Make your own film canister rocket

Make your own film canister rocket

This rocket will really fly!

Most rockets create thrust - the force that propels them forward - by an exothermic chemical reaction that generates gas. You can find out more about rockets HERE.

In this project you can make a rocket fueled by a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide. Make sure you launch this rocket outside and wear safety goggles - it's very messy and can fly a long way!

What you need:

  • One emptry 35mm plastic film canister and lid. The white (almost transparent) film canisters work better than the black canisters with the grey lids. You should be able to get these from any shop that develops film.
  • One Alka-Seltzer or other antacid table (ask your parents to get this for you).
  • Water
  • Safety goggles

What to do:

Put on the safety googles and go outside.

Remove the lid from the film canister and put a teaspoon (5ml) of water in the canister.

Break the Alka-Seltzer in half.

Do the next two steps very quickly

Drop the Alka-Seltzer into the canister and put the lid tightly on the canister.

Put the canister on the ground with the lid down and step back at least 2 metres.

About 10 seconds later you will hear a large pop and your canister will launch into the air.

Caution: if it does not launch, wait at least thirty seconds before examining the canister. Uusally the cap is not on tight enough and the carbon dioxide has leaked out instead of building up.

How does it work?

The water dissolves the Alka-Seltzer tablet and starts a chemical reaction, which produces carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide starts to build up, which increases the pressure inside the film canister, until eventually the cap is forced off and the rocket blasts up. This system of thrust is exactly how real rockets work, only they use rocket fuel instead of Alka-Seltzer.

These two videos will show you a film canister rocket in action. In the second one the film canister rocket has been customised with fins and a nose cone to help control the rocket's flight.

Or watch on YouTube.

Or watch on YouTube.