DIY launch pad

Starz

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Hi,
I have been getting from LPR to MPR and need a new launch pad. Currently, I have the small porta-pad from estes. What are the pros and cons of a simple wood board with a rod or other simple diy launch pad? Or would you recommend that I just buy a pad from a reputable seller?
 

DabCat

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I made a pad for 1/4 rod out of PVC. It's just a cross connector with 4 legs and a piece glued to the top. The rod attaches to the top piece via hose clamps. It's nice and cheap and works pretty well. I can send a picture if you are interested.
 

Grant_Edwards

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It's hard to go wrong with a pad that attaches to the top of a sawhorse. Sawhorses are sturdy, dead cheap, and useful for all sorts of other things. Having having the rocket a little higher off the ground is pretty nice when you're old. But then it gets so you can't reach the top of the rod without something to stand on. That said, I still made myself a folding wooden tripod that I'm quite fond of and use more often than not.
 

tsmith1315

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I used an old camera tripod, doing little more than loosening two set screws to remove the adjustment handle and tightening a 1/4 rod in its place.
 
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BigMacDaddy

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Do you want to go with a launch tower like this: https://www.apogeerockets.com/Launch_Accessories/Launch_Pads/Apogee_Competition_Launch_Tower

Or are you looking to use a T-slot rail-based launch setup like this:

A launch rail setup is really easy to make (I have never made one of the competition towers but they do not look that complex either). I basically started with what I had that I could use as a stand -- an old unused work-light stand that required expensive halogen bulbs -- and then bought a 4 meter 2020 T-slot rail from Grainger for around $40. I also bought a cheap cut-off saw for cutting metal for $40 since I also wanted to be able to cut makerbeam for multiple other projects (and cut my rail down to 2m for my launch setup so have another piece if I need it for a second launch platform). I 3D printed the parts to connect everything together but you could definitely do this in other easier ways. I also 3D print my rail buttons and launch lugs.

For my final setup I incorporated both a pair of 10x10x1500mm Makerbeam launch rails as well as 20x20x2000mm launch rails. I am still low powered but getting larger and larger rockets that would definitely not launch off of rods anymore. The 1.5 meter makerbeam rails are also really stable for pretty heavy / large rockets. You can buy a pair of those on Amazon for $40 or so. Only challenge is that the launch lugs / buttons are really small to fit into that rail. I am able to 3D print them and you can buy micro buttons but not lots of options to fit that rail. I also bet you could use 3 or 4 of them to make a tower launch platform as well if you did not want to use rods.

1635386936904.jpeg
1635386950392.jpeg

Last note -- I recently designed / 3D printed a different center core part that fits a makerbeam 1500mm rail so I can use the Estes legs from the starter set launch platform. I wanted a smaller makerbeam rail setup to bring for fast swaps between rod and rail launches. I have not tested this yet but would be a big step up from the rod launches. I realized I did not take a picture of this but will try to do so.
 

Starz

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Honestly, I just want the to buy/make the cheapest solution for now.
 

BigMacDaddy

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Starz

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Do you want to go with a launch tower like this: https://www.apogeerockets.com/Launch_Accessories/Launch_Pads/Apogee_Competition_Launch_Tower

Or are you looking to use a T-slot rail-based launch setup like this:

A launch rail setup is really easy to make (I have never made one of the competition towers but they do not look that complex either). I basically started with what I had that I could use as a stand -- an old unused work-light stand that required expensive halogen bulbs -- and then bought a 4 meter 2020 T-slot rail from Grainger for around $40. I also bought a cheap cut-off saw for cutting metal for $40 since I also wanted to be able to cut makerbeam for multiple other projects (and cut my rail down to 2m for my launch setup so have another piece if I need it for a second launch platform). I 3D printed the parts to connect everything together but you could definitely do this in other easier ways. I also 3D print my rail buttons and launch lugs.

