Grounding Model Rockets

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The invaluable Space.com reports on the threat to model rocketry contained in the Homeland Security Act: An excerpt: "A provision deep within the regulations of the new Homeland Security Act is threatening to shut down the popular hobby of model rocketry because the propellant used to make the rocket's solid-fueled motors is now classified as explosive material.

The change in status, approved in November 2002 as an update to the Safe Explosives Act of 1970, imposes new restrictions on shipping and handling the rocket motors, which have been safely flown by thousands of students for many years.
Under the new rules, which fully take effect May 24, shipping companies are required to have every employee who might touch the rocket motors be certified, pass background checks and get fingerprinted—an added expense the companies are unlikely to bear.

United Parcel Service already has stopped shipping the more powerful versions of model rocket engines, according to Tim Van Milligan, president of Apogee Rockets in Colorado Springs, Colo."

NEXT: Sam Fuller Redux

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  1. God Damn It! I KNEW it how repulsive it was going to be right from the get-go. But little things like this can really get to you, because you know there is only a small percentage of folks who will ever care. I can’t even begin to tell you what model rocketry meant to me growing up. I’ll tell you this though, I learned more math, science, and engineering playing in my room than I ever did in a government-school classroom.

    Excuse me while I weep for the children.

  2. Gotta agree with you Warren. I never got to lauch model rockets as a kid, but my son and I built and flew them. some of the best times.

  3. “Congress defined an explosive as any chemical mixture or device whose primary or common purpose is to function by explosion,”

    I wonder if this applies to model airplane fuel and ammunition?

  4. My public junior high school actually required each student to take a model rocketry class. I don’t know if they still do, but why should we allow our children to learn useful skills if they could be used for terrorism?

    If this means the total elimination of the department of education, then maybe we’re on to something here. We’ll probably just wind up moving the department of education under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security Department.

    Also, would I be considered a terrorist threat if I spontaneously combust?

  5. Back in High School, I wrote a short story about a high school kid who breaks the law by launching model rockets. It took place in a near future society where it was made illegal after a well publicized lawsuit made by the family of a kid who ignored rocketry safety codes and burn off a few fingers. Altough the hero makes an impassioned defense of his hobby when it is done safely, they find him guilty and heavily fine him.

    I better stock up on A8-3s before the deadline.

    I got a b-minus due mainly to a few plot holes and spelling/grammar errors.

    I always figured that the safety nazis would put the clamp on a hobby I enjoyed as a child. I never would have thought that my little Estes Alpha 3 or Mean Machine would be dubbed a tool of international terroism.

  6. Whoops. Pressed Post before I could finish.

    Back in High School, I wrote a short story about a high school kid who breaks the law by launching model rockets. It took place in a near future society where it was made illegal after a well publicized lawsuit made by the family of a kid who ignored rocketry safety codes and burn off a few fingers. Altough the hero makes an impassioned defense of his hobby when it is done safely, they find him guilty and heavily fine him.

    I got a b-minus due mainly to a few plot holes and spelling/grammar errors.

    I always figured that the safety nazis would put the clamp on a hobby I enjoyed as a child. I never would have thought that my little Estes Alpha 3 or Mean Machine would be dubbed a tool of international terroism.

    Looks like I better stock up on A8-3s before the deadline.

  7. Model rocketry supports terrorism?

  8. While fairly stupid, this law isn’t quite as bad as being described here. The little pre-filled solid fuel rockets that most kids build are still going to be allowed, built sold and shipped.

    It’s the stuff for the…bigger kids that will get hard to acquire. Stuff for people who measure their launch heights with k at the end–one guy on a mailing list I’m on had one hit 80k feet, radar verified. That’s not does with a couple of Estes D sized.

    The really sad thing is that the model rocketry crowd has absolutely zero political clout. There just aren’t enough of them. Poor bastards.

  9. I’m thinkin’ you put enough small rocket engines together, you got one big one.

  10. Doesn’t anybody see the potential for unanticipated consequences here? I.E., “big one” enthusiast X makes his own fuel?

