Make Your Own Rocket Engine Using Sugar and Kitty Litter

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If you've ever wondered how rockets launch into space like they do, then here is a great way to learn the physics behind it all. I'm sure we all have seen a rocket launch before. But have you seen it in person? I have, and it's amazing! Now, what we are talking about here in this post are not actual space rockets, obviously. But it's still a cool thing to do with youngsters and teach them the physics behind rocket powered propulsion. I can't wait to try this method out. I'm going to check with my local hobby shops to see if they have info on where I can launch them safely and not get into any kind of trouble.

Click through to see how to make these awesome rocket engines…


7 Comments to Make Your Own Rocket Engine Using Sugar and Kitty Litter

  1. Yikes! I’ve seen the sugar/potassium nitrate fuel before, but this procedure could be deadly.

    1) NEVER use PVC pipe — roll your own cardboard tubes, instead. PVC will shatter if things go wrong, making all sorts of fun shrapnel. (There’s a reason why model rocket engines are made in cardboard tubes, and it isn’t just a cost factor).

    2) Form the propellant core using a nail at the end of the stick so the core is formed as the propellant is compacted… no drilling needed.

    3) Don’t mix the sugar and potassium nitrate powders while holding in your hand. If something were to go wrong, you’d suffer some serious injury. Best bet would be a rock tumbler to mix the powders — started and stopped remotely. Failing that, rolling the container attached to the end of a long stick would at least keep you away from a potential disaster.

    4) NEVER pound on the propellant to compact it, a steady but heavy pressure would yield a more uniform propellant (and be less dangerous). A better option would be to make a press using a long board as a lever. This would give you the needed steady but heavy pressure and also keep you from having to be right next to the motor during this step.

    Note that I am NOT saying to avoid these activities — to the contrary, they are a great deal of fun and can present many great opportunities to learn new things. What I am saying is to take steps to minimize risks. Yes, the likelihood of an inadvertent ignition of this mixture is pretty small, but doing many of these steps while holding a motor in your hands is an unnecessary risk. Minimize the risks to yourself by taking a few simple steps. Just because someone may have been getting away with this for years without an accident does not mean it can’t happen. It was this sort of thinking that resulted in the loss of 2 space shuttles and the deaths of 14 astronauts.

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