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How to Make a Match Rocket

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Match Rocket Introduction and Materials
All you need to build a match rocket is a match and a piece of foil.

All you need to build a match rocket is a match and a piece of foil. I used a straightened paper clip to form the engine, but there are other ways to form the tube.

Anne Helmenstine
A match rocket is an extremely simple rocket to construct and launch. The match rocket illustrates many rocketry principles, including basic jet propulsion and Newton's laws of motion. Match rockets can several meters, in a burst of heat and flame.

How a Match Rocket Works

Newton's Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The 'action' in this project is provided by the combustion that occurs at the match head. The combustion products (hot gas and smoke) are ejected by the match. You will form a foil exhaust port to force the combustion products out in a specific direction. The 'reaction' will be the movement of the rocket in the opposite direction.

The size of the exhaust port can be controlled to vary the amount of thrust. Newton's Second Law of Motion states that the force (thrust) is product of the mass escaping the rocket and its acceleration. In this project, the mass of smoke and gas produced by the match is essentially the same whether you have a large combustion chamber or a small one. The speed at which the gas escapes depends on the size of the exhaust port. A larger opening will allow the combustion product to escape before much pressure builds up; a smaller opening will compress the combustion products so they can be ejected more quickly. You can experiment with the engine to see how changing the size of the exhaust port affects the distance the rocket will travel.

Match Rocket Materials

  • matches - either paper matches or wooden matches will work
  • foil
  • paperclips (optional)

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