DIY pvc pipe rocket launcher

Hi all. Before we get to today’s tutorial I want to let you know I’m participating in a fun guest post extravanganza hosted by Sugar Bee Crafts. Every day for the next few weeks she’s linking to four different red-white-and-blue guest posts, and today’s project is one of them. Click on over to see the three other projects for today and keep checking back for four projects each day!

little bot with DIY pvc pipe rocket launcher

Have any family gatherings coming up this summer? Maybe for the fourth? Or a reunion? This is the perfect activity when you want to keep a bunch of kids happy outside this summer: a DIY pvc pipe rocket launcher. With basic supplies from the hardware store, a bike pump or air compressor, and a few empty 2-liter bottles, you can keep your kids happy for hours launching rockets 40 or 50 feet into the air (these babies fly!).

PLEASE NOTE: PARENTAL SUPERVISION IS REQUIRED. You are responsible for making sure your children are safe while operating this project. Be sure your children are old enough to stay out of the way of the bottle rocket and take any other precautions you feel are necessary to keep everyone safe.

The instructions may look daunting, but it’s really not hard and you can put it together in about half an hour. You’ll need to plan to let it dry for at least a few hours before using. (NOTE: I found the plans for the rocket launcher here, so this is not my original design. However, I am providing original photos and more detailed construction explanation and graphics.)

Supplies: Cost of supplies is about $20, including two types of adhesive. If you already have adhesive on hand, cost is quite a bit less, and making additional launchers would only cost $5 or so.

pvc pipe pieces and connectors; electical tape

about 5 ft of 1/2 inch pvc pipe, cut into (1) 2 ft piece, (2) 1 ft pieces, (1) 8 inch piece

2 end caps (slip) – 1/2 inch

1 elbow (slip) – 1/2 inch

2 male adaptors (slip) – 1/2 inch

1 tee (slip on the sides, screw on the bottom) – 1/2 inch

1 tire valve cut from an old tube

electical tape

pvc pipe cement

adhesive that works on rubber, such as Barge cement

tire pump or air compressor

2 liter bottles (1/2 liter water bottles will also work)


Here’s a photo of how everything fits together:

assembly diagram for pvc pipe rocket launcher

Start by cutting a tire valve out of an old tube (or purchasing a tire valve). Cut the rubber at the base of the valve so it fits inside an end cap. Drill a hole in the end cap just large enough for the valve to fit through. Place barge cement inside the end cap and on the valve, pull it tight through the hole. Set aside for a few minutes to dry. (This is the hardest part, and it’s not even that hard).

Put it all together:

assembly diagram for PVC launcher

Now you can attach a bike pump or air compressor to the tire valve. Then fill a 2-liter bottle about 1/3 full of water and place it on top of the tape wrapped male adaptor – twist it on to get a pretty good seal. Start pumping air in and wait for the bottle to explode off the launcher, shooting up into the air and spraying everyone with water. Then the laughs will begin!

A few notes:

1 – we couldn’t find barge cement at Home Depot (it is available on amazon) so we used a different glue to attach the tire valve to the endcap. The seal wasn’t perfect, which means air escaped around the tire valve, making it harder to build up enough pressure for a launch. We ended up wrapping that end cap and tire valve tightly with electrical tape to keep a tight seal and that worked just fine.

2 – keep small children away from the launcher. The bottles shoot up pretty fast, so you want to make sure no one gets injured. If you push the bottle pretty firmly onto the launcher no one needs to be touching it while air is getting pumped in.

3 – the electrical tape will begin to get all smooshed up after a few launches, so you may need to take it off and wrap more on occasionally.

4 – kids can decorate their own bottles and add fins on the sides, but DO NOT put cones on the top to make them look more like rockets – these fly very high and you don’t want anything pointy heading back down at you.

5 – how high the rockets fly depends on how tightly you twist them down onto the launcher, how much water is in them, and how quickly you can build up the pressure necessary to pop it off – let kids experiment to see what the best combination is.

6 – my 10-yr olds were able to launch the rockets on their own, but my 5-yr old wasn’t quite strong enough to do so with the bike pump, so plan to help younger kids.

7 – you can unscrew the launcher at the tee for storage.

Have fun!

little boy using bike pump to create pressure inside pvc pipe rocket launcher

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