Introduction: Iron Man Model Rocket

Picture of Iron Man Model Rocket

I have loved model rockets since I was a kid, but instead of building from kits I prefer to make funky ones from scratch. About a year ago, I got the idea to make a dual-engine model rocket in the shape of Iron Man. The idea presented a lot of unique challenges--which I've enjoyed working on--but this was one project I was happy to finally get out of the way.

I spent many nights lying awake trying to figure out how to make a man-shaped model rocket flight-stable, how and what to make him out of (to keep the weight down), how to construct the parachute deployment system, how to mount him onto a launch rod, what kind of launcher I would have to make, and on and on. I resolved most of the issues, and I'll show you how all of these ideas came together.

There were plenty of missteps and failures along the way throughout this project, but I've cut most of that out in order to keep this as straight-forward as possible. Please excuse the shoddiness of the exterior details on the finished rocket. This is less about the actual Iron Man character, and more about my journey and the process of trying to make and fly a crazy man-shaped rocket. In the end, you'll see that I had mixed results with this project.

I began by making the head, which I figured would be the hardest part. You can see the details of that here.

Step 1: Body

Picture of Body

I laid out a design for the body by copying details from photos of Iron Man and an Iron Man toy I borrowed from a friend. If you're feeling ambitious, I've included a PDF with the front and side lay-outs that I created. The total height of the finished rocket is 36 inches.

I ordered rocket supplies from, which has been a very nice company to work with. I ordered a bunch of 24mm tubes (which hold D- and E-size Estes model rocket engines), some tube couplers, engine block rings, launch lugs, and kevlar cord.

My first attempt at making the body was with layers of pink insulation foam glued together with the rocket tube structure sandwiched inside. I used a sharp knife to carve out the body shape, which was tedious and messy. In the end it weighed too much to use and I had miscalculated the proportions, so the head which I had already finished was too small for the body. After plenty of cursing, the pink foam body ended up in the trash... in very tiny pieces. I re-sized the lay-out, and waited a few months till I was ready to work on it again.

For my second attempt, I decided to build the body up using foam board (1/4-inch foam sandwiched between paper). This proved to work very nicely for making a lightweight skeletal-type structure, but led to some difficulties in covering.

Step 2: Rocket Tube Structure

Picture of Rocket Tube Structure

The rocket tube structure was assembled with regular white glue. The 45-degree cuts were made using a miter saw.

The parachute deployment system I came up with is basically a hatch attached to the back of the rocket with a long cord that is shot off when the engines backfire. The parachute is attached to the cord, but is stored in a compartment all its own outside of the actual rocket tubes. This is a technique I've used on other oddball rockets and it seems to work well, if I make sure there is no way for the parachute to get stuck once the hatch is blown out of the way.

Step 3: Exhaust Tube

Picture of Exhaust Tube

The two main tubes lead to one exhaust tube. Prior to gluing, surfaces of the tubes were roughened up with sandpaper.

Step 4: Building Up the Body

Picture of Building Up the Body

The foam board body cross-sections were glued to the rocket tubes to build up the body. White glue was used for this. Notice the slight space left at the bottom of the tubes where the foot pieces were added.

There was a lot of shaping, reshaping, and moving things around from this point on. This was very much a sculpture, and required quite a bit of eyeballing and continually adjusting things to suit my tastes.

Step 5: The Launcher

Picture of The Launcher

Before I got too far on the body, I had to figure out how this was going to be launched, and where to put the launch lugs (the little tubes that hold the rocket to the launch rod to guide the rocket on take-off).

I paused here and built a launcher, and figured out how to have the rod go right up through the middle of the rocket without coming out the top of Iron Man's head.

This launcher design was made specifically to accommodate some giant removable fins I was going place underneath Iron Man's feet when it was time to fly. These were going to be added to increase flight stability.

Step 6: Finishing Up the Skeletal Structure

Picture of Finishing Up the Skeletal Structure

I made individually shaped pieces out of foam board to fill-out and define the body. I tried lots of things prior to this, but this method seemed to produce the lightest, most effective results. These pieces were all glued on with hot glue. This step required some modifying to the body cross sections to get a shape I was ultimately satisfied with.

I've included a couple of photos of some failed tries at finishing the body. For various reasons, neither idea worked very well.

Step 7: A Layer of Skin

Picture of A Layer of Skin

I used masking tape to create a skin over the body shape. This took two rolls of tape, and added quite a bit of weight.

Step 8: Craft Foam Covering

Picture of Craft Foam Covering

I probably should have just painted the tape and called it good. But I thought it would look nice to give him a clean covering of craft foam.

I cut individual pieces to fit and used 3M 77 spray adhesive to glue them in place.

I thought the legs turned out looking pretty slick. But I realized how dumb it was to add this extra weight to a thing that was probably going to crash, so I didn't completely finish covering the body with the craft foam.

