Introduction: Model Rocket LED Glow Effects

Picture of Model Rocket LED Glow Effects

This is my entry into the Let it Glow Contest. If you like it, please vote.

Now that school, and therefore finals, are done I can finally finish this Instructable. It has been waiting to be completed for about a month now but I've been so busy with other things that I waited till the last hour to finish this Instrcutable and enter it in to the contest.

Model rockets are cool and lots of fun. The same applies to LED's and other simple electronics. So you now wonder, why not combine the two. Well, here I will combine the two, and also feed everyone's secret addiction to fire (you know it's true) by adding LED Glow effects to a high flying model rocket.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
To do this, you will need:

  • Model rocket
  • 3 10mm LED's (colors may vary)
  • 3 3032 coin cell batteries
  • Wire
  • Soldering supplies
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks
  • Electrical tape
  • Exacto knife
  • Razor blade (unless you want to cover your Exacto with hot glue)
  • Small saw (optional)
  • File (helpful)
  • Mini butane blowtorch (or jet (windproof) lighter)

Step 2: Building the Rocket

Picture of Building the Rocket

If your rocket is already built then skip this step. If not, build the rocket now following the instructions that it came with. I built this rocket from one of the mostly pre-made kits (yes, I know, not a real rocketeer) but any rocket will do.

Step 3: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

My rocket had 2 indents on the side of the nose so I decided to light them, as well as the tip. Start by using your Exacto knife to cut two holes, the size of your LED's, in the sides of the nose. Also cut off the very tip of your rocket's nose. Make sure your LED's fin in the holes you made snugly. Use your fingers, and file if necessary, to get all the plastic "fuzzies" or burs off your work.

Step 4: Wiring the Electronics

Picture of Wiring the Electronics

Solder your LED's in series (with enough wire in between each so they can reach their position in the nose of the rocket) with the switch and two leads to be attached to the battery. To do all of this, first find the polarity of each LED and bend one of the leads (the same side for each LED) outward. Then solder all the components according to the diagram. Cover everything in electrical tape to keep it from falling apart, then continue.

Step 5: Attach Batteries

Picture of Attach Batteries

I tested several ways of attaching the batteries to the circuit, but due to size constraints had to stick with electrical tape. Wrap tape tightly around the sides of your batteries and cut the excess off. Then tape the two leads to the respective positive and negative terminals of the batteries. Make sure this is done well so the tape does not come loose mid-flight. Test the electronics now and fix any problems, because it will be a lot more difficult when they are glued into place.

Step 6: Filling the Rocket

Picture of Filling the Rocket

Insert the LED's into the holes that you cut earlier, the batteries in the nose of the rocket, and the switch in it's respective hole. Try to make the LED's flush with the body, if it they are not, it's ok, they will look better with some hot glue.

Step 7: Hot Glue

Picture of Hot Glue

I will admit, this step caused me many problems, mainly with finding a way to shape the hot glue. I experimented with many ways of shaping the glue and doing so while not melting the rocket itself. This is the method that I found works the best.

First fill the cavity in the nose of the rocket entirely with hot glue. Quickly, before the glue dries, grab your razor blade (not Exacto knife) and use it to smooth out the glue and to remove excess glue. To do this, slide the blade, applying constant speed and pressure, down the hot glued area to create a smooth surface. Start the blade at the LED and slide it to end of the cavity. When applying the hot glue, be sure to provide enough glue to hold the LED in place. Once the glue is dry, if it is necessary, to create a perfectly smooth surface use the small butane torch (not the big blowtorch!) to remelt the glue and let it dry. Also, using some hot glue, secure the LED at the very tip of the nose in its place. Glue the switch it its place now, but make sure that it can still work.

Step 8: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

The last thing you need to do before you are ready to launch is glue the rocket nose back together. Use ample glue to glue the 2 portions of the nose back together and get ready to launch.

Step 9: Launch

Picture of Launch

Here is a video of the launch. I launched this rocket twice and it was my first (and certainly not last) nighttime launch.

Note: During the first test, my camera's drop detection feature triggered while I was running and shut the camera off. The footage jumped to where we recovered the rocket.


ChristopherL96 (author)2016-03-17

I built an Ventris and put 4 LEDs on the fins, a mid, and a blinky on the nosecone. Yet to fly but it will be nice when it does.

NVDevastator (author)2013-07-01

Awesome idea man! Looks great! One question tho, do the parasite gliders work good? I heard they are cheaply made and dont fly very well. I might buy one but thats holding me back. Pleez reply Thnx :)

Lotus14 (author)2009-10-01

Very cool, i liked it a lot. Keep it up!

benjamin1254 (author)2009-07-25

you could have went with a 2 part plastic mix that makes a clear "cast" of anything you set it in.... drill into it a bit to set the leds to make sure its a good fit... and to make sure it would be clear all you would need to do is b4 perminitly setting the LEDs in place you would use a clear coat of finger nail polish. It helps to know these things when doing mods _... btw using hot glue could be useful on the desent back to the ground because it is a rubber type substance.

benjamin1254 (author)2009-07-25

i would have rather used an ultra bright blue LED at the tip so it could be seen going up @ night along with the side blue lights.... nice mod btw im impressed so faR!

eng_johny (author)2009-07-20

its a good job , but i want to know the device that give the thurst firce to the rocket to launch , and where i can buy it ? thanks johny

marc92 (author)eng_johny2009-07-20

That would be a model rocket motor. They can be found at hobby stores, or sometimes in the toy section of Walmart. Best of luck!

aka_daryl (author)2009-05-13

the red laser in a regular CD drive can be seen by the naked eye

kanamin (author)2009-05-03

OH MY GOD I think I used to have that rocket, gone now. Ahh childhood D:

aka_daryl (author)2009-02-07

great instructabe, by the way what type of rocket is that i would like to buy one to try this?

marc92 (author)aka_daryl2009-02-07

Thanks! I think it was an Estes rocket, Shuttle Xpress, to be exact.

