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Beginner's Guide to Propulsion
Balloon Rocket Car

Subject Area: Physics, Integrated Science
Grade Level: 9-12
National Standards:
  • Unifying Concepts and Processes:
    • Evidence, models, and explanation.
    • Systems, order, and organization.
    • Form and function
  • Physical Science:
    • Motions and Forces.
    • Interactions of Matter and Energy
  • Science and Technology:
    • Understandings about science and technology.
    • Abilities of technological design.


  • Technology research tools - use content-specific tools, software and simulations to support learning and research.
  • Technology research tools - select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems.


Students will learn the concepts of Newton’s Law of Motion, friction, jet propulsion, and air resistance by designing and constructing a balloon powered rocket car that can extract the most energy out of the inflated balloon and make the vehicle travel the longest distance.

The Beginner's Guide to Propulsion is a Web site of information prepared at NASA Glenn Research Center to help you better understand aircraft engine propulsion. Click Beginner's Guide Index to access the list of slides. Open the slide called Rocket Thrust (with text), read the explanation, and use it to complete the activity. There are two activities available for the students: an easy activity in which detailed instructions for building the car is provided and a more inquiry-based activity in which the student must determine their own design.


You, or you and your partner(s), will be evaluated on the efficiency of your design by means of a car race with other students.


You will demonstrate the ability to use information found on the World Wide Web and apply what you have learned about rocket thrust.

Submitted by: Ashlie Mcvetta, Reasearch Aerospace Engineer, Aeropropulsion Division, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Related Pages:
Easy Activity
Hard Activity
Propulsion Activity Index
Propulsion Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, May 13 02:38:22 PM EDT 2021

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