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Build A Custom Model Rocket Launch Pad

Article by Paul Nortness

Today I will show you how to build a model rocket launch pad out of PVC pipe. This is a great low cost alternative to the commercial pads, I built this one for less than an Estes Port-A-Pad sells for. Being made out of PVC, it is lightweight, strong and portable. For this project, you will need a tape measure or yard stick, cutting tool (I just used my trusty jigsaw), a drill with 1/8, 3/16 and 1/4 inch drill bits, some nuts and bolts and epoxy glue. This project also calls for 3/4 inch PVC pipe. You can purchase a 10 foot length of pipe at any home improvement store for pretty cheap. I got mine from Home Depot for $2.15. You will also need 2 90 degree elbows, 9 "T" connectors, a four way "cross" connector, and at least 7 end caps. Make sure none of these are threaded.

Getting Started and Cutting

Let's start by cutting our pieces out of the PVC pipe. Cut the following pieces: six 12 inch, two 24 inch, two 15 inch, two 11 inch, two 10.75 inch, two 6 inch, two 3 inch lengths, and three 2 inch lengths. As always, measure twice cut once! If using a tool like a jigsaw, make sure you wear safety glasses as PVC makes little shards when cut and they do fly. Had I not been wearing my glasses I would be writing this article with one eye. We will need to cut out some smaller pieces later in the build, so keep the saw handy.

Construction

Once your pieces are cut out, we can begin construction. Take the four 12 inch pieces. These will be the feet for the launch pad. Mix some epoxy glue and secure end caps to one end of each foot. Once in place, fill the piece with sand or dirt. I am just using dirt from my wife's garden for my launch pad. Now put a good amount of epoxy in the pipe, making sure you completely cover the dirt. Set this aside with the end cap down to allow the epoxy to dry. This will create a plug that will not allow the dirt to escape, giving the pad nice solid weighted feet to sit on.

build a launch pad 1

While the epoxy is drying on the feet, we can work on the rest of the launch pad. Take your two 15 inch pieces, two 24 inch pieces and 4 "T" connectors. With these pieces, form a rectangle like the picture. Below the main frame, attach the two 3 inch pieces. You can choose to epoxy these pieces together or leave them. If you epoxy them, the launch pad will not be able to be disassembled for transportation.

Now, take the two remaining 12 inch pieces and mark 1/2 of an inch from the top. Using a 1/4 drill bit, drill completely through the pipe.

build a launch pad 2

Now, take two "T" connectors and drill a hole in the center of each.

build a launch pad 3

Take your 1/4 hex bolt and feed it into the hole in the "T" connector so the head of the bolt is inside the connector. On the other side, put a washer over the bolt. Now, take the 12 inch piece you drilled a hole through and slide it over the bolt and then tighten on your wingnut. The assembly should look like this:

build a launch pad 4

Now that the feet have had ample drying time, let's attach them to the main frame. Take two "T" connectors and attach them to the 3 inch pieces on the bottom of the main frame so that "T" is flat. Now, just insert the feet and put the launch pad on the ground. It should sit flat and with the weighted legs, rough terrain in the field will not be an issue.

build a launch pad 5

Now comes the fun part. Insert one of the 11 inch pieces into the cross connector and a 10.75 inch piece into the other end. Now, take the last "T" connector and attach to the other 11 inch piece and the 10.75 inch piece goes into the other end. Now, put two elbow connectors on the ends of the pipe with the "T" connector in the middle. On the other end of the elbows, insert the 6 inch pieces. Take the pipe that has the cross and insert each end into the "T" connectors that we screwed down with the bolts and attach the ends of the 6 inch pieces into the bottom of the same "T" connector. You should end up with the following:

build a launch pad 6

Cut three 2 inch pieces of pipe and insert them into the open sections of the cross and "T" connector. Now we need to drill holes into our caps for the launch rod. Mark the caps dead center and drill a 3/16 hole on your mark. Put the caps onto the ends of the 2 inch pieces. You are now ready to complete the launcher. Insert your launch rod into the holes in the caps. Finally, insert the 12 inch pieces into the main frame. The launcher should look like this once completed.

build a launch pad 7

I added some aluminum foil tape on the upper arm just to give it a little extra heat protection, but having used a similar design all summer last year I can safely say it is not required.

The great thing about this design is it is completely portable, it can be broken down and re-assembled in minutes and fits in a duffle bag for easy transportation. Another great thing about it is it can be made to accommodate a 1/8, 3/16 or a 1/4 inch launch rod just by getting some more caps and drilling holes. However, truly the best thing about this launch pad is the cost. I spent less than $20.00 USD to construct this model rocket launch pad.

Have fun and happy flying!

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