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Water Rocket Launch Pad

Instructions for Building the Launcher

The launcher is simple and inexpensive to construct. Most needed parts are available from hardware stores. In addition you will need a tire valve from an auto parts store and a rubber bottle stopper from a school science experiment. The most difficult task is to drill a 3/8-inch hole in the mending plate. An electric drill is a common household tool. If you do not have access to a drill or do not wish to drill the holes in the metal mending plate, find someone who can do the job for you. Ask a teacher or student in your school's industrial arts shop or the parent of a student to help.

Materials Needed

· 4 5-inch corner irons with 12 3/4-inch wood screws to fit
· 1 5-inch mounting plate
· 2 6-inch spikes
· 2 10-inch spikes or metal tent stakes
· 2 5-inch by 1/4-inch carriage bolts with 6 1/4-inch nuts
· 1 3-inch eyebolt with 2 nuts and washers
· 4 3/4-inch diameter washers to fit bolts
· 1 #3 rubber stopper with a single hole
· 1 Snap-in Tubeless Tire valve (small 0.453 inch hole, 2 inches long)
· Wood board 12 x 18 x 3/4 inches
· 1 2-liter plastic bottle
· Electric drill and bits including a 3/8-inch bit
· Screw driver
· Pliers or open-end wrench to fit nuts
· Vice
· 12 feet of 1/4-inch cord
· Pencil

Launcher Image

Construction of the Launcher

  1. Prepare the rubber stopper by enlarging the hole with a drill. Grip the stopper lightly with a vice and gently enlarge the hole with a 3/8 inch bit and electric drill. The rubber will stretch during cutting, making the finished hole somewhat less than 3/8 inches.
  2. Remove the stopper from the vice and push the needle valve end of the tire stem through the stopper from the narrow end to the wide end.
  3. Prepare the mounting plate by drilling a 1-3/8 inch hole through the center of the plate. (As safety precautions, hold the plate with a vice during drilling and wear eye protection.) Using a drill bit slightly larger than the holes, enlarge the holes at the opposite ends of the plates. The holes must be large enough to pass the carriage bolts through them.
  4. Lay the mending plate in the center of the wood base and mark the centers of the two outside holes that you enlarged. Drill holes through the wood big enough to pass the carriage bolts through.
  5. Push and twist the tire stem into the hole you drilled in the center of the mounting plate. The fat end of the stopper should rest on the plate.
  6. Insert the carriage bolts through the wood base from the bottom up. Place a hex nut over each bolt and tighten the nut so that the bolt head pulls into the wood.
  7. Screw a second nut over each bolt and spin it about halfway down the bolt. Place a washer over each nut and slip the mounting plate over the two bolts.
  8. Press the neck of a 2-liter plastic bottle over the stopper. You will be using the bottle's wide-neck lip for measuring in the next step.
  9. Set up two corner irons so that they look like bookends. Insert a spike through the top hole of each iron. Slide the irons near the bottleneck so that the spike rests immediately above the wide neck lip. The spike will hold the bottle in place while you pump up the rocket. If the bottle is too low, adjust the nuts beneath the mounting plate on both sides to raise it.
  10. Set up the other two corner irons as you did in the previous step. Place them on the opposite side of the bottle. When you have the irons aligned so that the spikes rest above and hold the bottle lip, mark the centers of the holes on the wood base. (For more precise screwing, drill small pilot holes for each screw and then screw the corner irons tightly to the base.)
  11. Install an eyebolt to the edge of the opposite holes for the hold-down spikes. Drill a hole and hold the bolt in place with washers and nuts on top and bottom.
  12. Attach the launch "pull cord" to the head end of each spike. Run the cord through the eyebolt.
  13. Make final adjustments to the launcher by attaching the pump to the tire stem and pumping up the bottle. Refer to the launching instructions for safety notes. If the air seeps out around the stopper, the stopper is too loose. Use a pair of pliers or a wrench to raise each side of the mounting plate in turn to press the stopper with slightly more force to the bottleneck. When satisfied with the position, thread the remaining hex nuts over the mounting plate and tighten them to hold the plate in position.
  14. Drill two holes through the wood base along one side. The holes should be large enough to accommodate large spikes (metal tent stakes). When the launch pad is set up on a grassy field, the stakes will hold the launcher in place as you yank the pull cord to launch the rocket.
  15. The launcher is now complete.

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Any comments, concerns, or questions should be addressed to:    

Developer: David Mazza    
Responsible NASA Official: Jo Ann Charleston    



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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: May 13 2021

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