For my final setup I incorporated both a pair of 10x10x1500mm Makerbeam launch rails as well as 20x20x2000mm launch rails. I am still low powered but getting larger and larger rockets that would definitely not launch off of rods anymore. The 1.5 meter makerbeam rails are also really stable for pretty heavy / large rockets. You can buy a pair of those on Amazon for $40 or so. Only challenge is that the launch lugs / buttons are really small to fit into that rail. I am able to 3D print them and you can buy micro buttons but not lots of options to fit that rail. I also bet you could use 3 or 4 of them to make a tower launch platform as well if you did not want to use rods.

View attachment 487585
View attachment 487586

Last note -- I recently designed / 3D printed a different center core part that fits a makerbeam 1500mm rail so I can use the Estes legs from the starter set launch platform. I wanted a smaller makerbeam rail setup to bring for fast swaps between rod and rail launches. I have not tested this yet but would be a big step up from the rod launches. I realized I did not take a picture of this but will try to do so.
Most of my rockets use a launch rod btw, my TARC team has a launch rail that I borrow.
 

K'Tesh

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A simple board with a blast plate and a launch rod can be a bit tippy (depends on the size of the board) if the rocket is large and heavy and there is wind. However, if you've got winds that high then you should seriously can the "GO Fever" and fly a kite instead. The nice thing about launch pads with legs... They can be lighter (depending on the construction method).

Three legs are always steady (except in the highest of winds) as long as the launch rod isn't too long, and the rocket isn't mounted too high on it. Once your pad has more legs than that, you can have problems with rocking. They also could be easier to transport without messing up your clothing or car (I put mine in a fishing tacklebox, keeping the sooty blast plate away from my pant's legs, or from any upholstery). You just have to remember to bring your launch rod when you go out (don't ask me how I know this)(a checklist is a good thing).
 
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Back_at_it

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I don't care for the wood board or any of the low pads. I've seen them tip over and seen more than one person get poked in the face with the launch rod. I'm also not as young or fit as I was so getting down there to hook up the leads isn't fun any longer.

I've made several pads since coming back to the hobby. 2 inch PVC is pretty simple. Get yourself an X coupler and some 45 degree bends for the base. A drill chuck and a couple of bolts and you got yourself a nice pad. Similar to the Estes Pro series only larger. Cut the legs any length you like to make it as tall or wide as you need.

I eventually went back to my old standby which is an old saw horse. I like that it's waist high and it keeps the tip of the rod above everyone's eye level. Seen that happen more than once and it's never pretty.

Currently looking at pads for a rail. Might put something together myself but I'm awful tempted by this pad by Frankum. Yeah I can do it cheaper myself but this comes to your door done ready to use for the cost of a decent mid-power rocket.

https://www.frankumperformance.com/product-page/little-4
 

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Starz

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Thanks! Where do you guys get your launch rods? I assume you don't buy em from estes.
 

cwbullet

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I have one I made with a relatively cheap speaker stand. I built two for under $75. It has 3D printed brackets and stops and will take 1010 and two sizes of micro rails. I can upload the design. It is an improvement of another design. It allows for rails to swapped out readily.

It does not take rods, but I can probably add them if there is interest.
 

BigMacDaddy

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Home depot has a 4' 3/8" rod for a few dollars. I think you should go up to rail if you are going to bother upgrading. I used a slightly larger rod and sturdier frame made from 3/4" PVC but it was only a minor upgrade... even the 10mm makerbeam rail was a huge improvement, much more stable / no rod snap.
 

Back_at_it

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Most home improvement stores like Lowes, Home Depot, Menards will carry 4ft pieces of 1/8 nd 3/16 and 6ft sections of 1/4. Just keep in mind that they will be steel rod so you'll want to wipe them down with something like WD40 after each use or they will surface rust. WD40 also takes most of the junk from motors off as well.
 
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Grant_Edwards

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Thanks! Where do you guys get your launch rods? I assume you don't buy em from estes.
Home Depot, Lows, Menards, Fleet Farm, any hardware store. They all carry cold-rolled steel rod. 1/4" x 6' for $5-6; 3/16 x 4' for $4, 1/8" x 3' for $2 (Menards pricing).
 