TheDeviant13 (author)marc922009-03-16

I am going to try something similar to this with the Estes customizer set except making it so I could put it in the clear payload section of the model and another idea that you could try is to get a cheap and light weight green laser pointer and somehow rig it to the model rocket so if you fly it at night you could follow the laser beam to find the rocket while it is in the air or on the ground after it comes back down.

marc92 (author)TheDeviant132009-03-17

Good luck. The laser pointer is a great idea too.

aka_daryl (author)marc922009-03-17

yea i have loads of old CD drives it wouldn't be hard to salvage the laser i supose

temp (author)2009-01-31

someone is going to be like "Holy guacamole it's a UFO!"

piee (author)2008-12-12

what is the function of the benz0matic lighter????? and how you launch the rocket huh????? can u explain more to me how to launch the rocket thanx..... i hope u will k

marc92 (author)piee2008-12-13

The large (blue) propane is not used, but it was photographed because I tried it as a method of remelting the hot glue to make it look smooth. To launch the rocket, follow the instructions in the paperwork that came with the rocket. If you don't have that paperwork, reply, and I will post a picture of them for you.

piee (author)marc922008-12-16

can u post to me the paperwork and the .... yhe important is where can i get the rocket engine.....

falcotheimpaler (author)2008-12-13

wow. makes me wish i still had model rockets.

Ian01 (author)2008-08-10

5, 3, 2, 1. Four sounds too similar to "FIRE!" which is only said/shouted if something that shouldn't be is on fire, e.g. the grass.

somebullcrap (author)Ian012008-08-10

five sounds like fire .not four .i don't ask to be rude but do you have a speech impediment?

marc92 (author)somebullcrap2008-08-11

Accents can vary causing both five and four to sound like "FIRE." Say "five" and "four" with all the accents you can think of, e.g. Boston, Southern, Canadian, etc. Most likely you will find that five and four can both sound like "FIRE."

Xerillum (author)marc922008-12-08

My opinion is that it should go threetwooneboooom. Just my opinion though.

marc92 (author)Xerillum2008-12-08

That works too :-)

marc92 (author)Ian012008-08-11

Good point. People, (unlike me,) that are seriously involved with rocketry should heed this warning. Also be careful with five.

DJTOONJR (author)2008-08-12

where did u get the LED lights at though? i like wantmore cuz i(for some reason) put lights on my backpack..idk why.. i was just rwally bored lol... and i would like to know where to get em..

marc92 (author)DJTOONJR2008-08-12

LED's can be purchased at Radio Shack, on eBay, or where the ones used here came from,

DJTOONJR (author)2008-08-12

lol i had this rocket... came wit 2 little planes on the side as well.. only thing is dat the first day i launched it, it landed in someones roof and never got it bak ahah

marc92 (author)DJTOONJR2008-08-12

Mine also came with two planes, but I opted not to launch them because recovering them at night would have been challenging.

Loveofchaos (author)2008-07-17

could you add some LED throwies so that once the parachute deployer charge goes off, some LEDs come out making it a safe... cool looking (not very cheap) firework...... more like electrowork =p

marc92 (author)Loveofchaos2008-07-17

Great idea! Maybe I'll try it.

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-06-28

Nice! (although i'd probably use rechargeable batteries)

marc92 (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-07-04

Good idea!

mattgatten (author)2008-06-26

Way cool. I've been wanting to do this with a few of my 'hot rod' R/C cars and racing planes. There are a buttload of 10mm LED's for cheap, cheap on 'The Bay'. Here's a highly filtered list of them. Enjoy.<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="">10mm diffused LED's on Ebay</a><br/>

marc92 (author)mattgatten2008-07-02

Cool! Post some pictures if you do

macwhiz (author)2008-06-24

I have the same rocket! :) Ha Ha!

marc92 (author)macwhiz2008-06-24

Cool. Are you going to try this?

macwhiz (author)marc922008-06-25


Yoooder (author)2008-06-24

How hard would it be to make these blink? If you could get them to blink at a constant rate it would be cool to record with a high-speed camera to get acceleration/speed. Maybe it's too much work, but I think it would make an awesome science-class experiment :)

marc92 (author)Yoooder2008-06-24

Great idea! I'm not an expert with IC's but I know that you would use a 555 timer. I just don't know how to set it up. I bet if you Google'd it you could find plenty of information, and I don't think it would be that difficult to do.

jamilili (author)2008-06-24

Pretty stellar! Most impressive!

Mr. Halloween (author)2008-06-24

thats awesome!!

PTmom (author)2008-06-23

I am impressed! Nice work.

marc92 (author)PTmom2008-06-23


futebol09 (author)2008-06-23

Awesome Idea! My boys are going to love this! Thanks

dark sponge (author)2008-06-23

Nice! Plenty of pictures and good descriptions. The LEDs could use some current-limiting resistors to make them last longer but overall, good job!

marc92 (author)dark sponge2008-06-23

Thanks, will do.

=SMART= (author)2008-06-23

Cool Mod, i like the hot-glue filler idea, the vid was good too very good 'ible 5*

Plasmana (author)2008-06-23

Wow! I got to try this, I have some LED's and lot of model rockets... Great instructable you had done! I like it. 5 star rating!

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