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Space Toys United States

Rocket Hobbyists Get Blown Away by Regulations 752

dogfart writes "Amateur rocket hobbyists are bearing the brunt of Federal anti-terror efforts. Cumbersome regulations (which include extensive background checks) are pushing many to abandon the hobby. Even clubs associated with colleges (such as Kettering) have ended up folding under the pressure. Quoting the article: '"If we're in an environment where the government says you've got to get fingerprinted and background checked, and spend three to four months to do it, (adults are) not going to participate in my hobby," said Mark Bundick, president of the National Association of Rocketry. "We need more kids. It helps them learn technology. It's the technological base here in the country that we need to protect, and this hobby is a good introduction for kids that are interested in technology. If I lose those adults, then I will not be able to train those kids."'" We wrote about these regulations before, and followed it up with a Slashback.
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Rocket Hobbyists Get Blown Away by Regulations

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  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:35PM (#9529927) Homepage
    Obviously, these people are forgetting the role that amateur rocketry played in 9-11.
    • by dirvish ( 574948 ) <> on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:38PM (#9529970) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, when have you ever heard of an amateur rocket being used for terrorism?

      Maybe we should outlaw fertilizer and diesel fuel, since they have actually been used for terrorist acts.
      • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:46PM (#9530107)
        Maybe we should outlaw fertilizer and diesel fuel

        Unforunately you need fertilizer to grow plants to feed the animals that roam the ranches paid for by oil profits.
      • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:54PM (#9530221) Journal
        Yeah, when have you ever heard of an amateur rocket being used for terrorism?

        From the linked article:
        "There is no consistency as to what is acceptable in one region for the ATF that won't be acceptable somewhere else," said Wickman. "The ATF people seem, as a rule, to feel this whole idea of hobby rocketry being regulated by the (government is) a mistake and a waste of time. There's a disconnect between the ATF in Washington and the regional field offices."

        What's worse, even though not much has changed about the regulations, they are subject to arbitrary interpretation in the field, said Bundick, of the National Association of Rocketry. "It's a never-ending treadmill to try to pacify the local inspector."

        The Justice Department's Nowacki didn't respond to questions about the ATF's perceived inconsistency.

        What you model terrorists don't seem to understand is that it doesn't matter that model rockets can't be used as weapons of terror.

        What's important isn't controlling model rockets, per se; what's important is getting the American public used to a never-ending "war against terror", keeping them keyed-up, ever fearful and ever compliant.

        What's important is getting the public resigned to always asking permission from the government, always being afraid that they're at risk of arrest, even for hobbies the government knows full well pose no realistic risk of harm.

        And ultimately, what's important is making the people of this nation realize who is boss -- the government and its bureaucrats and its corporate owners --, and who is the servant -- the common taxpayer.

        Once you realize that your hobbies "need" to be regulated to "fight terror", you'll docilely let the FBI knock on your door on behalf of the RIAA's searches, and you'll agree to submit your open source code to government inspection to make sure it doesn't "INDUCE" violation of copyright [].

        Once the formerly free American sheeple resign themselves to arbitrary governmental intrusions into their lives in order to further some ill-defined and ever elusive "war against terror", they'll stop squawking about
        Or as our beloved Reichsminister Ashcroft explained, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty ... your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and ... give ammunition to America's enemies."
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:31PM (#9530740)
          I agree with your post, but where was the left's outrage on violations of the 10th amendment 30 years ago, (hell, 60 years ago)? It was "progressive" congressmen and pliant Supreme Court justices who changed the interpretation of the Commerce Clause to mean "anything Congress wants to do, Congress can do". I don't like the status quo either, but let's all keep in mind that it was politicians enamored with redistribution and central planning who paved the way for the Federal government to become the leviathan that it is today.
        • by dangermouse ( 2242 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:32PM (#9530747) Homepage
          What's important isn't controlling model rockets, per se; what's important is getting the American public used to a never-ending "war against terror", keeping them keyed-up, ever fearful and ever compliant.

          Well, you're half right. What's important isn't controlling model rockets. It's controlling explosives, which happen to be used in model rockets. The ATF didn't decide to clamp down on the hobby of model rocketry to pacify the citizerny-- that's an idiotic scenario even for the average conspiracy theorist. Model rocket enthusiasts are catching a side-effect of new explosives regulation because they use explosives in their hobby.

