Launch Pads

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This page is a collection of photos of high power launch pads.  Hopefully it can be used to help generate ideas for new launch pad designs.  A few of the pads on this page are available for purchase.  Just follow the web links provided next to those photos.

In most cases you can click on a photo to get a closer look at the pad.

This is my (Vern's) personal pad. It was designed and built by Greg Fannin.  Most of the structure is welded steel and is all powder coated.  The four legs can be removed from the center piece to break it down for storage and transportation. The four legs have feet with leveler screws that readily accommodate uneven ground.

The center head has a ball bearing plate at the bottom to allow the pad to rotate 360 degrees around the rail axis. (Much like a lazy Susan style turntable.)

Tilt is set by turning a double ended screw mechanism much like on the popular QuadPod headed pads.

A large T-handled pull-pin can be removed to tilt the rail down to load rockets.

The pad has a built-in circular blast plate but it works better to bolt an angled blast plate to the rail that also serves as a standoff for the rocket to rest against prior to launch.

Underside view.  The legs fit into brackets welded to the bottom of the base plate.  They are held in place with large wing nuts.

Another view.
Another view.
Rail lowered to allow loading of a rocket onto the pad.

An A-frame helps support the weight of the rail and the weight of the rocket while the rail is in the lowered position.

The A-frame is removed to raise the rail into launch position.

The A-frame is made from 1"x1" extruded aluminum and connecting pieces available from www.8020.net.

Greg Fannin's personal pad.   This is very similar to the one he designed and built for me (Vern).  It has all the same features.

With rail lowered for loading rockets.

This is the classic "Magnum" pad as sold by Magnum Rockets.  As far as I know, it is no longer available.  It works well for rockets sized for H through K motors.

The head will tilt in one axis but other than that, there is really no launch angle adjustments possible.  (Short of putting something under the foot on each leg.)

It's not shown here but this pad does fold into a fairly compact and flat configuration for transport.  This is done by turning the handle that is shown sticking out from under the blast deflector which loosens the crossed legs.  The legs fold together and the blast plate folds down flat on top of them.

One draw back with this design is the flat horizontal blast deflector plate.  It causes a lot of "splash back" from the motor exhaust to hit the aft end of the rocket before the rocket climbs the rail.

This is a custom built "clone" of the Magnum pad.  It is a little bit simpler but basically the same size and also folds up to some extent.

This is Rich Boltizar's personal pad. It's a quadpod head on tubular fold-up legs. It has all the same 360 degree rotation and tilt adjustments as on Vern's and Greg's pads shown above but is smaller.  This pad is slightly more convenient than the Magnum pads because the rocket is higher off the ground.

This pad also allows the rail to be tipped over to load a rocket onto it.

Nathan Tarter built this pad for himself.  It is the same design as some others presented further down this page.  The base has three legs that sit flat on the ground.  It is possible to adjust the launch angle in one axis but no rotation adjustment is possible. 

One of the main drawbacks of this design is just the fact it needs a fairly level area on the ground.

 

By removing a bolt, the rail can be lowered to be parallel with the ground and will sit on the short vertical stub right behind Nathan in this picture.  This makes it very convenient to load the rocket on to the rail.

This is a very nice custom pad design that was built almost entirely from readily available hardware from 80/20 Inc

A detailed description of the construction of this pad along with some of photos and a list of parts was once posted on The Rocketry Forum.   It is no longer available there but an archived copy of that page can be seen here

This is a medium to high power pad that is used by OROC.  It is a quadpod head built onto the top of a leg structure made from PVC pipe and fittings.  Aside from the quadpod head it is very inexpensive to make.  It supports medium sized rockets with up through K-motors but not the larger rockets.

This is a larger pad custom built by OROC.  It has a quadpod style head on a much stronger steel leg structure. The legs can be disassembled for transport.  Note the fifth leg in the middle that really helps support heavy rockets.

