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  • In this simulation, students set rocket parameters before launching to see how high the rocket goes and whether they can launch the payload.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato Published 28 April 2020, Updated 28 April 2023 Referencing Hub media

    Your challenge is to make the rocket go as high as possible and launch the payload 400 km above the ground. You can change rocket parameters like mass, thrust and drag before launching to see how they affect how high the rocket goes. But be careful the rocket doesn’t explode!

    You can use the buttons at the top right to pause or change the speed of the animation. For each rocket launch, note the settings and maximum height you achieve. You can share your results too.


    • When choosing a value in the slider boxes for mass, thrust or thrust time, click and drag to set an approximate value, then use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to reach your chosen value.
    • Using minimum mass, maximum thrust and a long thrust-time creates a theoretical simulation rather than realistic simulation. This setting gives the rocket enough kinetic energy to escape Earth’s gravity, which enables the rocket to travel for a very, very long time. The simulation will run for hours, which demonstrates how much easier it would be to launch a rocket if the Earth had no atmosphere.

    This simulation is modelled on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, which costs about US$6 million per launch.

    It is part of the Rocket launch challenge activity.

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