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Water (or Bottle) Rockets

Bottle rockets or water rockets, what are they?

When someone mentions bottle rockets, do you envision placing a firecracker attached to a stick into a glass bottle and launching it?

Water rockets have been a source of entertainment and education for many years. They are usually made with an empty two-liter plastic soda bottle by adding water and pressurizing it with air for launching (like the image to the right).

Soda companies began using plastic bottles in 1970. The Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) material used in most plastic soda bottles today was introduced in 1973.

Water rockets are used in schools to help students understand the principles of aeronautics. The Science Olympiads provide challenges of bottle rocket design and flight, including altitudes and distances reached. Many interesting designs and additional information on bottle rockets can be found with a simple Web search.

Teachers and students provide the following feedback to the Secondary Science Education Department at the University of Nebraska:

"Two-Liter Pop Bottle Rockets may well be the GREATEST PHYSICAL SCIENCE TEACHING TOOL EVER CREATED!!" Middle grades students can manipulate and control variables, see their hypotheses verified or refuted, and graph their findings. High school students experience the nature of science at its best. They can document their abilities with the following concepts: inertia, gravity, air resistance, Newton's laws of motion, acceleration, relationships between work and energy or impulse and momentum, projectile motion, freefall calculations, internal and external ballistics, and the practice of true engineering.

How could something that sounds so simple be so complex? Open your mind to the science and mathematics behind this educational "toy." Below are links to a brief history timeline of rocketry, a comparison between water rockets and a NASA rocket, and additional information on the parts of a water rocket.


Any comments, concerns, or questions should be addressed to:    

Developer: David Mazza    
Responsible NASA Official: Jo Ann Charleston    

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