Steve Cutonilli (OROC) designed and built this custom pad. It is mostly welded aluminum structure.  He put a great deal of attention to detail into this design.  It also folds up to be relatively compact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Lyngdal (OROC) built this pad.  It will easily handle large rockets up through  M and N motors.  The base is made from fairly large diameter (2" ?) tubing.  (Possibly conduit.) Two A-frame end pieces connect with each other across the top using another (3 foot?) length of tubing.  The tower section attaches to this cross member and rotates to the vertical launch position.  The legs have plates welded to the ends of them that allow the legs to be staked to the ground. A large blast plate rests on the ground but is held at a slight angle by some chains.  This pad completely disassembles for transport.  It only has one axis of launch angle adjustment so it needs relatively level ground.

Tower launchers are often used on high performance rockets in order to eliminate the rail buttons and launch lugs.  This eliminates the air drag associated with them.

Bob Yanecek stands next to the tower launcher he designed and built.  It can be assembled with either 6' or 10' rails.  It accommodates a fin span of up to 17" (from body tube centerline) provided there is no rotation during in-tower boost. It also accommodates body tubes up to 16" in diameter. It has tie outs for stability and tiliting purposes.  The entire structure tips over for easy loading.

The base of this tower uses a special clamping scheme that makes it easy to adjust for different size rockets. 

Three threaded rods with nuts on them allow the rail spacing to be easily adjusted at the top triangle for different size rockets.

Except for the top triangle and the rails, everything else fits into to very compact transportation crate.

This pad is one  that can be purchased from A Launch Pad Company. This is their "large" pad after an M1419 was launched from it.  The pad itself is excellent although the blast deflector was far too thin for such a large motor.  The leg span is about 8 feet.

This particular pad is one owned by Bill Earls (OROC) and was used at the 2006 FITS launch.

The design allows the rail to be lowered to horizontal via the bearings shown in this photo.

This pad is fairly heavy for its size.  It will handle large rockets just fine.

The upper set of ball bearings allow the launch angle to be fine tuned using a turn-buckle type screw mechanism.  The lower set of ball bearings allows the rail to be lowered for loading rockets.

This is the "medium" sized pad (without rail) from A Launch Pad Company

A closer view of the medium sized pad.
Medium sized pad when tilted over.
This is the "small" sized pad (without rail) from A Launch Pad Company
Small sized pad when tilted over.

These are pads built by AeroPac for use at XPRS. They are basically the same design as shown above for Nathan Tarter's pad only much larger. 

Close up of the base.

Rocket locked in the vertical position. A triangular blast deflector is also positioned below the rocket.

The rail can be lowered to horizontal and will rest on the short section of tubing near the left side of this image. 

The rail is raised to vertical and locked into position by passing a bolt through the two vertical plates at the bottom.

This is a similar but slightly different design also used by AeroPac.

This is the simple high power pad used by AeroPac for rockets up through K-motor size.   There is no launch angle adjustment at all.  (Must place something under the feet.)

 

 

Kent Newman (WAC) built himself a little bit smaller version of this common pad design. 

Close up of the joint where the three legs meet.

Simple but effective rocket rest stop at the bottom of the rail.

John Coker has posted design drawings of this common pad design.  Click on the image at the left to view his drawing.

Close up of John's pad.  It shows a slot in the base that allows the launch angle to be adjusted in one axis.

This shows how the rail sits horizontally when ready to load a rocket.

This type of pad design folds into a fairly compact shape for transport.   The two front legs fold back to be parallel with the rear leg. Part of the upright piece can stay with the launch rail.

These legs also have tabs on the ends of them that allow them to be staked to the ground.

Another variant of the three legged pad design.  This one lifts the center section slightly off the ground so that it does not need the ground to be quite as level.

This is a custom pad used at the FITS launch in 2003

Wedge Oldham's rockets are launched from a very large pad mounted directly to a trailer.  This pad is motorized to move the rocket to vertical.

This pad design is sold by Ron Follweiler and used by MDRA.  It is available at www.ronspads.com.

Tilted over for loading rockets.
 

A hybrid launch pad.

This is a design for a hybrid pad system offered by www.X-rockets.com.  Click on the image at the right to see their catalog about this system.

 

A view of the X-rockets HyperTek hybrid drop-stem fill system mated to a standard launch rail.

Another view of the drop stem fill system.

 

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 All photos not otherwise credited were taken by Vern Knowles

Vern Knowles 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 All Rights Reserved