Notes on Model Rocketry

Notes on Model Rocketry

This page summarizes some of the useful resources for buying rockets and flying rockets in and around Brookline, Massachusetts. It also provides information on the Lincoln After School Program "This is Rocket Science," offered to students in 3rd grade through 6th grade, at the William H. Lincoln Elementary School in Brookline, and links to the websites of local and national rocketry organizations. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me!

Rocket Building: Getting started

What do you need to get started launching rockets? Obviously, you will need a rocket! You will also need rocket motors, wadding, a launch pad, and an electronic ignition kit. You can purchase each item separately, or buy a model rocketry "starter set" that includes everything you need to head to the fields.

You can find the starter sets at toy stores, such as Toys-R-Us or through Amazon, but it is nice to first look for and support a local hobby shop.

I recommend Estes starter sets over other brands. There are kits that require no building, where the rocket can be purchased and taken directly to the site for flight. There are also basic kits that require some construction. There is certainly greater value and joy to be found in a kit where the rocket is hand-built. However, some of the preformed rockets, which at times assume very odd shapes, can be fun, too.

Rocket Building: More advanced designs

For a larger selection of starter kits, and a variety of more advanced rocket kits and motor choices, I recommend three excellent on-line shops:

Discount Rocketry

The more advanced kits produced by Aerotech are usually excellent. Much can be learned about more advanced rocket design in working with these kit rockets.

Ultimately, there is nothing quite as fun as building a rocket you designed yourself. Experimenting with rocket design, when done carefully, is safe and can teach you a great deal about the principles of rocket flight. Both sites offer a variety of "parts" including body tubes, motor mounts, fins, nose cones, shock cords, and recovery systems.

Rocket Launching: Where to go in the Boston area

There are a few local parks that are well-suited for launching smaller model rockets:

Larz Anderson Park (Goddard Avenue, Brookline)
Amory Fields (Amory Street, Brookline)
Millennium Park (VFW Highway, West Roxbury)

There are many other open playing fields in the area that may serve as well.

Rocket Launching: One step beyond

In launching larger rockets, my favorite site is an hour's drive from Brookline:

Woodsom Farm (Amesbury, Massachusetts)

The farm has over 200 acres of open fields, perfectly suited for an afternoon of rocketry. Bring a blanket, a picnic lunch, and make a day of it.

Course book for Lincoln After School Program "This is Rocket Science"

The notes from my Lincoln After School Program course on model rocketry are available on request. The notes are currently too large to post for download. Please contact me and I will be happy to mail you a paper copy.

In composing the notes, I had the parents of young rocketeers in mind, more than the rocketeers themselves. That said, I have had students in the course that have carefully worked through the full set of notes! The notes provide some background to help parents engage in a discussion of model rocketry, rocket science, and rocketry history with their children. That discussion can take place over days, months, or years. The notes aim to provide a hint of the wide range of topics, from chemistry to physics to engineering, which can enrich one's understanding and enjoyment of rocketry.

Local Rocketry Organizations

It can be fun to attend the "launch day" of a local chapter of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). Our most active local affiliate is Central Massachusetts Spacemodeling Society (CMASS). Their web site provides a schedule of launch days, which typically take place at Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, Massachusetts. The members of the organization have much to share, and I always learn a great deal attending one of their events.

Questions and comments

I would welcome contact by email with any questions you might have about model rocketry. If you are interested in promoting an after school program in model rocketry at your school, I would be happy to speak with you about my experiences, and how you might get started.