A model rocket is a small, powered craft that can be built from lightweight materials such as wood, plastic, or cardboard. The model rocket is usually designed in a similar fashion as larger rockets. Hobbyists can build model rockets and launch them to lower altitudes, then recover the lightweight crafts as they fall back to the earth. Specially designed, one-use engines are inserted into the rockets to propel them skyward, and a parachute is usually attached to the inside of each rocket; it is deployed once the rocket reaches its peak altitude.
A launch pad is necessary to properly launch a model rocket. The rocket is attached to the launch pad rod, which extends vertically from a metal base. A guide tube attached to the outside of the rocket allows it to launch straight off the vertical rod and into the air. The process of launching the model rocket starts with properly packing the internal components of the rocket: an engine is inserted into a special cradle at the bottom of the rocket, and batting are loaded in from the top of the rocket to build up pressure that will eventually deploy the parachute. The parachute is loaded in at the top of the rocket, and the nose cone is inserted into the top of the body tube.
The model rocket engine must be ignited, so a specially designed electric match is loaded into the bottom of the engine prior to the launch. This match features metal leads to which metal clamps can be affixed. The metal clamps are attached to a long wire that ends in a launch control unit; this unit usually has three features: a lock, an activation light, and a launch button. The lock must be inserted into the control unit to make launching possible. Once it is inserted, the button can be depressed. The light will activate if an electrical current has passed successfully through the wire, and the rocket will launch.
Once the rocket takes flight, it will reach certain altitudes based on the size of the rocket's engine and the overall design of the model rocket. It will reach a peak altitude, before deploying some sort of recovery method, often a parachute that will allow the rocket to fall gently back down to the earth. This part of the recovery process can be problematic, since parachutes tend to get caught in trees, power lines, and other obstructions.