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Safety Tips for Rocket Construction & Launch

Construction Safety Precautions:

  • Always use glue in a well-ventilated area.
  • Cover the work area with paper or a cloth in case glue drips.
  • Never use glass bottles for water rockets.
  • Only plastic drink bottles are to be used. Only drink bottles designed to hold pressure for cabonated drinks are to be used. Non-pressurized water bottles are not likely to hold the pressure. New bottles should be used whenever possible. Bottles that have been exposed to sunlight for long periods of time should not be used.
  • Do not use hot glue when attaching fins to the rocket body. The heat from the glue can weaken the plastic to the extent that the rocket may not be able to withstand launch pressures.
Pressure Testing Water Rockets:
  • Always fill rocket completely with water when pressure testing. This will reduce the explosive hazard of the compressed air.
  • Pressurize slowly, and if possible open the air pressure valve so that the air bubbles slowly into the rocket. Then back away and wait for the pressure to stabilize in the rocket with no more bubble action.

Launch Safety Precautions:

  • Check the FAA rules to make sure you are keeping within the exceptions rule:
      Sec. 101.1 Applicability.
        (3) Any unmanned rocket except:
        (i) Aerial firework displays; and,
        (ii) Model rockets:
        (a) Using not more than four ounces of propellant;
        (b) Using a slow-burning propellant;
        (c) Made of paper, wood, or breakable plastic, containing no substantial metal parts and weighing not more than 16 ounces, including the propellant; and
        (d) Operated in a manner that does not create a hazard to persons, property, or other aircraft.
    Full Text of the latest amendments located on the FAA website:
  • Never launch in a flight path of an airport.
  • Never launch in a crowded area.
  • Choose an open field that is clear of obstructions such as trees and wires.
  • Never stand directly over the launch pad while setting rocket on pad or during launch.
  • Have each student or student group set up their own rocket on the launch pad. Other students should stand back several meters. It will be easier to keep observers away by roping off the launch site.
  • Only permit the students launching the rocket to retrieve it. Student should not attempt to catch a falling rocket. Rockets can come down at a tremendous speed, and can cause injury if a sharp nosecone is attached. Retrieve rocket after it has safely landed on the ground.
  • The student pressurizing the rocket should put on eye protection (safety goggles).
  • Launch under low pressure first.
  • Launch under zero or gentle breeze conditions.
  • The launcher should sit securely on the ground and be more than capable of supporting the rocket safely during all aspects of operation. Use tent stakes to secure the pad if necessary.
  • When pressurizing the rocket, everyone should stand back at least 10 feet from the rocket for the countdown. Launch the rocket when the recovery range is clear.
  • Pressurize slowly when using a powered compressor or high pressure tank. The bottle stretching will heat up the plastic and can weaken the soda bottle.
  • For a safe launch, rockets should not be pressurized over 100 psi.
  • When observers will be nearby, launch a plain 20 oz. soda bottle to test the wind and landing site. Make sure the rockets will not land on the crowd. Even if you have parachutes, nobody has a parachute system that works 100% of the time.
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