How To Turn A Match Into A Tiny Rocket [VIDEO]

Blast off!
Courtesy Steve Hoefer/

The swift strike of a match on July 4 typically precedes sky-high spectacles. But matches themselves can be fireworks. When ignited, the bulb of fuel on a match’s tip combusts into space-hogging gases. By containing the gas in aluminum foil and directing it downward, you can create a miniature missile. Follow these steps to become a rocket scientist in your own driveway.


  • Matches
  • Sewing pin or needle
  • Paper clips
  • Aluminum foil


1. Bend a paper clip into a 45-degree angle. Presto! You have a launch pad.
2. Lay a pin along a matchstick so that the sharp tip touches the match head. Wrap the head with a piece of aluminum foil, and gently crease the foil around the pin (avoid tears and holes).
3. Remove the pin. This leaves a hollow channel that will direct gas downward, so it can act as propellant.
4. Rest the match on the launch pad, hold a small flame under the foil-wrapped match head, and start your countdown.

Time: 10 minutes
Cost: About $3
Difficulty: Easy

WARNING: Kids, you need adult supervision. Launch only outside while wearing eye protection, and mind your aim (matches were designed to start fires).

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.