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Up, up, and away: 4 high-flying rockets you can build at home

There are few things as rewarding as seeing a do-it-yourself project through from start to finish. This is especially true when the final product is a homemade rocket soaring overhead. Thankfully, it doesn’t take an actual rocket scientist to create a basic, functional rocket at home. From simple and safe options for kids to more sophisticated projectiles for hardcore enthusiasts, there are plenty of rocket models to choose from. Here are four rocket designs for those with a constant eye aimed towards the sky.

Related: Showing off? SpaceX says it wants to land three rockets at the same time

Matchbook rocket

Matchbook rockets are easy to construct and, odds are, you already have everything you need to make one. If you have a match, a bamboo skewer, some aluminum foil tape, and a candle or lighter, you’re ready for launch. You’re not going to blow anyone away with a spectacular mile-high flight, however, as the matchbook rocket can only fly up to about 40 feet on a single head. The rocket does leave a steady trail of smoke from the internal match head ignition, though. This pint-sized projectile may not pack the biggest punch, but it’s an entertaining novelty option.

Baking soda and vinegar rocket

Rockets made of baking soda and vinegar are a great chemistry lesson for kids. All you need is baking soda, vinegar, a paper towel, three pencils, some tape, and a plastic soda bottle. This basic chemical reaction can launch the rocket up to 100 feet. The more backing soda and vinegar you use, the greater the thrust capacity. As you tinker with the amount of each ingredient, you’ll eventually determine the optimal weight-to-flight ratio for the specific bottle you’re using.

Needless to say, a plastic bottle isn’t exactly the most aerodynamic design, but adding cardboard fins and a nose cap will allow you to better control the trajectory. The lack of pyrotechnic ignition and the minimal range makes this rocket a solid option for kids.

PVC paper rocket

This plan calls for a basic, single-tube apparatus. On one end of the PVC pipe is the paper rocket, which is designed to fit loosely over the tubing itself. The other end is connected to an empty 2-liter bottle. This is your basic propulsion source, and simply stomping on the bottle will force enough air through the pipe to launch the rocket.

While the nose cone and fins on the aforementioned baking soda rocket may be more or less cosmetic in nature, these design elements on a paper rocket make a world of difference. Fiddle with the trajectory angle, length of the nose cone, wings, and body to reach peak performance. Check out the full plan here.

Sugar rocket

Sugar rockets are exceedingly more sophisticated than the other models on our list. When constructed properly, a sugar rocket has the ability to travel up to 2,000 feet on a single charge. The name actually comes from the components used in the chemical core the rocket uses for propulsion. The key ingredient is (as you might have guessed) powdered sugar, which is used in conjunction with potassium nitrate and, oddly enough, kitty litter. These elements are packed into a PVC pipe to create the chemical core, and this explosive packs a punch that’s equivalent to a E45 rocket motor.

Due to the larger flight arc, you may want to launch your sugar rocket in a rural location outside your city limits. You’re dealing with pyrotechnics, so tread lightly and follow the instructions to the letter.