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  • Your challenge is to make the rocket go as high as possible and launch a payload 400 km above the ground. You can change rocket parameters like mass, thrust and drag before launching to see how they affect how high the rocket goes. But, beware, too much thrust for too long and the rocket might explode in flight. This simulation is modelled on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket and at about US$6 million per launch, failure is something Rocket Lab would never want to happen!

    Top tip: When choosing a value in the slider boxes for mass, thrust or thrust time, click and drag to set an approximate value, then use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to reach your chosen value.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • investigate how thrust, time of thrust and mass of a rocket can be changed to make a rocket go as high as possible
    • explore how drag influences the height reached by a rocket
    • explore how the speed and forces acting on a rocket change during a launch
    • explore how the changing mass of a rocket (as propellant is used and ejected) affects the speed and height of a rocket.

    Download the Word files (see link below) for:

    • introduction/background notes
    • what you need
    • what to do
    • student record sheet
    • separate version of the student record sheet.

    Related content

    Find out more about Rocket Lab and the Electron rocket.

    This Connected article is based on an interview with Rocket Lab Avionics Manager Naomi Altman and explores the science and technology behind the amazing achievements of Rocket Lab.

    Explore some of the ideas that are fundamental to understanding rockets:

    Activity ideas

    Follow this activity with Investigating rocket motion. Students investigate the motion of a rocket using a spreadsheet with graphs of motion included. They adjust variables and investigate how height and speed are affected.

    Now that you’re a rocket scientist, try your hand at building a fit-for-purpose satellite to be launched by the Electron rocket.

    Related collection

    3...2...1...Lift off! is a collection of resources aimed for NZC levels 1-4, it also can be utilised as a good guide for scaffolding concepts about forces and rockets at higher levels.

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      Published 30 November 2011, Updated 14 May 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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