Introduction: How to Build a Cardboard Rocket Ship

Picture of How to Build a Cardboard Rocket Ship

My son asked Santa for a "real rocket ship" this Christmas to take the family to the moon. Santa has trouble getting rocket fuel this time of year so this is how I built a cardboard rocket.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

To make this you will need;
- A large refrigerator box.
- Misc. tools(box cutter, tape measure, straight edge, pencil, jigsaw)
- Three cans of gray spray paint
- A little imagination

Step 2: The Build

Picture of The Build

Begin by cutting and laying flat the box. My dimensions were based on the size of my box so you may have to make adjustments.

Using a straight edge, mark and cut out the top angles and tabs. Each panel is 2 feet wide because my box was 12 feet total.

The tabs are 5 inches long and 2 inches wide. The receiving side is 2 inches wide. I made the receiving slot cuts by just eyeing up the tab locations when I stood it up. Widen the slots a little bit to make it easier to insert the tabs.

Run a blunt tool down the cardboard to help make the folds where you want them to be.

Using any circular object you like, trace and cut out any windows you would like.

The fins are about 2 feet high with one tab the same as above. (Sorry no picture)

Step 3: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

Spray paint the outside any color you want. I primed the areas with writing but it isn't really necessary(it's just a cardboard toy remember) Be careful not to apply too much paint or the cardboard might warp. Using a sharpie I made a few rivets and other lines on the ship. Use your imagination and even get your kids help to make your (I mean their) rocket ship cool.

For extra points I went online and found a website with a drawing of a real lunar module's cockpit. I "borrowed" a few images and printed them out.

I hope this instructable will give you ideas to do something with all those cardboard boxes after Christmas. Before recycling them of course!

-After folding up and moving the rocket a few times I have noticed the paint coming off onto my hand. So painting it might not be a great idea.
-The door has taken a beating, so some packing or duct tape is recommended for support.


dollarbill45 (author)2016-07-20

I need the exact measurements to the box.

Stryker (author)dollarbill452016-07-20

Sorry I don't have them.

jkcrnmsn (author)2015-05-22

I just made the rocket ship for my son's astronaut birthday party. he loves it. Now on to decorating it. Where did you get the control panel print outs?

Stryker (author)jkcrnmsn2015-05-25

Just did a google image search for rocket ship control panels

wwian made it! (author)2015-04-26

Thanks for the inspiration! Here's my completed space capsule!

Stryker (author)wwian2015-04-27

Awesome. I love the inside details.

bea.cardonecarlson (author)2014-11-06

How did you join up the long side? I am assuming you had six panels, so you scored the box to be a six sided ship, right?

I love it and will begin tonight, Making it for my grandson's 5th grade class.

The rocket was made out of one box. I only had to connect one side. As shown in the photos I made a few tab/inserts that held it together. There are not six separate panels.

Connected Sparks (author)2014-10-05

What a fun idea for children to build on the weekend. Bravo!

KerbalSpaceProgram made it! (author)2014-04-26

Im building a card board Saturn V...


si (author)2011-09-27

Just wanted to say thanks for the inspiration Stryker! I was given a very large cardboard box (held an IBM server rack) and we converted it to a space ship cubby house for my Son's birthday party. Fortunately the ship survived despite multiple module separation and many excited kids running amok :)

Here are some photos.

The black gaffa on the edges helped with the structural integrity, especially where the rectangular boxes were cut into a hexagonal shape. Painting was a pain, it took several coats of kid-friendly white paint to make it look OK. I really liked how the cheap (but thick and wide) aluminium foil turned out, just a light coat of craft glue and then I placed it on and trimmed the edges with a knife.

All up about $100 including paint, gaffa (cloth tape) and LED lights. All the gear inside (except lights) was old hardware I had lying around. Some of the lights will be re-used for extra visibility when bike riding in winter.

SASA (South Australian Space Agency) is a little homage to NASA, and we also used the last space shuttle mission patch as birthday badges :)

Stryker (author)si2011-09-28

That turned out great and it looked like an awesome party. Since you liked my rocket you might like this for your next project.

si (author)Stryker2011-09-28

Sweet! That looks so cool.

