Instructables
Picture of 100-Yard Paper Rocket Launcher

This is my take on the compressed air paper rocket launcher. Enjoy!

Intro Video

 
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Step 1: Make the launcher

This launcher works up to 60psi. You can wire in a second 9V battery to get the launcher up to 100+psi. 60psi is enough to achieve spectacular results. Pressures above 60psi dramatically increase the risk of exploding the rocket.

(and by the way, you might want to protect your work surface a bit better than I did)

Step 2: Make the rocket

All you need is cardstock, tape and scissors.

It's easy to build a rocket that can reach a distance of 50 feet. However, making an ultra-high-performing rocket is actually quite challenging because all aspects need to be designed to near perfection. At high speeds, tiny imperfections are quickly blown out of proportion because the forces acting upon the rocket are intensified. For example, a nosecone that leans slightly to one side may not significantly influence the rocket's performance at 40psi, however at 60psi that nosecone may create an imbalance of friction created by the air rushing by, causing the rocket to turn sharply and tumble to the ground.

For this reason, take your time while creating & attaching each part of the rocket. And with that in mind, here's how to make a high-performing rocket:

Step 3: How the valve system works


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DanTDM4 months ago

DANGER:

PVC PLASTIC PIPE WILL FAIL AFTER AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME IF EXPOSED TO SUNLIGHT. EVEN IF NOT EXPOSED, PVC WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL. WITH WATER, IT JUST SPLITS. WITH AIR, IT IS LIKE A BOMB.

diver dad4 months ago

PVC explosions are half the fun!

Masher0074 months ago

This is not spam, but a warning. PVC will fail suddenly after a while. This was band member that hurt badly by a T-Shirt launcher explosion.

See the pictures and never use PVC to hold air, Please.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1Zs3c
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I would really like to make this rocket, but cannot find a solenoid. I searched the itsablast website and could not find one anywhere. i also searched ebay and the internet in general, but only found motorbike starters. Please help.
YOu buy a water sprinkler valve at Lowes or Home Depot for $13.
WYE_Lance (author)  Thekellygang1 year ago
Hi there,

The solenoid is included when you purchase the modified valve. The valve that I used in this design can be bought here.

Have fun!
Thanks!
Captain Robert11 months ago
I'm looking forward to running this project with my middle-schoolers!

Here's an easy math extension: if launched at 45°, the ballistic trajectory reduces to a simple equation that can give you the average velocity of your paper rocket (ignoring air resistance) as follows:

SQRT(Distance x Gravity) = Velocity

So if your rocket travels 27 meters: (27m x 9.8m/s2)0.5 = 16m/s

If you've got the right math crew, you can also show how the equation yields m/s from m and m/s2. Or, if you're using feet, how taking the square root of the distance in feet multiplied by 32 ft/s2 gives you ft/s
legoman1111 year ago
Cool! Exploding rocket!
what is the difference between modified valve and air actuated valve? and which we use in doing this paper rocket lancher?
Fast React1 year ago
If i use a bigger persure chamber and more presure whould i go farther ?
WYE_Lance (author)  Fast React1 year ago
I don't think so. A bigger chamber just takes more time to fill up to the max PSI.
Tanks for the answer.so il just use the regular chamber
tbrockert2 years ago
This is a wonderful project that worked just perfectly! The kids were very impressed by how far the double launcher worked.