          It sounds like the ATF may have been overzealous in creating those new regulations, and that those regulations may have had unintended (or disregarded) side effects, but you're going way out of your way to justify an assumption of maliciousness here.

          • You're exactly right. I'm a fireworks and pyrotechnics hobbiest, and we are governed by the same restrictions on explosives.
          • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:11PM (#9531201)
            those regulations may have had unintended (or disregarded) side effects, but you're going way out of your way to justify an assumption of maliciousness here.

            I'd agree with you... if I hadn't spent nine months after 9/11 arguing with my friends that we should too give Bush a chance, that the unintended consequences weren't the result of malicious intent.

            I finally gave up the argument during the mid-term elections. Mostly it was the "poison pill" restriction of civil rights for people within the Dept. of Homeland Security. That was nothing, nothing but a low tactic, and it was one they had to go out of their way to carry out. No unintended consequences there. They knew who they were choosing to screw, and that they were doing it to paint guys like Max Cleland as unpatriotic to win their elections.

            Look up. You have a President whose administration has argued a)that we're fighting a war whose beginning and end can only be declared by him; and b)that he's got all-but-dictatorial power when we're at war. Sometimes, he grants, he chooses not to exercise that power -- but he says he has it, and puts his signature by that. His legal advisors are set to work justifying that position.

            Arbitrary power has arbitrary consequences -- to wit, this example. The cracking end of that whip happens in places like Abu Graib.

            I'll judge us by how we correct the unintended consequences, not by how well we rationalize them. And I don't see one shred of effort by those in power right now to do anything but bury stories they think are unfavorable to their staying in power. Bush will try to paint Kerry as a raving lunatic for wanting to restrict the Patriot Act in libraries. He'd do the same if Kerry talked about model rocket hobbyists. There's nothing unintentional about those choices, either. They know what they're doing.

          • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:00PM (#9531787)
            The chemicals used as model rocket propellants are not explosives. This is probably because THEY DON'T FUCKING EXPLODE. Just because the ATF wants to CALL them "explosives" does not magically alter the laws of physics.

            Model rocket propellants are much less dangerous than gasoline -- which, by the way, actually IS an explosive.

            • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @08:08PM (#9533736) Homepage
              The fuel in a solid model rocket engine burns quickly and expands fast. So does Gasoline. Whether they are "explosives" or not is entirely a function of what kind of container you try to contain that expansion in. Allow the quick expansion to be released in a controlled manner, either out the rocket exhaust hole, or by moving a piston head, and it's a propellant. Try to contain the expansion until it bursts, and it's an explosive.

              An explosive is nothing more than a thing that burns so fast that
              it can expand quickly.

              Not that this excuses the stupid legislation, mind you. It just means that the difference between, say, a rocket engine and a steam engine is just a matter of degree, rather than of type. Both can explode if used improperly.

        • or do geeks only care that they can frag aliens online?

          i swear, half the kids in my dorm who would be bragging about headshots in CS looked damn near terrified when i asked them if they wanted to go to the range to shoot *gasp* REAL guns.

          Was that just a characteristic of my dorm, or the geek cultrue as a whole?
      • You may laugh... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:09PM (#9530438) Journal
        but I once heard of the Brits arresting an Irishman for carrying a can of oil. Apparently it 'could have been used to clean guns.'
      • by hpavc ( 129350 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:15PM (#9530510)
        actually the rockets that are fired into israel are pretty much amaeur diy rockets.
        • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:19PM (#9531319)
          I don't know the specifics of the rockets fired into Israel, but I suspect the damage done (even psychological) is greater when the same effort and material is put into simplier devices.

          A rocket is pretty much a controlled bomb. Every joule spent on proplusion is a joule not spent on explosive. An amateur might be able to cobble together a rocket which would fly vaguely where the builder pointed it over a distance of a maybe a few miles, but the "warhead" would likely be only a few pounds. (plus the kinetic energy of the rocket.) If you took the same rocket fuel, and used it to make a big-ass truck bomb, you'd gain several magnitudes of precision and lethality.

          Rockets are good for putting a small amount of explosive in a place you can't easily access. Since we're not going to outlaw trucks, fertilizer, and diesel fuel any time soon, the best way to "terrorize" the people remains.