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Starz

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Home depot has a 4' 3/8" rod for a few dollars. I think you should go up to rail if you are going to bother upgrading. I used a slightly larger rod and sturdier frame made from 3/4" PVC but it was only a minor upgrade... even the 10mm makerbeam rail was a huge improvement, much more stable / no rod snap.
I only need a launch pad for my rail launch rockets. My TARC team has a rail launch pad that I use.
 

beeblebrox

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A lot of people are using these for the stand, they are cheap, very study and adaptable.... Use a 90 deg. galvanized pipe attached to a 1010 rail and clamp the rail in the stand... $24.99

 

Grant_Edwards

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Starz

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Grant_Edwards

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Yep, that's what I use for LPR (1/8 × 36 and 3/16 × 48).

For blast deflectors, I drill a hole in the middle of a 39¢ 6×6" ceramic tile:

https://www.menards.com/main/floori...l-tile/vt1066hc1p4/p-1444428461603-c-6547.htm

They don't short out the launch controller leads when they fall, and they don't rust. The carbon wipes off fairly easily so they don't make a mess in storage.

For securing rods, I make aluminum "Adapters" with a 1/4-20 threaded hole in the bottom, and a "rod size" hole in the top, with a 1/4-20 threaded hole in the side for the thumbscrew that secures the rod. IIRC, a 1 foot chunk of 1" diameter aluminum hex bar stock was about $9 (that's enough for 6-8 adpaters). Here's the 3/16 version:

IMG_20211028_130552315.jpg

1/4-20 is the thread used by camera and lighting tripods, so you can use it with any number of tripods off Amazon starting at about $15. It works great on the tripod that came with my Craftsman laser level. Or you can mount 2 or 3 of them on a board atop a sawhorse. Here's one end of a sawhorse dual launcher I built last week (the blast deflector has been used for a a number of A/B/C engine launches and is about a year old).

foo.jpg
 

jrap330

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Rocketry Works PVC Pad

 

Greg Furtman

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A friend of mine design a low cost sturdy tripod for telescope. I made one and doubled up the thickness at the top. I then bought a 7" or 8" x 1/8th" thick SS disk off of eBay which I screwed to the top of the tripod. I then drilled two holes through the SS into the wood, one for a 1/8" rod and the other for a 3/16" rod. The tripod's legs fold together for transport and when assembled is very stable. And I made it all out of scraps of wood I had laying around.

https://astrosetz.com/the-everyone-tripod-project/

Here's the disk.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/192248832760?hash=item2cc2ec62f8:g:5XoAAOSwDNdVqZN3

I have some PDFs for the tripod I could email you. Just message me.
 

prfesser

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One of these, a length of Sched 40 PVC, a launch rod or rail and a few odds and ends makes one similar to the old Estes pad that was for larger rockets. Drill a hole thru the fitting for the rod and hold it in place with a Tinnerman spring nut on either side of the fitting. If using a rail, run a bolt up thru the fitting instead, run a lock nut onto the bolt to hold it in place, tap the hole in the rail and screw the rail onto the bolt.

For more stability get two of the fittings and join them with a short length of PVC; now the pad has four legs instead of three. For the latter, glue the short PVC into the two fittings; legs, however, can be popped off for storage. Or use galvanized pipe (heavy) instead of PVC legs, with appropriate adapters.

An aluminum launch rod has less rod whip than steel, but also corrodes a lot more easily. IMHO the best solution is a rail.

Best -- Terry
 

bjphoenix

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Many years ago I built a simple setup by taking 2 pieces of scrap 1x4 board, nailed them together to form a T shape. Where the 2 boards came together I drilled a hole and put in a 1/8" rod. That's about as simple as you can get. The engine blast would pass beside the boards down to the ground so it needs bare dirt to work, otherwise you could make a blast deflector out of a piece of tin can.

A setup like this is light so has the disadvantage of not being real stable in the wind, so it works better with smaller rockets. It is also low to the ground so you have to get down low to connect igniter clips. These days I like our club setup with rockets up on sawhorses where they are easier to access. Something like that can be made easily enough with more materials but would obviously be heavier and take up more room in storage.
 
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