How Do Model and Real Rockets Compare and Differ?

Many children aspire to explore what space has to offer and get a job with NASA once they grow up. A large part of space exploration is constructing the technology and vehicles that push us past the earth’s atmosphere. 

Seeing a rocket blast off is as spectacular as it is scary. And while many don’t have the luxury of building a real NASA rocket, settling for the model variety can be just as enjoyable. Learn how model and real rockets compare to see how similar they are. 

Propulsion Systems

Model rockets and real ones have a rocket propulsion system to get them airborne. However, model rockets require various tiny solid rocket engines. An experienced rocket enthusiast can construct a model rocket with a larger engine, but it’s best if amateurs steer clear and stay on the smaller side. 

Real rockets require massive liquid or solid rocket engines. Solid, full-scale engines come equipped with strap-on boosters giving them an added boost while ascending.

Four Forces of Flight

Model and full-scale rockets have four forces (thrust, weight, lift, and drag) working together to propel upwards. They differ because a model rocket uses the four forces in flight, while a real rocket uses them in atmospheric flight. 

Model rockets pale in comparison to how high full-scale rockets can go, so there’s zero chance for a model rocket to flirt with breaking the atmosphere. Additionally, the aerodynamics of a model rocket are more vital than a real rocket because a full-scale rocket spends less time on Earth. In contrast, the model rocket stays within the atmosphere. 

Stability & Control

Both rockets need to be stable to soar through the sky. Rocket stability refers to how quickly they can get back on course if something disrupts their flight path. Considering you can’t maneuver a model rocket once it’s fired, you have no control over it. 

A full-scale rocket has several controls and navigational instruments to fix any disturbance. But when something is going as fast as 10,000 mph, you should probably have a way of changing course instead of leaving it up to chance. 

Model and real rockets have comparable elements but are two entirely different things. Model rocket components cost relatively little to construct with balsa wood, and the other is a multi-million-dollar investment full of titanium, aluminum, and nickel alloy. But one thing will always remain the same: shooting off rockets is the coolest.