I have some troubleshooting I was hoping I can get help with. After leaving the launcher alone for about a month, I tried it out again with some difficulties. Beyond the pressure of 30-40 psi the trigger won't work properly and won't expel the air from the barrel. Only after loosening the trigger from the chamber, will the air escape through the pvc. I don't know if this has occurred before in any of your models, but if so or not, do you have any tips?
WYE_Lance (author)  tbrockert2 years ago
Great to hear that! If the trigger won't work as well as before, try replacing the battery. If the battery is low then it won't have the power to activate the solenoid and release the valve.
That was it! The 9v had only 75% of the max charge, which I guess wasn't enough to pull the trigger fully under high pressure. Much thanks! Now I can use this even more!
ryanmudry2 years ago
How is the "modified sprinkler valve" different from a home depot sprinkler valve?
WYE_Lance (author)  ryanmudry2 years ago
I don't know exactly how to mod a valve, but I do know that the valve is modded to allow the air to escape more rapidly.
hm you need this device to shoot the rocket darn!
You should try a whistle in the cone...
maintann2 years ago
A serious suggestion - put a safety switch in the circuit - perhaps a toggle switch with a flip up cover. This way firing requires three actions ,flip cover, toggle circuit on , press fire button. It's never too early to impress safety on kids
Don
WYE_Lance (author)  maintann2 years ago
That's a great idea! It would be pretty easy to splice in a second switch, perhaps something that only the teacher can control. I like that it allows students to be in control of the launch without the risk of a misfire. Although my safety talk has so far been effective, it is indeed better to be safer than not.
I like the idea of a second switch in series with the firing switch.
On the idea of teaching safety and responsibility; assign one student as a safety officer for each team. The safety officer would make sure all students are clear behind the safety line before calling range clear and pressing their button to enable the firing button. (does my military background show with this suggestion?)
tbone19062 years ago
You should also think about wrapping the PVC with several layers of duct tape. Overtime the PVC may weaken and the high pressure could rupture the pipe sending possible shrapnel into the crowd. The duct tape would contain any flying debris in the event of a failure. Or you can use metal pipe for the pressure vessel. With kids its always a good idea to be extra safe. Keep up the good work, I love it when kids get excited about science!
rocklocker2 years ago
I have to agree with THAYRAY. Some of those kids were too close to the launcher. Perhaps a line which every one must be behind before launching. It's no fun going through life with one functioning eye, I know.
On the other hand this is really cool and is going into my grandpa projects to amaze the grandkids as soon as my kids make one for us. Maybe they need an instructable on how to make bqabies.
WYE_Lance (author)  rocklocker2 years ago
Thanks for the kind words and your concern for the kids. I'll admit that it is difficult to keep kids at a safe distance - everyone wants a good view of the launcher. I constantly remind kids to back up, but your comment gave me an idea for a better solution: I think it would be easy to use a brightly colored rope to create a safety zone around the launcher. I am conducting this project at many schools this week, so I'll try this out today and let you know how it goes.
WYE_Lance (author)  WYE_Lance2 years ago
I bought some thick and bright yellow rope to define a clear safety zone - it worked very well! Kids were even reminding each other to "Stay behind the rope." I've updated this Instructable with a photo of the rope being used in step 4. Very simple, easy-to-implement solution until I install a second safety switch.
Yeah...the mom in me cringed when I saw the kids so close but other than that this seems really fun! My munchkin is a bit young yet but someday...someday...
It does seem quite dangerous, though so far I've conducted hundreds of launches with no injuries. I thought about excluding some clips from the video because it looks dangerous, but showing true footage has prompted concerned members of the community to voice their ideas for safety improvements :)
ajoyraman2 years ago
Great Work ! and Excellent use of common PVC pipe fittings.
MTJimL2 years ago
I must be a klutz, as I could never get away with handling PVC weld without gloves. Would pipe-threaded joints be another option? Also, creative variations should prevent boredom with this project for about a hundred years. Very well done.
WYE_Lance (author)  MTJimL2 years ago
No, unfortunately if you're making a pressure chamber out of PVC you pretty much have to use solvent weld. One variation that I like is a double launcher tube so 2 rockets can fire at once (you may have noticed that two rockets are being fired at the same time at the very beginning of the video).
Closer2 years ago
Rather than use a rubber schrader valve (for steel car wheels), you might consider using a clamp in one (for truck or alloy wheeles). This would eliminate the need for the sealing plastic.
WYE_Lance (author)  Closer2 years ago
I just checked out what a clamp-in valve looks like, and I think you're right - it seems much easier to install and you don't have to deal with KwikPlastic. I'll definitely include this in my next design update - thanks!
schmitta2 years ago
The rocket really goes great. Excellent toy.
thayray2 years ago
Isn't it kinda dangerous? At 0:35 I thought a kid was going to get a rocket in the eyeball.
WYE_Lance (author)  thayray2 years ago
It is very dangerous! Please follow the safety advice in step 4. Having a clear countdown is what alerted that kid
Treknology2 years ago
For sale: One used model rocket kit.

Free to a good home: Only white mouse to have ever had a bird's eye view of Kensington.
I like your design but it is very similar to the design by Rick S. that was featured in Make magazine. There are some subtle differences but if you did base your design off of Rick's design you should credit his design in your write up.
WYE_Lance (author)  jktechwriter2 years ago
You're correct - I did use the idea for a base from a video by Make magazine. Actually, the entire launcher is an amalgamation of several rocket launchers I've built in the past couple of years based upon YouTube tutorials and this very site. With all due respect, it seems unnecessary to credit every person who has influenced this particular design. After all, one could define originality as a new combination of common ideas.
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