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Congreve Artillery Rocket
By: Adrian Hurt

August, 2013 DOM

Congreve Artillery Rocket:

This is my scale model of a Congreve Artillery Rocket. The rocket is kept stable,
not by fins as on a conventional rocket, but by a stick as on a firework rocket. To build it, you will need:

  • Estes BT-20

  • Heavy paper or light card

  • 2 spent 18mm motors

  • A dowel, about 4mm or 5/32” diameter, 1m or 3 feet long

  • Thin light brown cotton thread

  • Sewing elastic cord

  • Plasticene or modelling clay

The main body is 4.7” of BT-20. The nose cone is rolled from heavy paper, as is the sleeve. The sleeve should be 1 15/16” long and rolled round the BT-20 to get the right size; it should slide easily over the tube. A thrust block can be made by cutting a short piece off the end of an expended 18mm motor.


The cone should be rolled from a semi-circle 1.5” radius and should sit on top of the sleeve. The cone’s shoulder can be made from rolling a piece of heavy paper into a cylinder 7/8” long and the same diameter as BT-20; cut the top of the shoulder into strips 1/4" long, then this part of the shoulder can be glued into the cone, leaving 5/8” of shoulder to glue into the sleeve. If you want the details on the nose, cut three columns each of one 1/8” and one 3/16” diameter hole in the cone, plus three 3/16” diameter holes in the sleeve. You will then need to roll an inner cone slightly smaller than the now perforated outer cone and glue it. The cone’s shoulder can then be glued into the sleeve. If you have done all this correctly then when the assembled cone and sleeve is fitted onto the main body, the shoulder will stop the assembly from sliding too far down the body, and the total length should be 7 7/8”.

Make three cylinders of heavy paper by rolling strips 3/8” wide around the guide stick. Glue these to the body tube so that the rear ends of the cylinders are 0.1”, 1.25” and 2.5” from the rear of the body tube. Then make three more 3/8” wide strips and glue these around the body and cylinders to form the bands which held the guide stick on the original Congreve. The guide stick can then be fitted to the rocket and secured with tape for flight, then removed for transport. Not only does this make carrying the model easier, it also means if the stick is broken e.g. during transport or after a heavy landing, it can easily be replaced.

The shock cord can be made from sewing elastic, preferably cord type rather than flat as it will take up less space in the rocket. Put a standard Estes-style tri-fold paper mount on each end. One end will be glued into the nose cone shoulder so that it does not obstruct movement of the sleeve over the body; the other end will be glued into the main body tube.

Some plasticene (or modelling clay) will go into the nose cone to balance the rocket. Stability can be checked by swing testing. Note that whereas a normal rocket becomes lighter at the tail as propellant burns so that the CG moves forward, the Congreve becomes lighter at the nose as propellant burns and the CG moves back. Swing testing should therefore be done with an empty motor.

The model should be painted in a dark metallic colour. My own preference is Humbrol Metalcote Polished Steel. The final detail is to coat the bottom 1” of the sleeve with white glue and wrap light brown cotton around it, depicting the fuse for the incendiary warhead.

Two episodes of the real Congreve rockets’ history are directly relevant to this model. One is the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations, in which the combined armies of Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden gave Napoleon’s army a bigger kicking than the British (with Prussian help) at Waterloo. Also present was a small British unit under the command of Capt. Richard Bogue, trying out the Congreve rockets for the first time in a land battle. For this reason a full size replica of a Congreve rocket is on display in the small museum by the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, the monument to the battle in Leipzig. The model is based on this replica.

The other historical episode is when a British warship fired some of these rockets at an American fort during the War of 1812. This led to the rocket being immortalised in song. So when anyone starts singing “The Star Spangled Banner”, pull out your Congreve – when they get to the line about “the rockets’ red glare”, this is the rocket they’re singing about.

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Flying the Congreve:

The Congreve will fly on pretty well any motor that will fit. If you use a C6, don't expect to see the model again - I did it once, which is one reason why what you're looking at isn't my first Congreve model! At the other end of the power spectrum, you can knock the nozzle out of a spent 18mm motor and use the casing as a 18mm-13mm adaptor, then fly the model on 13mm A's.

The Congreve has no launch lug as it would not work on a model whose body is at the top of the launch rod. Instead, tape a metal tube to the launch rod, and then tape the launch controller's cable to the tube so that the igniter is not carrying the weight of about 3 feet of cable. The tube only needs to be wide enough so that the guide stick fits easily into it, then the body will sit on top of the tube. (I use a 1/2" diameter brass tube which carries my 1/8" and 3/16" rods to the launch site.) Alternatively you could tape a couple of pieces of drinking straw to the launch rod, along with the controller cable. 

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