the air where they burst open before floating gently down to earth. It can be both a lesson in safety and in physics, giving you or your child a better understanding of how rockets are capable of traveling out of our atmosphere and into the cosmos. Discovering how varying wind and weather conditions impact the flight of your rocket, learning about angle compensation, and discovering the reasons behind the design of larger rockets can help you gain a better understanding of the science behind these technological marvels.
Model rockets come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Some are made in the image of aircraft that is actually used to pierce the heavens while others are a bit more imaginative.
Here are five really cool geeky model rocket kits. Aside from the SpaceX Falcon 9, the rockets on this lists are products of the largest model rocketry brand out there, Estes. Estes makes everything from rocket kits to engines and launch pads. Because is is really the predominant brand out there, it plays a pretty large role in this list. The top of the list, however, goes to a rocket from SpaceX which has outstanding reviews and is one of the more impressive builds I’ve seen come out of a commercial project to date.
SpaceX Falcon 9
SpaceX has opened the door for commercial spaceflight, and currently has its sights on sending a rocket up to the International Space Station (ISS). While that flight might be a bit delayed, you can still launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 of your very own.
Priced at $29.69, the SpaceX Falcon 9 model rocket kit gives you a good-size rocket standing 58 cm (22.8 in) tall. That makes it a 1:88 scale replica of the real thing.
The recovery system deployed by this rocket includes two twin parachutes to keep the falling speed low and protect your rocket and surroundings.
You won’t need to do any painting on this build, but you will need scissors, adhesive tape, white glue, epoxy glue (5-minute type), a stirring stick or straw, and a sheet of standard copy paper.
Estes 2157 Saturn V
Of all the rockets to be built by the hand of man, the Saturn V is perhaps the most important in our history. To date, the Saturn V remains the only one that has carried humans past low Earth orbit.
This is a remarkable model as well. An expert-level build, you should make sure you can dedicate a build space to it for at least 48 hours. This 1:100 scale model stands 43.25 inches tall and flies up to 150 feet in the air on a single engine.
Recovery is handled by way of three parachutes connecting to two main sections. The larger section is lowered gently by way of two 24-inch chutes.
Because this rocket is so big, you should take extra care to make sure it is launched with plenty of space on all sides as to avoid it landing in private property or potentially into traffic.
You can pick up a Saturn V model rocket for about $75 from Amazon.
Estes 2123 Eggscaliber
Have you ever played that game where you and your friends attempt to toss an egg as high in the air as you can without breaking it when you catch it? Well, Eggscaliber is an example of how model rocketry can allow you to launch an egg over 600 feet in the air and have it return safely to earth.
This is a great kit for science experiments as you can launch it using type B, C, D, and E rockets that each send your eggstronaut to various heights.
From a scientific standpoint, this kit can help a budding scientist or engineer understand the fundamental scientific principles behind how NASA and other space agencies have been able to send astronauts into orbit and back safely time after time.
You can pick up the Estes 2123 Eggscaliber model rocket kit on Amazon for about $18.
Estes 2037 D-Region Tomahawk
Flying about 750-800 feet in the air, the D-Region Tomahawk is an excellent 1:5 scale model of the sounding rocket used by NASA in 1968 to measure the D-layer of the ionosphere. This rocket stands 38.8 inches tall, operating off large E-type Estes engines.
One of the things I like most about this particular rocket is how easy it is to assemble.
At skill level 1, this rocket takes very little effort on the part of the owner to ready for launch. It’s one of those rockets you buy at the hobby store and take right out on the range.
An 18″ parachute makes up the recovery system and it’s large enough to be seen at altitude when powered by a D-type engine using the included adapter.
You can pick up the Estes D-Region Tomahawk from Amazon for about $28.
Estes 2187 Oracle Digital Video Rocket Kit
What could be better than seeing a rocket fire off the launch pad and fly hundreds of feet into the sky? Perhaps recording video from on-board the rocket might qualify. That’s what the Estes 2187 Oracle Digital Video Rocket Kit can do.
This kit is designed to be easy to assemble, coming together in under an hour, and can soar to heights of up to 600 feet in seconds. An on-board video camera installed in the nose cone records 30 seconds of 320×240 video, capturing every moment of flight from launch to recovery.
Some reports have indicated that the software used to pull video won’t work on OS X, though this may be remedied with a little know-how.
The nose cone itself isn’t exclusive to the rocket and can be coupled with other rockets featuring a BT-60 body tube. That means you can launch several rockets in your arsenal and videotape the experience.