Skip to main content Skip to main content

NASA’s BEST Students: Grades 3-5

Launch Your CEV

Engineer a reusable launcher for a CEV.

Grade 3-5 learners will be guided through a series of challenges that follow the engineering design cycle. Join NASA on an adventure through solving an engineering challenge to create a reusable launcher to send humans to the moon.

To demonstrate an understanding of the Engineering Design Process while utilizing each stage to successfully complete a team challenge.

To design and test a Reusable Launcher for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The CEV should travel 5 meters when launched.

Measuring, designing, evaluating


  • Model CEV that was built last session
  • General building supplies
  • Meter stick or measuring tape
  • C-clamps
  • Rubber bands of various sizes


  • Design Challenge
  • Ask, Imagine and Plan
  • Experiment and Record



Motivate (Pre-Activity Set-Up)

  • Show the first two minutes of the video titled “Constellation: Flight Tests”. (if time permits, show all)
  • Ask the students what was the most important lesson learned from those images? (test, test and test again!)



  • Share the Design Challenge with the students.
  • Emphasize that the objective is to create a launcher that gives repeatable results. It is more important for the CEV to reach the same distance each time than for the CEV to travel the farthest.
  • Remind students to imagine a solution and draw their ideas. All drawings should be approved before building.


  • Challenge the students to build a Reusable Launcher based on their designs.



  • Students will test the effects of three different “pull lengths” and record their data.


  • Students improve the Reusable Launcher based on results of the tests.


Engage the students with the following questions:

  • Why was it important that the launcher be reusable.
  • Why was it important that your results were repeatable?


The Moon is a very harsh environment. There is no atmosphere to protect astronauts and their equipment from solar radiation and the extreme temperature swings between night and day. Next session, we will begin to find ways to protect astronauts from those extreme temperature changes.

It’s Time to Launch into Space!

For years, NASA has been reusing launch components to send rockets and the Space Shuttle into space. For example, the solid rocket boosters (SRB’s) on the Space Shuttle are often retrieved from the ocean, brought back to Kennedy Space Center, then cleaned and prepped for another Shuttle Launch. Why? The same reason we recycle our aluminum cans. It helps the environment and helps us save money for future launches. During this session, you must design and test a Reusable Launcher for your Crew Exploration Vehicle that will journey to the Moon. Therefore, your goal will be to launch your CEV into an orbit around the Moon.



To design and test a Reusable Launcher with the following constraints:

  1. Launch the CEV to reach a goal of 5 meters. See the drawing on the previous page for an idea of how to set up your launch.
  2. The Launcher must be reusable for each trial. If your rubber band breaks because it was pulled too far, it is not reusable for another launch.
  3. The Launcher must produce a repeatable outcome. If you set up the Launcher the same way twice, the CEV should travel the same distance both times. It is more important that the CEV is launched the same distance using the same setup than it is to get the CEV to travel the farthest distance.

Launch Set-Up

Ask, Image & Plan

  • What questions do you have about today’s challenge?


  • Describe the rubber band your team will choose to use. How wide and how long?


  • How will you test your rubber bands to see if they will work well as a “Reusable Launcher”?


  • Draw a picture of your team’s Reusable Launcher with your CEV.

Experiment & Record

Write a hypothesis. Complete the following statement: By changing the distance the rubber band is pulled, our CEV will…

Record Your Observations

(See the worksheet on page 99 of the “Launch Your CEV” print version.)