DIY Air Compressed Rocket Launcher

Written by jeff cunningham
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DIY Air Compressed Rocket Launcher
Model rockets can be propelled into the sky using compressed air. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Harnessing the power of compressed air is a safe and impressive way to launch homemade rockets into the air for education or for fun. A special launching apparatus can be quickly and easily made at home with parts and tools from any hardware store.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Power drill
  • Hand saw
  • Bicycle pump or small electrically powered compressor
  • Rubber stem tire valve (TR425)
  • Pressure-operated relief valve (P1000A-50)
  • 1/2-inch 90 degree slip-to-thread PVC elbow joint
  • 2 PVC slip caps, 2 inch
  • 15-by-2 inch PVC pipe
  • 1/2-inch 90 degree thread-to-thread PVC elbow joint
  • 2 PVC pipes, 8-by-2 inch
  • 3/4 inch brass nipple
  • 1/2-inch to 1/2 inch slip-to-thread PVC adaptors
  • 2-inch PVC Tee junction
  • 3/4 inch ball valve
  • 24-by-1/2 inch PVC pipe
  • 2 PVC slip connectors, 2 inch
  • 3/4 to 1/2-inch thread-to-slip PVC adaptor
  • PVC primer and cement
  • 2 PVC flush brushing, 2 to 3/4 inch
  • 1/2-by-12 inch PVC pipe
  • Thread seal tape
  • Sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Drill a hole through the middle of one of the end caps with a power drill.

  2. 2

    Remove the stem cap from the tire valve and jam the stem into the cap from the inside as far as you can, ensuring an airtight seal.

  3. 3

    Cut the lengths of 2-inch PVC pipe into two 8 inch and one 15-inch segments with a handsaw. Clean them and sand off any remaining burrs.

  4. 4

    Prime the surfaces of both of the 8-inch segments with clear PVC primer and allow them to dry.

  5. 5

    Cement the primed pipe segments into the sides of the tee junction opposite each other, pushing them in with a twisting motion as far as they will go.

  6. 6

    Prime and cement the end cap with valve stem in a similar fashion to the other end of one of the segments in the tee junction.

  7. 7

    Cement a 2-inch connector over the end of the other segment in the junction.

  8. 8

    Cement the 2-to-3/4-inch flush brushing into the other end of the connector.

  9. 9

    Attach and install the relief valve in the flush brushing, making sure to align the threads as you do. Seal around the valve with thread seal tape.

  10. 10

    Cement the 15-by-2-inch pipe segment into the remaining middle branch of the tee junction. After this has dried, cement the other 2-inch connector onto its end.

  11. 11

    Cement another 2-to-3/4-inch flush brushing into the other end of the connector.

  12. 12

    Thread the brass nipple into the threaded opening of the PVC connector. Wrap thread seal tape around the threads and around the nipple's other end.

  13. 13

    Thread and attach the ball valve to the end of the brass nipple, positioning it so that pulling downwards on the lever moves it back towards the tee junction.

  14. 14

    Screw the 3/4-to-1/2-inch adaptor into the other end of the ball valve very gently.

  15. 15

    Cement the 12-by-1/2-inch pipe into the non-threaded end of the adaptor and cement the slip-to-thread elbow joint onto the other end of the pipe.

  16. 16

    Thread the double-threaded elbow into the end of the first elbow, but not tightly.

  17. 17

    Cement the 24-inch pipe segment into the 1/2-inch to 1/2 inch adaptor. Once it has dried, screw the other end of the adaptor into the remaining end of the elbow joint.

  18. 18

    Allow the cement in the entire assembly to set.

Tips and warnings

  • To launch rockets using the device, pump air into it to a pressure of 30 to 50 psi, then quickly pull back on the valve lever.
  • If the valve lever seems sluggish, lubricate it with a few drops of oil to the ball inside and work the lever back and forth several times.
  • Discard any cracked parts.
  • Use eye protection when using the launcher, and only launch in a wide open space.

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