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Rocket Launch Lab

Josh Uyeda
AMES
Hendricks A2

Abstract
Prior to the actual rocket launch several tests were set up. One for engine thrust analysis,
which was conducted to find the force of the rocket thrust as a function of time. Another of the
tests was to determine the drag coefficient, which was setup and determined through the use of a
wind tunnel and a smaller rocket. The last test prior to the actual launch was a numerical model
made on Microsoft Excel, which was used to determine a predicted height for each of the five
rockets and for what the height of the rocket would be for each engine. For the actual launch to
determine the height of the rocket three people were designated to stand 50 meters away and use
a protractor with a string and weight attached to it. This was used to find the angle of the top
height of the rocket so trigonometry functions could be applied to find the actual height.

Rocket
Big White
Small White
Red/Silver
Red/Black
Red/Yellow

Predicted Height
63 meters
40 meters
74 meters
70 meters
81 meters

Actual Height
63 meters
45 meters
79 meters
Aprox. 60 meters
91.2 meters

Introduction
The purpose for the rocket lab was to apply everything that was taught in the 1st and 2nd
semester about kinematics and dynamics; kinematics being the physics of motion and dynamics
being the physics of objects being affected by other forces, such as gravity and friction. Another
purpose of the lab was to use the information taught in the previous chapter about impulse,
momentum, and drag force. Momentum is defined as Momentum(P) = Mass x Velocity.
Impulse is defined as Impulse(J) = Force x Time and is the change of momentum of an object.
Also there were multiple rocket engines to be used. The engine were A, B, C engines.
They engines used in four of the five rockets were C engines and a 1/2A engine was used for the
small white rocket. The differences between each engine are the amount of force and time it
burns for. For example a A4-5 engine would burn for 4 seconds, as indicated by the 4 adjacent to
the A. The A represents the force given by the engine. An A would exert 2.5 Newtons, a B engine
5 Newtons, and a C engine 10 Newtons. The 5 after the hyphen represents the delay time before
the parachute is deployed, and insignificant to the calculations of the max height.

In order to predict the rockets height a technique called numerical iteration was applied.
Numerical iteration implies that for a short amount of time, .1 of a second was the time used for
this lab, and assuming that the velocity was constant. Making the calculations simpler and saving
time.

Engine Thrust Analysis


This experiment was setup to find the force exerted by the rocket engine as a function of
time. It was setup by strapping a rocket
engine on top of car-like figure, as shown in
the picture to the left. A force detector was
also setup so data measurement could be
taken after the practice launch was set off.
The detector also had a trigger, so after the
force exceeded .5 Newtons it would start
recording the information and send it to a
graphing calculator that would display the
data collected by the detector. A small igniter
was also put inside of the rocket engine to
ignite the fuel and is connected to a battery
by two small alligator clamps attached to the end. Electricity would flow from the battery into
the igniter which would heat up the sulfur coated tips of the igniter to ignite the rocket fuel. The
piece of duct tape attached around the top of the rocket engine is to prevent the rocket car to be
propelled off the tracks from the outward blast that would deploy the rockets parachute. After
the data was measured a table was made showing the amount of force for each .1 of a second
during the burn time. A table of the measurements off the thrust force as a function of time is
shown on the page attached. This is the graph that was made in class that day. Also the graph
skips to .8 seconds due to the fact that the trigger was set off early and it takes a little amount of
time for the large amounts of rocket fuel to ignite.
The rectangles on the graph is a calculus method
for finding the area underneath the graph called
left hand rectangles.
The links below are videos of the actual lab that
day.
http://youtu.be/AuDKPE8poHU This video
shows a close up of the launch.
http://youtu.be/zCROPm7Gl8s. This video
shows the setup for the launch.