Step 9: Painting

Picture of Painting

This was a messy, heavy, primerless single coat of crimson red, immediately followed with a few spots of gold and spot of white. I used a thick permanent marker to draw in some details, and glued the head in place.

Even though it seemed like I was trying to make this look crappy, it still turned out decent... if you're squinting from about 10 feet away.

Step 10: Flight Damage

Picture of Flight Damage

I launched it and it crashed and broke his neck. The video quality was so bad it's not even worth sharing.

It was a fun project anyway, and one I'd like to revisit some time.


bellesdoyou (author)2016-05-03


seamster (author)bellesdoyou2016-05-03

Where did he go?

RAKMOSHETTY (author)2016-02-02

U gone too far on ur Iron Man journey bro!

Even i have been working on its flight stability since quite a few days.

Nice work!

cczzmm20020716 (author)2014-10-07


jackjackboom (author)2012-09-27

what if you positioned the rocket engines in the hands? Would it affect flight? Would there be an overall better or worse performance? Would the legs upset the flight? well theres only one way to find out!

suzycarlson (author)2012-08-08

We are going to be the Avengers for Halloween and Joey is going to be Iron Man. Can you whip up some costumes for us?? Hahaha. Seriously bought is embarrassing but Joey has no time to help with law school. What do you charge for custom Halloween costumes?

seamster (author)suzycarlson2012-08-08

I think you have me confused for someone else.

(Ha ha. Let's chat in private. Long time no see!)

mary candy (author)2011-06-21

wau so cool!
The main pic is amazing !

ross353 (author)2010-08-20

genius. would you be able to put two smaller rockets in his arms leading down to his hands? you could have them go off after the legs run out

al_packer (author)ross3532011-04-07

The farther out from the central axis of the model that you mount engines, the more stability problems you will have. Trust me on this--I've been chased around the parking lot by a Saturn 1B with off-center thrust.

seamster (author)ross3532010-08-20

I actually toyed with this idea! In the end I abandoned it. If I did this again, I could possibly include two rocket engines in the hands that shoot off at the same time as the feet, but it would require making a wiring setup to handle the four engines located in completely different places.

I'll add this to the list for the next version!

Mrballeng (author)2011-04-04

Really enjoyed this!

yokozuna (author)2011-01-07

I can see it now.... "Hello... Progressive? I need to make a claim, Iron Man just crashed on top of my car. No... really."

finnrambo (author)2010-12-28

I'm not even a fan of ironman and i give this 5 stars! (try monokote instead of masking tape next time though, should work for weight)

toogers (author)2010-10-28

very nice! if you wanted to make it fly a little better, i would decrease the head weight and make the bottom a bit heavier. also, you might want to move the rockets to the hands, so that instead of pushing the mass upwards, it's pulling it. it would be a lot more stable.

rcsuperhero (author)2010-09-24






lukete (author)2010-09-12

it sure is good........but the materials used are not easy to get :p

seamster (author)lukete2010-09-13

I didn't have too much trouble coming up with materials, but I guess it really depends on where you live, and how much you're willing to spend. I generally try not to spend very much on my projects, but this one required a little more than usual.

zigzagchris (author)2010-08-22

Next step is put the engines in his hands like in the movies

kcls (author)2010-08-22

Way cool. This must have taken a lot of hard work, and I would be devastated to see it crash. I wonder why the parachute didn't come out? You get 5 stars for your amazing effort and craftsmanship!

seamster (author)kcls2010-08-22

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!

A few people have asked about the parachute. I've got some more information on the parachute spread throughout the comments section.

Oliver 269 (author)2010-08-21

Keep his head and repair it's flight damage. Set it on a shelf and use it for inspiration. Perhaps with a hollowed out body and a more conventional rocket inside supported by balsa struts........ How many hours do you have in his head anyway? Hundreds??? Really nice.

seamster (author)Oliver 2692010-08-21

Yep, I'm already working on all the details for the next version, and it will most likely include a lot of balsa, super glue, and monokote.

I did have a lot of time invested in that head. The problem is my next one may be a smaller scale to use up some smaller rocket tubes and engines that I've got lying around. So a new head will need to be made as well.

...We'll see if I ever get around to it. No promises!

Spint (author)2010-08-18

This project is pure win!

seamster (author)Spint2010-08-19

Thank you!

There are some really great projects in this contest. We'll see how it goes!

dark sponge (author)2010-08-18

Wow! I didn't get a grasp on the scale of this (I thought it was about a foot tall at first) until a couple steps in. WOW, I Love it, 5 stars and voted!

seamster (author)dark sponge2010-08-18

Hey, thanks! I'm tempted to remake this, but smaller and lighter so it will hopefully fly a little better.

bustedit (author)2010-08-18

sick. love the size, and the photo of the launch looks nuts (i cant view the vid @ work, unfortunately) if you ever do a MKII, try using tissue paper and dope over your foam skeleton, like an old balsa model plane. it would be more fragile, but certainly less heavy.

seamster (author)bustedit2010-08-18

Hey good idea! I thought about using monokote or something similar. But tissue and dope would be even lighter. I should probably do the whole thing out of balsa. Maybe if I had a laser cutter..

