Someone Cut a Model Rocket Engine in Half So You Can See What Happens Inside

GIF: YouTube

Despite only giving you about a second of excitement at launch, model rockets are still a fun way for us (non-billionaires) to live out our dreams of space travel. But have you ever wondered what’s happening inside a model rocket engine while you’re standing a safe distance away from ignition?


YouTube’s Warped Perception channel cut an Estes model rocket engine in half (something you definitely shouldn’t try at home) and constructed a special see-through housing so they could film the burn at 1,500 frames-per-second using a high-speed camera.

Model rocket engines feature two stages of solid fuel: a primary one for blast-off which burns longer, and a second faster burn, in the opposite direction, which releases a parachute or ignites a second stage. Both are revealed in this high-speed footage, which only serves to confirm that you want to be at a safe distance when these things ignite.


[YouTube via The Awesomer]

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Jerry Callo, Esq., Trump U. School of Law '89

This is really interesting, but I think cutting it in half and mounting it changed the burn sequence a bit. My understanding is that a standard (single-stage) Estes engine is really 3-sequence: The propulsion, followed by a delay layer, then the eject charge. It looks like the first sequence ignited around the glass quickly and reached the delay charge much faster (the slower- and darker-burning part) than it otherwise would have. Only after that burned through would the eject charge light. I just don’t think the second sequence would have had much overlap with the propulsion sequence, which would mostly burn straight back in a more linear manner (though I think they have some designed with a bore through the middle most of the way back for shorter but more powerful burns). I may be wrong, and it’s hard to tell the timing with the high frame rate. Maybe the delay does ignite that early in the main sequence.

Still, very interesting.