The Little Rocket That Could

For our weekend project, we created a compressed air rocket. We built the rocket launcher using PVC pipes, and some toxic PVC glue and cement to hold it together. We used an inline sprinkler valve to let all the air out at once. It then creates a really strong force that launches a paper rocket into the air, and that’s just what we did.


We got the idea from MAKE magazine volume 15. I really recommend this magazine for anyone who is really creative and likes to build crafts. It’s a great activity magazine for the summer! We were looking for a weekend project and we stumbled across the compressed air rocket in one of our magazines. My brother Evan wanted to do this thing called a Brush Bot (“my robot will give me gold and diamonds and make me sandwiches.”) All you have to do is cut off the head of a toothbrush and tape on a vibrating motor. But I wanted to do the compressed air rocket because it sounded more challenging (which it was) and the YouTube videos looked really cool. Matt wanted to try out silk screening. I have no idea how we decided on the rocket, except that it’s obviously the coolest one.


First we downloaded the instructions from the MAKE website and went to the hardware store to buy all the pieces, which included lots of PVC pipe parts, an inline sprinkler valve, a clear tube and hose clamps, and a bunch of other stuff. It took us about four hours split over two days (because we didn’t buy all the right parts the first time around) to build the rocket launcher and trigger. I used a hacksaw and cut a piece of PVC pipe into shape for the handle of the trigger. Then we put caps on the pipe and drilled holes into them, one for the button, and one for the wires. One of the wires connects to an 18V battery from a cordless drill with an alligator clip. The other wire connects to the sprinkler valve. The other sprinkler valve wire also connects to the battery with an alligator clip, and this creates a circuit, which is activated when you push the RED BUTTON! DUN-DUN-DUN!!


After we had the air chamber and trigger finished, all we had to do was attach a long plastic tube to a valve on the chamber, and a bicycle tube valve that we ripped off an old tube we had lying around the garage that had a hole in it. After we took the valve off the bicycle tube, we removed all the rubber and then stuck it in the plastic tube and clamped it down with a hose clamp. This allowed us to pump air into the chamber with a bicycle pump. Once you fill the chamber up to 70psi, you can release all the air pressure out at once with the trigger.


Now it was time to build a rocket! This turned out to be a lot harder than it looks. Our first rocket failed miserably. On the first flight, it worked but didn’t go very high. On the second flight, the rocket ripped in half. We tried it again with just half a rocket, and that time the cone ripped off. We were just about to give up when we thought of a new idea: we need more tape to connect the two chambers of the rocket (the body tube that connects to the launcher and the main body).


With this new design (named Blue Fury 2) we tried again and it was a complete success! It went at least 200 feet in the air, we totally lost track of it until we saw it flying head first into the ground. That crunched up the nose pretty good and it didn’t fly as well after that.


The hardest part about this project was the rocket. If any of you want to help us with new rocket designs, that would be awesome! In fact, what would be really cool is to have a CONTEST for the highest flying rocket. Design your own rocket and try it out on our launcher! To infinity, and beyond!

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