Drag Force/Air Resistance


This purpose of this experiment was to find
the significance of air resistance or drag force
on the rockets during the launch. If we
neglected the effects that air resistance had on
the rockets while in flight, the predictions
made for the heights of the rocket would be
significantly larger. With no other force
besides gravity acting on the rockets the
rockets flight would gain multiple hundred
meters. The experiment was setup up using a
smaller rocket inside of a wind tunnel. A protractor was used to measure the angle to find how
much drag coefficient of the rocket. Also, inside of the wind tunnel a fan is placed behind the
rocket to pull wind in. If the fan were on the side of the tunnel it would blow the wind in all sorts
of directions making measuring difficult and
inaccurate. To prevent large amounts or turbulence
within the wind tunnel a honeycomb-like structure is
placed inside the wind tunnel to funnel the air
straight onto the rocket. This is important because
the wind would hit the rocket at weird angles again
throwing off the measurements and making them
inaccurate. Below is a free-body diagram. A freebody diagram is a way physicists show all of the
forces acting upon an object and all those forces are
used in Newtons second law. F = ma or Force =
mass x acceleration. Since the forces act in both the
x and y directions, two equations were found. For
the x direction Fx= max, so all forces in the x
direction go in place of Fx. So Fd x T cos = ma. T cos comes from the x component
of the triangle below. So the equation for the x direction s Fd = T sin . The
equation for the y direction is Fy = may. The forces in the y direction replace Fy so
mg x T cos = ma. So the equation is T cos =mg. The equations combine to
be Fd = mg sin / cos . Now that we have Fd we can use the equation Fd =
Kd(VxV). So Kd = Fd/(V x V).

Flight Results Lab Report


For the launch of the available five rockets:
Big White, Small White, Red/Silver, Red/Black,
Red/Yellow, The method used to find the angle of
the rockets was to place three people holding
protractors to track the rocket as it flew. The
protractor had a string with a weight attached so
as the persons head would go up following the
rocket the string would measure the angle from 90
degrees. Also the three people stood 50 meters
away from the rocket launch pad and were spread 120 degrees apart. This was necessary due to
the fact that rockets rarely fly straight upwards so multiple point of views are required. After the
launch the angles measured were recorded and from the recorded angles an average was taken.
That average angle was used in the trig function 50 tan = x. The equation comes from tan
= x/50. So 50 is multiplied to both sides. The diagram below shows the triangle from which the
trig function is taken. After the equation is worked out it is necessary to account for the height of
the person recording the data because they add extra height to the angle.
After all the rockets were launched and the numbers applied to
the equations and the table below shows the findings.

Rocket
Big White- C engine
Small White- A

Measured Angles
50, 60, 40
37, 42, 46

Max Height
63 meters
45 meters

engine
Red/Silver- C engine
Red/Black- C engine
Red/Yellow- C engine

55, 50, 68
65, 80
45, 60, 70

79 meters
Approx. 60 meters
91 meters

Conclusion

Rocket
Big White
Small White
Red/Silver
Red/Black
Red/Yellow

Predicted Height
63 meters
40 meters
74 meters
70 meters
81 meters

Actual Height
63 meters
45 meters
79 meters
Aprox. 60 meters
91.2 meters

The reason the predictions are slightly or extremely off is due to the fact that the flight
path of the rocket is not always straight upwards. If the rockets flew in a straight path upwards,
the angles would all match and a more accurate measurement could be taken for a more accurate
finding. A way that could improve the flight path to make it straighter is have a guided path or a
day that has very little wind. Also more people measuring the angles could help to find a more
accurate average angle. Also using a contrasting color to the sky would help the people track the
rocket so the angles would be more accurate.

Reflection
This project really pleased me because it tied everything we learned throughout the year
together. Everything that we learned about kinematics was applied every part of the overall
project; from using our knowledge of trig functions to find the height of the rockets to using free
body diagrams. Things we learned and techniques were all used. I really enjoyed the fact that we
had to build up to the launch. We had to determine the effects of air resistance and drag. How the
engines apply force to the rocket. The fact that we had spent so much time on each lab to
completely understand how the rockets would be affected and then apply all of the knowledge to
predict heights was very satisfying. I believe that if larger lab/experiment like this one to cover
large topics and have it use all of the methods, techniques, and functions that were taught
throughout that section or topic is an ingenious way to apply physics in a visual understanding.
To me, being able to do a lab and apply what was taught makes the subject matter more
memorable being able to relate it back to an activity. Not only does doing a lab replay all
information previously taught, but they also solidify the subject and help evaluate more problems
similar to the lab and use methods and techniques that were used in the lab and use them to solve

problems. This is why I found the rocket launch lab very enjoyable and it really helped me to
really reaffirm my understanding of kinematics and dynamics.