Poker Flat Research Range

Poker Flat is the largest land-based rocket range in the world, and it's right here in Alaska! Poker Flat launches scientific sounding rockets, performs satellite tracking and is home to a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft.
A rocket laying on its side being assembled in a warehouse at Poker Flat.

Stomp Rockets - Activity Outline PDF
     Sounding rockets carry scientific tools instead of humans into space to take measurements on a quick, low flying path before returning to earth. These are the kinds of rockets being launched at Poker Flat Research Range. In this activity, participants get to build and launch their own air rockets to help imagine the challenges and triumphs of engineering spacecraft and launching them into a specific region of the space above our planet. 

Materials to make your own launcher:

  • One plastic liter soda bottle
  • A "tornado maker" or "tornado connector" which hooks two soda bottles together. They're fairly inexpensive & available online.
  • 3ft of flexible tubing
  • duct tape or a heat shrink sleeve to connect them
  • A pipe the same diameter as your tubing to roll the paper rockets on, so that they fit snugly onto the flexible tubing to launch.

Connect one end of the tornado maker to the bottle and the other end to the tubing with the duct tape or shrink sleeve. NASA has another launcher tutorial built out of just PVC pipe & fittings if that is more readily available to you, watch and download that here.

Check out the Poker Flat website for information about their rocket launches! 
They also have a YouTube channel!

A sounding rocket being launched into the sky, with a green aurora in the background.


NASA Space Science Education Consortium logo.This project was funded under NASA cooperative agreement NNX16AL65A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.