  11. Right now the big stuff is classified by the feds as Low Explosives. If you don’t have a LEUP at most launches you can use the motors at the launch as long as they came from a dealer with a LEUP. These are M class motors, the only way to ship these bigger motors is by Fedex airport to airport. Of course some of the dealers drive the motors to launches and they have to be placarded according to DOT standards. The launches are held with FAA waivers for the flight of unmanned rockets. Our club has a waiver to 5,000feet. Of course there is insurance to cover the landowner of the launch site. Like scuba diving high powered rockectry has certification to lessen problems. Level I is flying a H or I powered rocket successfully. Level II you have to pass a test and successfully fly a J motor. LevelIII you have to prove the rocket will fly successfully on paper then fly it on a real M motor.
    What does all this have to due with the feds and shipping? Back in the 90’s we were discovered by the feds. APCP the same stuff that is used in the space shuttle SRB is used for the propellant. The BATF said it was a “low explosive”. We all said say what? there seemed to be a status quo where motors under a certain weight was allowed. UPS could ship these motors without hassles from the DOT, etc. Now most high powered rockets use reloadable motors. What is shipped are propellant grains not assemblied motors, just like the space shuttle. What the BATF didn’t like was that these grains being modular could be stacked to make a big motor,ie the Aerotech 38mm easy access J, that could be shipped by UPS.
    Sometime it became clear to the two major rocketry clubs talking was of no use they sued in federal court and they have scored some points so far. So here we are going to the default option of banning everything with APCP. BTW a muzzleloader I believe can keep 200 lbs of black powder( this is from memory so don’t quote me) in his house 200 lbs of APCP propellant won’t explode just make one helluva a fire.
    Apogee motors are made for competion they use APCP propellant to be smaller, lighter, and more powerfull than the same estes motors.
    Just have to see how this all turns out.

  12. No, Steve, you may not have been into rocketry in 20 years. For me, it’s been about that long, but do you rememember “D” engines being the big Cahunas? “F”‘s were like the biggest you could get. Well each letter represents a doubling of total impulse. They are using N’s and O’s now!

    The serious model rockets today do get up to 5, 10 thousand foot and higher altitudes, as Billy indicated. With modern electronics and a bigger allowable payload, you can do so much cool s__t now (recording accelerometers, good video, etc).
    These are not your Daddy’s model rockets.

    I agree that this is more stupidity in the name of “homeland security”. I think liquid-burning engines may be the future. Hopefully, not many home future rocket scientists will get hurt doing the R+D, but it sounds like a blast.

  13. The way I read it, the government won’t say that even the smallest motors are beyond their power to regulate (big surprise) and the business community (Fed-Ex et. al.) will likely stop handling all motors because they don’t want the chance that it will provide enough pretext for the feds to show up and start arresting people and confiscating stuff. If this causes the hobby to die, I will consider it a bigger tragedy than history is likely to record.
    On the other hand, what I’m most worried about is the opportunity for young minds to explore a fertile playground. While bigger motors may be needed for the cool payloads that weren’t available when I was a kid, I’ve never seen anything bigger than a D on a store shelf and anything larger is not something I’d want kids playing with. Certainly a size N or O would require a much higher level of respect in the handling of. Same is true for rockets that achieve of 5k ft. of altitude. I never got anything higher than half that and it was hard enough to track and recover at that height. Sending something up over 10k ft. requires LOTS of space, lots of people, lots of money and I think you need to coordinate with the FAA. Serious enthusiasts should of course be permitted to peruse their passion, but some regulation is appropriate.

  14. I am wondering, out of curiosity. I looked at an earlier post regarding model airplane fuel, and thought about the model airplanes themselves.

    It seems to me like one of these can be mounted with a small amount of explosives, flown without anybody being aware of their presence (they make electric models, by the way), and then detonated by a terrorist like a molotiv coctail without any oversight from the FAA or BATF.

    Does this mean that model airplanes will be regulated too? If they are going to regulate or ban model rocketry, they had better go after all remotely controlled devices as well.

    MrCoffee

  15. I think their going to far. another freedom going down the crapper. What is wrong with these people? we’er all supposed to live scard of our own shadow? the gov. looks for any reason to put their thumb on us.

  16. no,you are not “free” we have not been for the last 50 odd years,roughly about WW2.
    take a little bit at a time and they won’t
    notice.

  17. You suck man!!! suck it!!!

  18. A wise man said something like this, and I paraphrase because I can’t quote him exactly…He, who will trade his liberty for safety,…deserves neither liberty nor safety.

    The man on the C Note said this and for those of you who don’t own any C Notes, that happens to be Benjamin Franklin.

    The problem is basically that the media has hyped the terroist “threat” to the point where the public is not only ignorant, but hysterical. The psychopaths in government capatalize on the ignorance and hysteria to deprive law abiding citizens of their constitutional rights.

    The ignorant, hysterical public supports the deprivation of their rights in the name of safety and thus is deprived of their liberty, deservedly so. And the sad truth is that the public is not any more safe than they had previously been (which, under this repressive regime, they are even less safe because their rights have been denied.).