I would like to build my Son a pirate ship when he's a year or two older, but for now I have many other jobs around the house and garden that need to be finished :)

Jdle1203 (author)2011-07-23

This is Awesome!
What were the measurements of the flaps? With the tabs?

simplebotics (author)2011-05-22

cool instructable, thats exactly was i was looking for!

peter57733 (author)2009-01-29

Well if you have trouble getting that silly song out of your heads might I suggest the theme song to Hogans Hero's that usually does it.

ElvenChild (author)peter577332011-02-02

Hogans heroes giligans island and disneys recess are the best shows in the world

ElvenChild (author)2011-02-02

when your son takes you guys to the moon could I come pretty pretty please with a subscription on top

Einsteins Circuitry (author)2008-12-22
sorry, just had to...

BEST VIDEO EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

did you make this?

No I did not make that video.

That was AWESOME!! LOL.

Einsteins cir.  that was such a fun video-I wonder how the kids did the special effects?

OMG. I'm not sure what's worse...the fact that I watched this all the way to the end or that now I have that stupid song stuck in my head. At least it will be fun to see the look on my kid's faces when I'm singing it all day tomorrow.

astro boy (author)opiesan2009-01-08

going to the moon in a cardboard box, yes im going to the moon in a cardboard box,going to the moon in a cardboard box im going to the moon in a cardboard box, going to the moon in a cardboard box yeha i love this song going to the moon in a cardboard box, yes im going to the moon in a cardboard box,going to the moon in a cardboard box im going to the moon in a cardboard box, going to the moon in a cardboard box.... going to the moon in a cardboard box, yes im going to the moon in a cardboard box,going to the moon in a cardboard box im going to the moon in a cardboard box, going to the moon in a cardboard box yay it has aousomnes ps im going to the moon in my cardboard box

Stryker (author)opiesan2008-12-29

I made it about half way through.

...not mars...

you know your cool when...

buildingstuffisfun (author)2010-04-26


i wish i had one of those...

porcupinemamma (author)2010-03-21

porcupinemamma (author)2010-03-21

Well done!  Lots of fun-my grand children will really love this.  Thanks!

bkkmom (author)2009-06-18

You are such a cool dad! That look very fun to play with !

Stryker (author)bkkmom2009-06-19

Thanks. The door is about ripped off from going in and out so much.

AliceCullen75 (author)2009-05-13


AliceCullen75 (author)2009-05-13


AliceCullen75 (author)2009-05-13


AliceCullen75 (author)2009-05-12

I think that dis projest is okay

Teach me more

MDmom (author)2009-01-27

Fantastic! How high did you measure the angles?

Stryker (author)MDmom2009-02-01

i was making the door a good height for my boys and what ever was left over became the angle. It turned out to be 30 inches long.

alkacojo (author)2009-01-08

Very creative. It is a great way to do something fun for your kids that only takes your time not much money. It would be cool to dress the kids as astronauts and take the space ship to a halloween parade. This would win first prize for sure.

bobhill125 (author)2009-01-03

i wish i had one of these when i was little

gnomedriver (author)2008-12-25

Massive! So many toys today have the personality already attached to it. Press a button and the toy makes all the noise. Little room is left for the child's imagination to take over. From Mars to Planet Zaggar all in one day and sound effects are all self made.

eantelman (author)2008-12-25

We didn't follow any plans, just bits of stuff around the house. We took the rocket out into the driveway for the "launch". It was a beautiful moment of imagination and we (parents + grandmother) were more than a bit curious about how the lack of liftoff would be processed by a mind that clearly was believing....

We recorded some of the experience here

scafool (author)2008-12-23

...3,2,1 Blast off! I expect you guys will be maling frequent trips to the moon in it. Great instructable.

vram666 (author)2008-12-23

This is great. I can't wait to build one for my kid. He loves rockets and this will be something we can work on together.

Stryker (author)2008-12-23

Thanks for all the nice comments.

applestone (author)2008-12-23

you are a very sweet papa! we have a giant cardboard pirate ship in our living room right now and our 4 year old LOVES it.

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