          Ultimately I'd much prefer the "evil doers" put their energy into exotic ideas like homemade rockets rather than simple ones like truck bombs and the classic "cheap-assault-rifle-and-a-crowd". The number of victims would be lower.

          Someone could make a weapon out of rocketry supplies, but anyone with the skills to build a halfway decent rocket could build a pretty impressive bomb a lot easier.

      • > Yeah, when have you ever heard of an amateur rocket being used for terrorism?

        There are some real similarities between these "extreme" hobby rockets and the Quassam rocket, which is used in the middle east. Here's a description of the Qassam...

        The Qassam (and newer Qassam 2) rocket is a simple, homemade steel rocket filled with explosives, developed by Hamas during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Both models lack a guidance system, and the larger rocket (the Qassam-2)) has a range of only 5 miles with a 20

  • VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dnahelix ( 598670 ) <> on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:36PM (#9529951)
    The only way we are going to change things is to VOTE and get those ass-heads out of office!
    • I believe the appropriate term is asshat []...and I certainly hope I don't come across as one in bringing this up :)
    • by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:05PM (#9530385) Homepage Journal
      While I can understand your anger, it still puzzles me as to where you were when other ass-heads started fingerprinting other people. This stuff didn't get invented under the Bush administration, but has been around for decades. I've been fingerprinted twice by the FBI under two prior administrations, and neither was related to rocketry.

      I have no problems with people protesting bad laws and corrupt administrations. But where the fsck were you during the Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, and Ford years? This selective protesting reeks of hypocracy.
  • Some good, some FUD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:37PM (#9529953) Journal
    Some decent informational content, but some traditional WIRED/media FUD.

    The latest explanation about the case progress from Mr. Bundick is at:

    Full archive of all NAR articles regarding this and related issues:

    As for "losing" members, last I heard both NAR and Tripoli were maintaining even membership numbers.

    Using CP Technologies as a measure is misleading. Their products are for building your own engines. Very few people are interested in that to begin with. Most use either single use motors, or more commonly reloadable motors.

    Aerotech, manufacturer of mid-power rocket kits as well as reloadable motors and the reloads for them, is doing fine despite having suffered a fire. They filed bankruptcy, were purchsed by another company to keep them going, and are back in business full tilt, supplying thousands of rocketeers with motors and fuel.

    We're supposed to take the word of ATFE that rockets are dangerous? Well, I guess they are in the wrong hands. ATFE burned down a rented van by being stupid while trying to test rockets to prove they were dangerous. See:

    NAR #28965, 40 years without a rocket related accident or damage.
    • by shotfeel ( 235240 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:35PM (#9530798)
      I'm still trying to separate the fact fromt the FUD. At first I thought this was covering things like the little Estes model rockets my sons' Cub Scouts Pack built and fired, but these rockets are a whole different class.

      "While the vast majority of model rocketeers are not subject to regulation, high-powered rockets, which can be 30 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds -- with some flying more than 60 miles or reaching speeds over 1,000 miles per hour -- do need to comply with the requirements of federal explosives law."

      We're talking real rockets here! And even if you ignore potential terrorist use, it does seem reasonable to have limitations on how much rocket fuel can be stored by a hobbiest (or anyone) in a residential neighborhood.

      So it does seem like the regulations are over the top (story hype doesn't help), but I'm still trying to figure out it they are really all that unreasonable.

    • by JKarp ( 749532 )
      This article was head and shoulders above ANY other that's been done on high power rocketry as of late, and the FUD is nearly nil IMO. NAR is holding membership because it's focus is model rocketry and competition, not HPR. Tripoli is withering away. The local Tripoli prefecture is down from a high of 120 members to less than a dozen, and I'm one of the ones who's out of the hobby. I used to spend $200 - $400 / month on motors & supplies, and had a storage LEUP. But when the Homeland Security Act was
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:38PM (#9529979)
    for my V-2 reenactment society. Bloody red tape.
  • by rwrife ( 712064 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:38PM (#9529983) Homepage
    Just launch the rockets anyway and run (so you don't get a fine or jail time).....seriously, what are they going to do? Catch the rocket in mid air?
    • by irokitt ( 663593 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ruai-setirdnamihcra)> on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:49PM (#9530156)
      Believe it or not, I've seen people do precisely that all the time. People have to really hunt to find launch sites around here (San Diego), and it's gotten worse since the fires (which is completely understandable). So every once in a while, you see somebody shoot a rocket up and then leave. They don't even collect the things

