Measurement for our planet
Measurement for our planet

As COP26 approaches, discover how NPL plays a key role in enabling climate action through the delivery of accurate, reliable data that supports decision making and enables low carbon innovation.


Water rockets

Water rocketsWhat is the NPL water rocket challenge?

The challenge is to land an air pressurised rocket, using water as a propellant, exactly 70 m from launch point, three times, with extra points for flight duration. We have a big annual festival on our site where teams compete.

On this page are some awesome videos, photos and results from previous years’ Water Rocket Challenges.


Water rockets are fun and easy to make

We have some posters of water rocket scientific facts and design tips, as well as a video made in association with a local school on the science of water rockets:

Download our comprehensive booklet about building water rockets which helps you improve flight and understand the physics involved.

Rocket Simulator

Check out this Water Rocket simulator software! It is described in the booklet and helps you improve flight and understand the physics involved (be amazed at the temperatures of water and air leaving the rocket).

Software: Water Rocket simulator  [Windows only 2.84MB]

Water Rocket Challenge 2021 - Update

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Water Rocket Challenge will be held with the following safety precautions in place: 

  • reduced team numbers (15, down from the usual 45)
  • launch bays spaced 2.3 m apart 
  • specific safety protocols for rocket collection

The annual post-challenge workshop event, usually open to the public, will not take place this year.

Did you know?

NPL constructed a water rocket powered car which featured on the Gadget Show.

We also held the record for making the world's largest water rocket, launched in 2011 – using 140 x 2 litre bottles and stood 3.4 m tall.

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