Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: Model Rocket Parachutes

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
How do you make a parachute for a rocket, and how do you make it come out of the roncket when it is up in the air???
- Tyler Fredrickson (age 15)
Shell Lake Schools, Sarona, Wisconsin, USA
Well, a parachute can be made out of pretty much anything that is lightweight and doesn't allow air to pass through. A plastic bag (like the ones they use at the supermarket) would probably be a pretty good material to use. You would want to cut out a circle of plastic about 12 to 14 inches in diameter, and fasten strings to points around the edge of the circle using something that would hold them there securely. Attach these strings to your rocket, and you now have a parachute!

As far as getting the parachute to come out of the rocket at the appropriate time, that isn't very easy. My best advice would to buy a model rocket kit, available at many toy stores or hobby stores. Not only do these kits have a parachute included, but they also have a system that gets the parachute out of the rocket.

The parachute system works like this: When the "thrust" stage of the rocket engine has burned up, a "timer" stage ignites, which burns for 3 or 4 seconds. After that, a small explosive charge is ignited, which doesn't blow up the rocket, but instead pushes out the nosecone of the rocket, allowing the parachute to soften its landing. A VERY important part of this is having someting inside the rocket to absorb the blast so the parachute doesn't burn. It's sold (and sometimes included) in most kits as "recovery wadding", and it makes sure that the parachute is protected from the explosive charge.

I used to be into model rocketry myself, and this is how it worked back when I did it. I hope this helps!


(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-up on this answer.