WARNING AND DISCLAIMER:  If you are underage, then consult with your parents or guardians before attempting any of this.  You are on your own - I'm not responsible for your actions or harm you may bring to others because of your actions.  Making the items described below  can result in injury or death to you or people in your vicinity. Some things mentioned here may be illegal to make in your city, county, state, or country so check the laws that apply to you before you attempt anything described here. These notes are not complete on purpose. If you are reading them and new to pyrotechnics, then you are making a mistake. Stop now - this page is not for you. Get a beginning book on fireworks (see Skylighter or American Fireworks News (very quick shipping)  for a start) and read up. You can't make any of this work without more information so read up or join a club or ask someone to help you.


Shuttlecock Rockets

This one is lots of fun for almost no work at all.

Click the above image for video


Caution: The following description implies the shuttlecock rocket is stable. That is relative. Successful ones tend to dart off at a slight angle - unsuccessful ones try to run you down -  don't fire these near houses or people. To increase safety, use a piano wire launcher (see the end of this document).

When I first started making these, I was a bit worried about the motor configuration - I was thinking it might need a cored start to get it off the ground and moving - with a follow-up of end-burner to pull the wind-resistant shuttlecock through the air. It was nice to find that it wasn't that complex at all. After I got them going, I discovered that more than a few people have made them. Estes even included the plans for them in one of their model rocket kits. Their plans made the whole thing reusable - but required the Estes launch pad. The following describes a version that works without a launch pad although you will get more stabile launches if you use a bit of piano wire to get it started (see the end of this document).

Go to a store and buy some cheap Badminton Shuttlecocks - the cheaper the better. I got mine in a WalMart for $1.59 for six. There are probably cheaper ones out there so find those and use them. The only stipulation is that they must have removable end caps to work nicely. You could probably make any shuttlecock work, though.

Take the end cap off of the shuttlecock and cut a hole in the top using a sharp pen knife.

Put a 3/8" rocket motor through the hole and tack it with hot glue. You could use just about any reasonable rocket motor so experiment around - rob a 1.4g jumbo bottle rocket or use an 'A' or 'B' Estes motor. Stronger initial thrust motors - such as the 3/8" rocket motor linked here and shown above in the middle and right hand pictures - are more stable.  An Estes 'A' motor is a bit fat but after you get it fitted, it works really well - its end-burner mode makes the motor fly quite far/high and it has a lot of room in the header for a salute or some stars. 

Neither of these were stable - Can you guess why?

The exhaust should end just below the top opening in the shuttlecock. If you experience instabilities, then extend the motor up a bit by taping an extension to the exhaust end. However, the basic rocket doesn't need the extension if the motor is fairly powerful - it will leap off the ground with no problem.. The payload should be limited to a light weight charge of stars or a small salute - a heavy payload will make it unstable. 


If you want a bit more assurance that the rocket will go up instead of through your house window, you can use a piano wire launcher - similar to an Estes launcher, that threads through the shuttlecock and a soda straw that is hot glued to the side of the motor. Just drive a 3/32" piano wire into a 3/32" pilot hole in a piece of wood. The length of the wire can be quite short - the rocket needs to be stabilized for just the first few inches of flight and then it will fly true.

What you get is a stick-less rocket that flies quite nicely and, after delivering its payload, floats down to earth in a docile manner. While you should check to be sure, this probably makes it legal in some towns that forbid normal 1.4g rockets because they can crash back to earth.. 

Take a look at the movie by clicking on the last picture in the first series at the top of this page. See if you can detect the unique sound the 'feathers' are making when the rocket first launches - very cool!

More Fun

Just to round things out, here is a close facsimile of the Estes version - only with a flight of five instead of a single launch. Two of the five were unstable and the other three went over a hill and were lost. Bummer!

3/8" nozzleless motors, 5/8" bases tied with 1/4" copper tube with 1/8" holes in the tube exiting in each of the bases. Fuse the tube and it acts like quick match sending all rockets up at once.

Click on the above image to see launch

Here are some links to files that will be handy if you decide to make these:

bottomflange.jpg - A drawing of the round cardboard flange to make the Estes versions. It should be about 2" wide. Use cereal box cardboard or similar. Tougher is better but keep it lightweight.
caseandflange.jpg - A combined drawing of the motor case and cardboard flange.
motorcase.jpg - A motorcase blank. It should be about 3 1/2 inches long. Use manila folder material
shuttlecockrocket.tif - The original Estes kit handout. This one used 1/2A motors but I generally like A or B motors.
shuttlecockrocket2.tif - Page 2 of the handout.

Finally, here is a 'class C' shuttlecock example. This was sent to me almost a year after the above information was written (thanks John R.!). The original picture was from the Fireworkstown site (I think). Note how the design is very similar to the 'one time' shuttlecock rockets. The balance and payload characteristics mean that any rocket solution will look similar.