This $50 rocket can break the sound barrier and travel more than a mile high

A cardboard craft that can satisfy the need for speed? Sign us up.

Sputnik 1’s 98-minute jaunt around the planet in 1957 ignited a passion for space among amateur rocketeers that endures today. ­Models slake our thirst for thrust without billion-dollar budgets. But while their small combustible motors offer plenty of lift, they typically sacrifice ­either altitude or acceleration. The Apogee Aspire can deliver both for around $60.

Weight: 1 ounce A cardboard fuselage and ­hollow nose cone minimize the 29-inch missile’s weight to maxi­mize efficiency. Sanding down the laser-cut balsa fins creates smooth edges that reduce drag.

Max height: 1 mile+ Choose a slow-burning motor to push the Apogee more than a mile high. A metallic ribbon attached with a Kevlar cord (which also secures the nose cone) makes it easy to track across the sky and recover after landing.

Speed: Mach 1+ With a hotter, faster-burning fuel source, the Aspire easily exceeds the speed of sound. It hits Mach 1 as it passes 200 feet, creating a sonic boom on its way toward the heavens.


This story originally published in the Out There issue of Popular Science.

Claire Maldarelli
Claire Maldarelli

is the Science Editor at Popular Science. She has a particular interest in brain science, the microbiome, and human physiology. In addition to Popular Science, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Scholastic’s Science World and Super Science magazines, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in science journalism from New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Contact the author here.