Welcome, Future Rocket Scientists!
How does a model rocket stack up
against the big guys?
Select a rocket below and find out.
› Model Rocket
› Saturn V
› Atlas V
› Space Shuttle
› Delta II
› Sounding Rocket
A model rocket has an aerodynamic nose cap, one stage, solid fuel motor, payload, parachute and stabilizing fins. A model rocket does not have a rocket engine, interstage, fuel tank, oxidizer tank or avionics.
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The sixth Saturn V, launched on July 16, 1969, resulted in the first manned lunar landing. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. made the first human footprints on the moon on July 20, 1969.
A Saturn V rocket has a rocket engine, three stages, a solid fuel motor, two interstages, a payload, a parachute, an aerodynamic nose cap, avionics, a fuel tank, an oxidizer tank and stabilizing fins.
- Function: To send the Apollo spacecraft and its crew of three to the moon
- Height: 111 meters (363 feet)
- Diameter: 10 meters (33 feet)
- Mass: 2,840,622 kilograms (6,262,500 pounds) at liftoff
- Stages: Three
- Maiden Flight: Nov. 9, 1967 (unmanned)
In January 2006, during the launch of the New Horizons mission, Atlas V set a new world record for the fastest spacecraft at time of leaving Earth's atmosphere - 35,800 miles per hour.
An Atlas V rocket has a rocket engine, two stages, a solid fuel motor, one interstage, a payload, an aerodynamic nose cap, avionics, a fuel tank and an oxidizer tank. An Atlas V rocket does not have stabilizing fins or a parachute.
Atlas V 500 Rocket
- Function: Space lift vehicle
- Height: 62.5 meters (205 feet) tall
- Diameter: 3.81 meters (12.5 feet)
- Mass: 21,173 kilograms (46,678 pounds)
- Stages: Two
- Maiden Flight: Aug. 21, 2002
The largest payload the space shuttle can carry into orbit is 22.7 metric tons (50,000 pounds).
A space shuttle has a rocket engine, two stages, a solid fuel motor, a payload, a parachute, an aerodynamic nose cap, avionics, a fuel tank and an oxidizer tank. A space shuttle does not have any interstages or stabilizing fins.
- Length Orbiter: 56 meters (184 feet)
- Width Orbiter: 23 meters (76.6 feet)
- Takeoff weight: 2,041 metric tons (4.5 million pounds)
- Fuel weight: 1,937 metric tons (4.3 million pounds), including solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank
- Maiden Flight: April 12, 1981
A Delta II can launch a satellite that is the equivalent weight of a Mercedes S500 sedan, approximately 1,905 kilograms (4,200 pounds).
A Delta II rocket has a rocket engine, two stages, a solid fuel motor, one interstage, a payload, an aerodynamic nose cap, avionics, a fuel tank and an oxidizer tank. A Delta II rocket does not have a parachute or stabilizing fins.
- Function: Space lift vehicle
- Height: 37.8 meters (125.9 feet)
- Diameter: 2.4 meters (8 feet)
- Mass: 231,870 kilograms (511,190 pounds)
- Stages: Two with optional third
- Maiden Flight: The first Delta II was successfully launched on Feb. 14, 1989, at Cape Canaveral.
The Black Brant rocket motor is the most frequently used of the NASA sounding rockets.
A sounding rocket has two stages, a solid fuel motor, one interstage, a payload, a parachute, an aerodynamic nose cap, avionics and stabilizing fins . A sounding rocket does not have a fuel tank, an oxidizer tank or a rocket engine.
Black Brant IV Sounding Rocket
- Function: Sounding rockets are designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during suborbital flight.
- Height: 5.3 meters (210 inches)
- Diameter: 44 centimeters (17.26 inches)
- Mass: The loaded weight of the motor including hardware is 1,265 kilograms (2,789 pounds), which includes 997 kilograms (2,198 pounds) propellant.
- Maiden Flight: November 1982
- Stages: Two
Rocket Parts Definitions
Aerodynamic nose cap - The top part of the rocket designed for flight in the atmosphere.
Avionics - The electrical systems that control the rocket during flight.
Fuel tank - The tank containing chemicals that combine with an oxidizer to burn and produce thrust.
Interstage - Section that connects stages.
Oxidizer tank - A tank containing oxygen compounds that permit rocket fuel to burn both in the atmosphere and in the vacuum of space.
Parachute - A folding, umbrella-like fabric device with cords supporting a harness or straps that decreases the terminal velocity of an object by increasing the drag on the object.
Payload - The cargo carried by a rocket.
Rocket engine - A machine with moving parts that converts stored propellant into hot gases to produce thrust.
Solid fuel motor - A simple device that converts stored propellant into hot gases to produce thrust.
Stabilizing fins - Lengthwise fixed attachments to rockets to provide a stabilizing effect.
Stage - Two or more rockets stacked on top of each other to reach higher altitudes or have a greater payload capacity.
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