Constructing the QE19 Antenna Launcher

Can We make an Antenna Launcher small enough to fit into a Rubbermaid Tote?

That way it will be easy to take to the field. Easier than the Archery gear it replaces. This model is so small there is a lot of room left over in the box so it can be used to carry other equipment in addition to the launcher.

I've actually built four different launcher designs (as of 2/2004) that fit easily into the 10 gallon Rubbermaid totes (tm). This QE19 (sometimes called the QEV19) is perhaps the easiest to construct, and it is the smallest and lightest of my launchers (Eric's soda bottle chamber launcher is lighter yet but not as small). The nomenclature stands for Quick Exhaust valve launcher 19 inches long.

Note - The newer CSV17 and CSV19 designs are compact designs based on a sprinkler valve. It has more performance capability (uses less pressure to gain a particular height, and is capable of going higher) at lower cost than this QE19. There are detailed construction instructions here, as well as available kits for the CSV17 and CSV19 on the Order Page. The CSV17 is a more compact version of the CSV19. See the CSV19 pages for more information.

Here is the TBL-QE19 made from a 3/4" Quick Exhaust Valve and a few parts making a quick, effective and easy to build a launcher for heights up to about 150 feet.

I'm including a photo, a drawing, a description, and a parts list. If you want to make one of these hopefully this is enough information to give you an idea of how I did it. You must take responsibility for your own design. This one is 19" long (hence the 19 in the QE19 designation). The chamber volume in the QE19 is about 75 cubic inches. It could be up to about 24" long. Longer than that doesn't buy much, and performance may suffer from friction and inadequate airflow for the barrel volume in the longer barrel. My first version of this launcher was 28 inches long and it definitely suffered from too much barrel volume and friction. Performance increased when I shortened it to 19 inches. Optimal performance is expected to be near 24 inches in overall length. The 3/4" valve just is not big enough for good performance with Tennis Balls. Shorter than 18-19" the performance will also begin to drop off. Consider your transport and storage plans and size accordingly.

The QE19 launcher shown sitting in a Rubbermaid Tote along with a few accessories. There is a lot of room available for other gear in this box.

QE19 Performance

With a 4 ounce tennis ball (a standard 2 ounce ball with about 22 pennies added to the interior), and towing a 30 pound kite line, this launcher has approximately the following performance:

QE19 Performance

QE19 Description

Starting at the top left is the barrel. 2.5 inch diameter schedule 40 is a tight fit for tennis balls, but does the job well.

A note here about the barrel. Schedule 40 PVC is fairly available, and Tennis balls fit quite tightly into schedule 40 barrels. It turns out that there is another PVC pipe material with a slightly thinner wall that fits Tennis balls almost perfectly. It is much easier to push the Tennis balls into SDR21 and the performance of the launcher is improved especially at low pressures. It is called SDR21 PVC and the outside diameter is the same, so it fits the PVC fittings. SDR21 is hard to find in 2.5" size, but I have located a source and have some of this pipe available.

At the right end of the barrel is a 2.5" coupler, 2.5 to 2" bushing, 2" to 1" bushing, a short length of 1" pipe, a 1" to 3/4" pipe thread right angle adapter, a short 3/4" threaded pipe, and the big aluminum object is the Deltrol 3/4" quick exhaust valve from McMaster-Carr.

Starting at the valve going left is a short threaded pipe 3/4", a bushing 3/4" threaded to 2", a 2" tee, 2" schedule 40 pipe, and on the left is a slightly special assembly. This is the end of the pressure chamber and there are two choices to go there. The easiest is a regular 2" cap.

The model in the photo uses a 2" coupler, 2" to 1.5" bushing, 1.5 to 1" bushing and a 1" cap. The 1" cap is glued backwards into the 1.5" bushing on the 'inside' to form a seal, and after drying the extra is cut off. Then this assembly is glued into the 1.5-2" bushing.

The Reel in this system can be either on a 1" pipe section with hose clamps as shown above (requiring the special chamber end), or a simpler solution is to hose clamp the reel to a 2.5" coupler and make the chamber a regular 2" cap.

The bottom portion of the chamber is simple - two pieces of 2" pipe, an elbow and a cap.

The fill/trigger system for the launcher, starting from the lower right, is: a schrader to 1/8 NPT valve, a 1-way valve 1/8 NPT female to male allowing flow toward the male end, a 1/8 NPT tee, two short 1/8 NPT pipes, one going up toward the main valve and one toward the left, 1/8 to 1/2 to 3/4" NPT adapters, another 1/8 NPT tee to the left, a small pushbutton valve, which is the trigger, a 1/8 NPT street 90, and a 1.5" 100 PSI pressure gauge.

The overall length is 19", but a few inches longer would improve performance slightly, if you have room in your box.

The barrel and chamber are held together on the left by a small block of wood with double sticky tape on both sides, and a black velcro cable wrap.

The 1" pipe and coupler below the launcher is a pusher to put the tennis ball into place.


McMaster-Carr, a supplier of many of the parts can be found at


Here's a nice drawing by Israel Sanchez. The measurements are approximate, you can adjust them to fit your tote and other parts. Build the metal valve system first and work out from there. Note that I used more adapters below the Quick Exhaust valve than Izzy shows. This allows adequate room for the gauge to clear. Make sure to allow enough vertical pipe so the lower pipe clears the brass plumbing. Proceed carefully and think ahead..

QE19 Parts Lists

Launcher Ball Pusher Reel Mount


QE19 Cost

Depending on your junkbox this launcher usually costs under $100, not including the fishing reel and line.

Antenna Launching Main Page
Ordering Page
Home Page
Version 1.13 1/14/2006