    So the public re-elects the psychopaths and the psychopaths repeat the process because…the public “feels” more safe.

    The solution…throw the bastards out, ALL OF THEM, in the next election and support only those who support your constitutional rights.

    Rockets can be used as weapons…So what? Rocket propellants are explosive? So are a lot of chemical concoctions in the improper environment. And these concoctions can be made easily with readily available items in a grocery store. The aluminium drink cans that are served on commercial airline flights can be made into a weapon for Christ’s sake. (Tear one apart…instant knife? Just as sharp as a box cutter?)

    The true Republican (Not those masquaraders we have in Congress today) believes in personal responsibility. I am personally responsible for what I do. You are personally responsible for what you do. And I am not! And I will not be personally responsible for ANYONE else’s irresponsibility or criminality. And a government which holds me accountable for what some murderous jerks did on 9/11/2001 is definitely NOT Republican, no matter what label they choose to place upon themselves.

    If I want to send a rocket to 20K feet, if I have the skill and the FAA waiver (so that I KNOW that my flight will not be even remotely hazardous to civil or military aviation), if I am not going to do it irresponsibly, stupidly, or criminally, and if I have the C Notes to do it, then I should be allowed to do it without restriction. I will not take out a commercial jetliner nor carry any armed warhead with the intent to harm or maim anyone. Most people would not do something that insane. Now maybe some in this world might do that…Thank God Almighty that they are far and few between. Penalize them, they deserve it…Not me. I don’t do things like that. Never have…Never will.

    I just fly rockets…for research, for fun. I just exercise my civil liberties in the pusuit of happiness. Just like you should be able to pursue happiness as long as it doesn’t affect anyone adversely. NOT THAT IT MIGHT AFFECT SOMEONE ADVERSELY. Because a lot of activities MIGHT affect someone else adversely. And they are not heavily regulated or banned.

    Like Football, boxing, auto racing, skiing, driving an automobile (one of the most deadly)…well…you get the idea…

  19. I am bummed out guys !! I am an Engineer of model aircraft (radio controlled) recently decided that maybe I wanted to design a new breed of rockets and space shuttle like models line but After reading this site I am tremendously Worried of the difficulties and overwhelming liabilities, is unfortunate that we allow the goverment go this far……….People!! this is our country and for those who have hobbies is our playground our science territory!! common, do we suppose to just forget of our dreams? and live on fear? Sorry but hell no!!! we need to defend our hobby and our childrens hobby for many of us has become our career and those who had made its career, have made a difference in our military and aviation technology,no wonder we hold number one in Aviation and space programs. Why are we letting this terrorist bullshit alieniet us? Anyhow I vote for (quit the bullshit from our goverment) and lets stand as Americans and Scientists united against the Adversities of the feds.

  20. I am bummed out guys !! I am an Engineer of model aircraft (radio controlled) recently decided that maybe I wanted to design a new breed of rockets and space shuttle like models line but After reading this site I am tremendously Worried of the difficulties and overwhelming liabilities, is unfortunate that we allow the goverment go this far……….People!! this is our country and for those who have hobbies is our playground our science territory!! common, do we suppose to just forget of our dreams? and live on fear? Sorry but hell no!!! we need to defend our hobby and our childrens hobby for many of us has become our career and those who had made its career, have made a difference in our military and aviation technology,no wonder we hold number one in Aviation and space programs. Why are we letting this terrorist bullshit alieniet us? Anyhow I vote for (quit the bullshit from our goverment) and lets stand as Americans and Scientists united against the Adversities of the feds.

  21. I am bummed out guys !! I am an Engineer of model aircraft (radio controlled) recently decided that maybe I wanted to design a new breed of rockets and space shuttle like models line but After reading this site I am tremendously Worried of the difficulties and overwhelming liabilities, is unfortunate that we allow the goverment go this far……….People!! this is our country and for those who have hobbies is our playground our science territory!! common, do we suppose to just forget of our dreams? and live on fear? Sorry but hell no!!! we need to defend our hobby and our childrens hobby for many of us has become our career and those who had made its career, have made a difference in our military and aviation technology,no wonder we hold number one in Aviation and space programs. Why are we letting this terrorist bullshit alieniet us? Anyhow I vote for (quit the bullshit from our goverment) and lets stand as Americans and Scientists united against the Adversities of the feds.

  22. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://www.1st-host.org
    DATE: 01/20/2004 08:25:10
    It is only the most intelligent and the most stupid who are not susceptible to change.

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