Anatomy of a Model Rocket

Most model rockets consists of the same basic building components.

The body tube forms the main body of the model rocket and holds the nose cone (the tip of the rocket) in place. The rocket fins at the bottom of the rocket provide stability during flight. A launch lug is attached to the body tube near the center of gravity for the rocket.

Inside the rocket, and not seen, is the recovery system, typically a parachute or streamer, used to help the rocket land safely. Also inside the rocket is the engine mount which holds the model rocket engine in place.

Typical Model Rocket

Body Tube

From the article Model Rocket Body Tube
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The Body Tube, or Airframe Tubing, refers to the main cylindrical body of a model rocket. Body tubes are typically made from lightweight wound cardboard tubing to keep the weight of the rocket down, since the weight of the rocket is the major factor limiting how high the rocket can fly.

Most major manufactures for model rockets design to a standard set of dimensions for body tubes, so that model rocket engines, engine mount kits, nose cones, and other accessories can be consistent. Body tubes and accessories that do not follow this standard, typically use the diameter of the body tube as their naming convention.

Nose Cone

From the article Model Rocket Nose Cone
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The model rocket nose cone it the tip of the rocket. The nose cone plays several roles for the model rocket. First, it is the aerodynamic leading edge for the rocket, so it has a significant impact on the flight characteristics for the rocket. The nose cone also helps deploy the recovery system, allowing the rocket to come back to earth softly.

Nose cones use the same names as the body tubes since the must fit together perfectly. A BT-50 body tube must use a BT-50 nose cone.

The nose cone is typically attached to the model rocket body tube by an elastic shock cord, so that when the model rocket engine fires it's ejection charge and blows the nose cone from the rocket, the nose cone is not lost. The model rocket recovery system, typically a parachute or streamer is also attached to the nose cone. When the nose cone is ejected, it pulls the recovery system out of the rocket to allow it to deploy. As such, the nose cone must fit into the model rocket body tube rather loosly because if it becomes stuck the recovery system will not deploy, and the rocket will probably be lost.


From the article Model Rocket Fin Set

A model rocket fin set refers to the model rocket fins used for aerodynamic stability of the rocket.

The fins are one of the most important factors in the stability of the model rocket. The fins are typically done in sets of three, which is the minimum required for stability, or sets of four. The fins are placed on the body tube as close to the end with the model rocket engine as possible, and often extend below the bottom of the body tube.

Fins are typically made of plastic or balsa to keep them very light. Plastic fins are typically easier to install on rockets, as they are usually pre-formed into the fin-set which is simply slid over the bottom of the body tube and glued in place. Balsa fins can be shaped to try to minimize drag, which would allow rocketeers to experiment with different fin shapes to see which is the most efficient for rocket flight.

Engine Mount


A model rocket engine mount is the portion of the model rocket kit that houses the model rocket engine. This can range from a simple engine hook to a full engine mount kit.

The typical engine mount kit consists of three pieces

In it's most basic form, the model rocket engine mount consists of only a engine hook (no centering rings needed). This type of rocket uses the body tube of the rocket as the engine tube for the model rocket engine, since the diameter of the engine and the diameter of the rocket are the same. This type of design gets the most out of the engine, as there is not the added extra weight of a full engine mount kit.

Recovery System

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