by Ned Gorski
This is Your Audience
This is a Big Honkin’ Fireworks Rocket
This is Your Audience on Fireworks Rockets!
Obviously, in this introduction to rockets, we won’t be discussing military rockets, which have a long and rich history. Neither will we be discussing rockets designed for space exploration, which we’ll leave to NASA.
But leaving those aside, there is a wide variety of rocketry that folks can and do explore for purely recreational purposes. Such rockets include model rockets, amateur rockets, high-powered rockets, and fireworks rockets. The purpose of this article is to discuss fireworks rockets. However, in order to distinguish fireworks rockets from the other types, we will briefly mention and define each of these.
The following rocketry classifications and descriptions come from Wikipedia:
- Model rocketry: “A model rocket is a small rocket capable of being launched by anybody, to generally low altitudes (usually to around 100-500 m (300-1500 ft) for a 30 g (1 oz.) model) and recovered by a variety of means.”
Estes® rockets are an example of the types of rockets launched in model rocketry. Typically, only commercially manufactured rocket motors are used in model rocketry. However, one Skylighter project highlights the hobbyist manufacture of rocket motors for Estes® rockets.
- “Amateur rocketry, sometimes known as amateur experimental rocketry or experimental rocketry is a hobby in which participants experiment with fuels and make their own rocket motors, launching a wide variety of types and sizes of rockets. Amateur rocketeers have been responsible for significant research into hybrid rocket motors, and have built and flown a variety of solid, liquid, and hybrid propellant motors.”
Skylighter sells many of the chemicals which are used in the manufacture of motors for amateur rockets.
Launch of an Amateur Rocket
- “High-power rocketry is a hobby similar to model rocketry, with the major difference being that higher impulse range (i.e., more powerful) motors are used. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) definition of a high-power rocket is one which has a total weight of more than 1500 grams and contains a motor or motors containing more than 62.5 grams of propellant or more than 160 Newton-seconds.”
Commercially manufactured motors are most frequently used in high-powered rocketry.
A High-Power Rocket Being Readied for Launch
- Fireworks Rockets
In his 1947 book Pyrotechnics, George Weingart uses the term “Sky Rockets” to refer to fireworks rockets.
From Wikipedia: “A skyrocket is a type of firework that uses a solid (fuel) rocket motor to rise quickly into the sky. At the apex of its ascent, it is usual for a variety of effects (stars, bangs, crackles, etc.) to be emitted. Skyrockets use various stabilization techniques to ensure the flight follows a predictable course, often a long stick attached to the side of the motor, but also including spin-stabilization or fins.”
Some fireworks rockets, which employ high-powered fuels such as whistle, strobe, or hybrid fuels, blur the distinction between fireworks rocketry and other types of recreational rocketry. In general, though, the presence of pyrotechnic effects intended for entertainment is the distinguishing characteristic of fireworks rockets.
Launch of a Large Fireworks Rocket by Dan Thames,
2-Inch Whistle Motor, 10-Inch Ball Shell Heading
Photo by Mark Stallings
Fireworks Rockets In-Depth
Except for the project on homemade Estes®-type rocket motors, mentioned above, the focus of this article and at Skylighter is on fireworks rockets. The description of fireworks rockets will be expanded upon in this section.
The purpose of fireworks rockets is entertainment. The rocket motor is often designed to provide an entertaining visual and/or audible effect, such as a long glittering or spark tail, or a loud ascending whistle.
Additionally, often the rocket motor is fitted with a “heading,” which creates a traditional fireworks display–for example, a loud report, a shell burst of stars, or a display of other types of fireworks inserts–at the end of the rocket’s powered flight.
Anatomy of a Fireworks Rocket
Cross Section of a Typical Fireworks Rocket
The diagram above shows the elements of a typical fireworks rocket. The top of the rocket is on the right, and the bottom of the rocket is on the left.
This rocket has three main components.