How to Make a Bottle Rocket with Terrific Scientific


Did you know you can make a simple bottle rocket out of a few everyday items you’ve got in your kitchen?

So, fancy yourself a rocket scientist?

Here’s how we made our bottle rocket launcher – check out the video at the end of this post to see if we got it to fly (and – let’s keep things real – how many attempts it took us). Thanks to the guys at Terrific Scientific for the challenge!

DIY Bottle Rocket

To make a bottle rocket, you will need:

  • An empty plastic bottle and a cork that fits tightly into the top – we had to experiment a bit and open more than one bottle of Prosecco to find a cork to fit our cordial bottle, because I am nothing if not a devoted parent.
  • White vinegar – enough to fill your bottle around a quarter full.
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1-2 dessert spoons full.
  • Straws for legs
  • Sticky tape
  • One sheet of kitchen roll
  • A spoon

How to Make a Bottle Rocket Launcher 

  • Turn the bottle upside down and use sticky tape to attach the straws to the side of your bottle so they pop up about an inch over the bottle top. These will then give your rocket four little ‘feet’ to stand on. Remember the aim is that when your bottle stands up, the lid of the bottle is at the BOTTOM. (we forgot this and had to start again!)
  • Next, using the spoon, place one dessert spoon of bicarb (for a 500ml bottle) in the middle of a half sheet of kitchen roll. If you’re using a larger bottle, simply use 2 spoonfuls and a whole sheet of kitchen roll. Twist the ends to make a little ‘sweetie’ package with the powder inside. Don’t twist too hard unless you like coughing your way through a dust cloud. #TopTip. Set aside.
  • Fill your bottle about a quarter full with vinegar. Screw on the top for now.
  • Now it’s time to take everything outside. On a level surface, check that your rocket will stand up (we used a garden table because, frankly, I’m 42 31, and I’m not speedy enough to perform the required movements involved on the ground)
  • Persuade children, dogs and other vulnerable householders to stand at least five paces away from the rocket.
  • Next, take the top of your rocket bottle, and slide the bicarb package into the bottle , then plug the top with your cork – quickly! Take it from someone whose wardrobe now has a definite aroma – the bottle will explode VERY quickly and you need to be out of the way.
  • Turn the bottle over and place on the launch pad. Hopefully it will fly. Here’s our attempt:

What Happened when we made a DIY Bottle Rocket

It is fair to say that it took us a few attempts to get our bottle rocket working. First we made the bottle rocket upside down, and didn’t realise until we went to stand it up. Then we had a few attempts where the vinegar leaked out of the bottle because the cork wasn’t tight enough. We fixed this by wrapping some sticky tape around our cork, then putting it back into the bottle.

But when it does work – WOW! This is such a fun science experiment to do with kids. Take a look and see how we got on:

It’s Educational

Whether or not our rocket actually left the ground, Flea was excited to see the powerful reaction between the vinegar and bicarb. She understands that the two chemicals react together to make carbon dioxide, and this builds up and expands until the pressure pops the cork out of the bottle. See? It’s educational, AND cool.

Some little things to note if you’re going to make your own bottle rocket :

  • Make sure you rinse the vinegar away after your bottle rocket has launched, it’s not good for the plant life.
  • If vinegar gets on your clothes from the spray (yep) wash them right away.
  • If the rocket didn’t take off, it might be that your cork wasn’t a tight fit – try wrapping the end of the cork with a few layers of parcel tape it to make it more snug. We did this, and it worked much better. A tight fit is essential to let the pressure build up.
  • If your rocket still fails, try using a bit more vinegar and a bit more bicarb. Bicarb does become less effective as it gets older, so you might need to adjust the quantities!

1 thought on “How to Make a Bottle Rocket with Terrific Scientific”

  1. Wow, that went well in the end! I like that you included all the attempts and didn’t just make it look easy! This sounds like a great resource, I don’t think my two are ready for rockets yet but we’ll certainly check out some more basic experiments.

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