How to Make a Space Derby Rocket

How to Make a Space Derby Rocket

The Space Derby is an exciting event in the Boy Scouts of America, where scouts build and race rockets powered by rubber bands. It is a fun and educational activity that teaches scouts about aerodynamics and engineering principles. If you’re interested in participating in a Space Derby, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make a Space Derby rocket.

Materials Needed:
– Balsa wood block (1/2 inch thick, 3 inches wide, and 12 inches long)
– Sandpaper
– Wood glue
– Rubber bands
– Propeller
– Launch rod
– Paint and decorations (optional)
– Scissors
– Hobby knife

Step 1: Sand the Balsa Wood Block
Start by sanding the balsa wood block to remove any rough edges or splinters. Sand both sides and the edges until they are smooth.

Step 2: Cut the Balsa Wood Block
Using a hobby knife, carefully cut the balsa wood block into the desired rocket shape. A classic rocket design is a long triangle, with a pointed nose and a wider tail section.

Step 3: Create a Launch Lug
Cut a small piece of balsa wood (about 1 inch long) and glue it to the side of the rocket near the tail. This will serve as the launch lug, where you will attach the rocket to the launch rod.

Step 4: Attach the Propeller
Using wood glue, attach the propeller to the front of the rocket, ensuring it is centered and securely glued. The propeller should be facing forward to create thrust when the rubber band is wound.

Step 5: Decorate the Rocket (optional)
If desired, you can paint and decorate your rocket to make it unique. Use acrylic paint or markers to add colors, designs, and even the scout’s name or troop number.

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Step 6: Wind the Rubber Band
Attach one end of the rubber band to the propeller shaft and carefully wind the rubber band around the shaft, creating tension. Make sure the rubber band is wound tight but not overly stretched.

Step 7: Launch the Rocket
Slide the launch rod through the launch lug, ensuring it is secure. Find a safe open area and aim the rocket upward at a slight angle. Pull the rocket backward until the rubber band is stretched, then release to launch the rocket.


1. How far can a Space Derby rocket fly?
The distance depends on various factors such as the design, weight, and winding tension of the rubber band. On average, a well-built rocket can fly up to 50 feet or more.

2. Can I use a different type of wood instead of balsa wood?
While balsa wood is commonly used due to its lightweight and easy-to-cut properties, you can experiment with other types of wood. However, keep in mind that heavier woods may affect the rocket’s flight performance.

3. How can I ensure my rocket flies straight?
Balancing the weight distribution and aligning the propeller correctly are crucial for a straight flight. Make sure the rocket is symmetrical and the propeller is centered.

4. Can I reuse the rubber band for multiple flights?
Rubber bands tend to lose elasticity over time and may not provide the same level of thrust after repeated use. It’s recommended to use a fresh rubber band for each flight.

5. Can I modify the rocket design?
Yes, you can experiment with different designs and shapes to see how they affect the rocket’s flight. However, ensure that any modifications comply with the Space Derby rules.

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6. How long does it take to build a Space Derby rocket?
The time required depends on your skill level and the complexity of your design. On average, it can take a few hours to build a rocket from start to finish.

7. Can I compete in a Space Derby without being a Boy Scout?
Some Space Derby events may allow non-Scouts to participate, but it’s best to check with the event organizers for specific rules and requirements.

8. Can adults participate in the Space Derby?
Space Derby is primarily designed for Scouts, but some events may have separate categories for adult participants. Check with the event organizers for details.

9. Can I use a motor instead of a rubber band to power the rocket?
No, Space Derby rockets are specifically designed to be powered by rubber bands. Using motors or other propulsion systems would not be in line with the event’s guidelines.

10. Are there any age restrictions for participating in the Space Derby?
The Space Derby is open to Scouts of various age groups, typically from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. However, specific age restrictions may vary depending on the event.

11. Can I purchase a Space Derby rocket kit?
Yes, there are pre-made Space Derby rocket kits available for purchase. These kits often include all the necessary materials and instructions for building the rocket.

12. Where can I find Space Derby rules and guidelines?
You can find the official Space Derby rules and guidelines on the Boy Scouts of America website or by contacting your local Scout council.