The video is quite bad. The photo is much cooler than the actual video.

ski4jesus (author)2010-08-17

great job! I love the idea, but i wonder why you didnt put the parachute in him for the flight, especially after all that work? but anyways, great job!

seamster (author)ski4jesus2010-08-17

There were a couple of reasons I didn't include a parachute.

I knew the weight was such that he would never gain enough altitude to have time for a parachute to deploy. In the video, you see him come crashing down, a couple seconds pass, and then the motors shoot their ejection charge, which is what pushes the parachute out. So it wouldn't have made a difference anyway. That's the logical reason.

The emotional reason is this: this project offered a lot of unique new challenges for me (which is what I look for in a project), but I was generally unhappy with the results. So after months of thinking about it and working on different aspects of it and having it drive me nuts, I was really looking forward to watching it crash. Kind of crazy, huh?

ski4jesus (author)seamster2010-08-18

Uhhhh, yes! Haha, yes, I do understand! cool project anyways!

grantlairdjr (author)2010-08-18

So cool. It almost look so real :) Hi5!

softballch1k99 (author)2010-08-17

well way to complex

softballch1k99 (author)2010-08-17

umm a little to complex for me

chndt2008 (author)2010-08-16

haha! You're smart!

brunoip (author)2010-08-16

awesome, 5 stars

Jayefuu (author)2010-08-16

Fantastic as always Seamster!

seamster (author)Jayefuu2010-08-16

Thank you!

john henry (author)2010-08-16

i can imagine what other would say when they see it flying...... holy $#^% is that man flying??? very nice instructable ^_^

MichelMoermans (author)2010-08-16

Very nice!! I love this idea.

I really like that you are in a "toys building" mode like me, I should definitly try this :D Although mine will probably have explosives packed in his head and body. I just like to see them explode mid-air ^^

You got my vote in the contest buddy :)

seamster (author)MichelMoermans2010-08-16


caitlinsdad (author)2010-08-16

Very cool. Of course, if it were me, I would have a cluster of engines concentrated in one spot with flames shooting out of his...

Model rocketry was a blast growing up as a kid spurred on by the real great space race.  Too bad it has become costly and prohibited to do in many places.  Maybe add on clear plastic stablizing fins next time.  My creation was a "Little Joe" Saturn V command capsule test booster made from box cardboard.  It must have turned out about a few pounds.  It crashed and burned but the slow spiral from the first time I used a D engine was the best.

seamster (author)caitlinsdad2010-08-16

You're right on track with my thinking. I mentioned that I had planned to put large fins below his feet to add stability. I was actually going to use clear plastic as you suggest. That way, they add the stability you need without distracting too much from the coolness of the rocket-man.

In the photo of the underside of his feet in the introduction, you can see the holes next to the rocket tubes where I had sleeves in place to hold dowels which would extend below each leg to which the fins would be attached.

Lentamentalisk (author)2010-08-16

Looks quite good. I am assuming you were using Estes E9? You will get much better results with a higher thrust engine like an Aerotech E18, which I do believe you can get in single use from their website. Fantastic work!

seamster (author)Lentamentalisk2010-08-16

Yes, they were estes engines. I agree about using Aerotech.

For an iffy design like this, I was okay with using what I had readily available.

mikeasaurus (author)2010-08-16

Awesome! Great concept, and the execution was amazing! Considering you mentioned maybe next time adding fins to his feet to make him fly straight... are you planning a mkII?

seamster (author)mikeasaurus2010-08-16

Not presently, no!

I've had enough Iron Man for a lifetime I think. I've got plenty of other projects lined up to keep my weekends busy for quite a while.

Thanks for the compliments! I'm glad you liked it.

Culturespy (author)2010-08-16

Seems like if you packed the tubing right you might be able to get the rockets to pop a parachute out of the back or something. Same as a typical nose cone deployment, probably just want to pay attention to how it hangs on the shroud lines with regard to the center of gravity.

Really fun rocket, one of the most entertaining rockets and Iron Man projects to date.

seamster (author)Culturespy2010-08-16

That was exactly what I was going for. I guess I never show it clearly in any photos though.. I made a very spacious cavity in his back for a parachute, and the hatch to fit over it with a tube that holds it in place that slides into the single exhaust tube.

I had it all worked out, but I was tired of working on it so some of the details got left behind. I'm glad you liked it!

About This Instructable




Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
More by seamster:Farmhouse Play KitchenTop 100 Instructables of 2017Making Quick & Easy Work Tables
Add instructable to: