I started building water rockets at the age of 12, when I was still in primary school. Back then, my rockets consisted of soda bottles which I pressurised using a simple bicycle pump. Over the years, I have built lots of water rockets, and their performance has been improving steadily. I also did research on the flight characteristics of water rockets. The goal of this research was to build a model that could describe the full flight of a water-powered rocket. I then verified this model by a series of experiments, and the model proved reliable.
My most recent rocket is as tall as an adult, and my current altitude record stands at a height of around 140 meters. Here’s a video of one of my flights on my glass-fiber rocket. In this particular flight, the rocket reached an apogee of approximately 110 meters.
A water rocket consists of two main parts: a pressure vessel with a nozzle at one end, and a payload area. The payload area houses the parachute recovery mechanism, but also logging hardware such as an altimeter and camera. Using the altimeter data, rocket height can be accurately measured and graphed, as can be seen in the image below. This is the flight characteristic of my current personal record. The blue line represents height, measured in feet.
Note that this graph shows a parabolic height characteristic, as opposed to the height characteristic in the video above. In this launch, the parachute failed to deploy due to a mechanical failure. This resulted in the rocket crashing into the ground, which destroyed the upper part of the rocket.
The nosecone of one of my rockets was signed by André Kuipers, who went to the International Space Station (ISS) twice. This nosecone flew on the crash flight mentioned above and was damaged quite badly as it completely went into the ground. However, the signature itself remained intact, which was quite surprising. I repaired the nosecone and resprayed it, and it looks like the original, except for some paint marks. It currently is a ‘museum piece’ :-).
I haven’t launched any rockets recently, but I hope I find time to develop and build a new rocket in the future. I’ve learned a lot in the two years since my last launch, and I hope to put some of that and my existing rocket knowledge to practice to build a rocket that has a better overall quality, and is more reliable and safe to use.