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Sugar Rockets in Philly

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Sugar Rockets in Philly

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In MAKE Volume 35, we explored the dangerous side of making. Among the projects we featured was the Homemade Sugar Rocket, a classic build where you make your own rocket engine from scratch, using granulated sugar and potassium nitrate.

MAKE reader Ian Kimball of Philadelphia shared his sugar rocket build experience in the Maker Camp Community on G+:

Just say KNO3.

Sugar rockets that is.

They flew and continue to fly magnificently! At first we were making our own fuses with varying success and some duds. After the Visco fuse arrived every engine launched with altitudes and flight times far exceeding our expectations (need larger field). Following some recommendations we upped the engine size from .375″ to .625″ dia. and around 2.5 inches in length with a .125″ bore for the core.

We love this project and are looking forward to experimenting with the variables and applying some science to discover our altitudes, launch speeds, and how tweaking the burn rates and engine dimensions can improve performance and predictability.

Ian tells me he’s a fine woodworker with a background in computer science and applied mathematics, and he enjoys building with his two sons, Gaelin (8) and Alistair (10). He’s currently gathering parts for “the must-have fusion reactor project” that we featured in MAKE Volume 36.

Fun sugar rocket side note: The Sugar Shot to Space collective has the goal of lofting a rocket powered by sugar propellant into space (62 miles above the Earth’s surface). Who will make it happen?

Not yet a MAKE subscriber? Let’s fix that today! A MAKE subscription is also a fantastic gift. And if you’ve built a project from the magazine, please send us photos — we’d love to see them!

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4 thoughts on “Sugar Rockets in Philly

  1. Stephen G. says:

    Ironic, I found the best source for non-prelled Potasium Nitrate, is the local gardening center, which supplies “Stump Remover”.. The stuff is mainly for speeding-up the decay of stumps that have already begun rotting, and usually is listed as 100% Potasium Nitrate. I made a batch of the stuff myself, but mostly for small smokers (un-contained, like in the rocket engines, it will burn fitfully, producing a thin smoke cloud, and will usuallully light with just a simple butane lighter.).. I still have a BIG chunk left over, and surprised, it WILL melt again under controlled heat. I’ve tried a few variations, adding charcoal (crushed up brickette), magnesium shavings (from a camping supply fire starter), which didn’t really add any addition.. I’ve been trying to find a source for Sulfer powder, to see if it works better than the sugar. Mind you, check your local state (And country) laws, as some do regulate making any kind of accelerated burning material (I.E. Gunpowder, explosives, etc.) (For obvious reasons, welcome to the world of terrorism, these are their key materials.) I’ve dealt with similar as a firefighter.

    1. Andrew Pajak says:

      I too used stump rotting agent as my source of KNO3, which I found at a local gardening center. While I was there, I looked for rose fertilizer (being the botanical buff that I am) knowing that in most cases, rose fertilizer is 99% sulfur. It’s worth a look and it worked for me. Merry making!

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