      What I've always done is launch my rockets out in the desert (BLM property, which is state-owned and open to everyone for anything). I have a handy dry-lake launch site where there isn't anything flammable, or any people either for that matter.
  • by l810c ( 551591 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:40PM (#9530002)
    Estes []

    There's a link on the bottom of the page "Homeland Security & Model Rocketry". Basically anything they sell is still legal.

    It's just motors with greater than .9 lbs of fuel. That's Huge and could very well be used as a weapon.

    • by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:02PM (#9530337)
      "It's just motors with greater than .9 lbs of fuel. That's Huge and could very well be used as a weapon"

      It's people with that attitude that are causing the problem with the ATF. If you've ever been to a launch you'd know the ability to aim these things at a target is nonexistant. They basically go up, but you couldn't deliberately hit something if you tried without a miracle. The fuel itself is not actually explosive - outside the motor tube it burns really slow. You could attach some other explosive, but you still couldn't deliver it accurately and that would be a different substance so no need to regulate the fuel.

      Rocket fuel is no more dangerous than gasoline which is available on every corner in America. Probably less dangerous, as it's not a liquid.

      • "That's Huge and could very well be used as a weapon"

        Sure, I see two possibilities. First, you could bludgeon someone to death with the motor. Put it in a sock for extra leverage. Second. some knucklehead might want to rig up a remote fired "Katyusha" type of assembly. Guess which one I think is more likely?

        I did the small model rockets as a kid and always thought it would be fun to get into the big ones if I ever got into a big enough paycheck. Now, it seems like a colossal pain. Oh well. Now I'll have t
      • These things are not going to kill a lot of people, but given their size and range there are numerous ways they could be used to terrorize people and allow the attackers to quickly get away.

        Fire one of these from a mile away over a packed stadium or large crowd and have it explode with a cloud of chemical agent.

        You wouldn't even need a chemical, flour would probably cause such a panic that several people would die in the ensuing stampede.

        I live in the flight pattern of Atlanta's aiport. If I fired one o

        • I live in the flight pattern of Atlanta's aiport. If I fired one of these at a plane(even if I didn't hit it), it would shut down the whole airport and maybe the entire US.

          You could get the same effect by calling in a well timed and worded series of bomb threats. Which is a lot easier than messing around with rockets.

          Look, pretty much anything you can think of could be used by a terrorist. Poison the water supply, or some food factory, throw green dye into a river and call into the local tv news with a
      • If you've ever been to a launch you'd know the ability to aim these things at a target is nonexistant. They basically go up, but you couldn't deliberately hit something if you tried without a miracle.

        Just to play devil's advocate here - I don't think this matters. A terrorist's goal could just be indiscriminate mayhem, so it wouldn't matter where it ended up. Also, I don't think you're quite right. If you put some effort into it, you could hit a large target, like a building. It's also possible for someon
    • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:14PM (#9530503)
      Estes []

      I think we're safe from these guys -- their web site is unusable!
  • Perspective... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chagatai ( 524580 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:41PM (#9530021) Homepage
    From the government's perspective, anyone who engages in model rocketry could be capable of doing something more dangerous []. Then again, this logic is so logically flawed, it's kind of like saying, "Citizens should not have water, as it could lead to drowning deaths".

  • In any case, since the federal Safe Explosives Act -- which requires permits for rockets with more than 0.9 pounds of fuel -- went into effect in late 2002, the rocketry industry has been battered.

    How big of a rocket engine is that? I assume that is bigger than your typical hobby rocket engine. Not that it justifies the feds regulations, the hobby engines could certainly be next.
  • by xmedar ( 55856 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:43PM (#9530056)
    Those American passports, Europe is nice, come over here, have some cheese and wine, and be free of your oppressors, huddled masses welcome!
    • Re:Time to trade in (Score:5, Informative)

      by MyNameIsFred ( 543994 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:54PM (#9530219)
      ...Those American passports, Europe is nice, come over here,...

      I did a quick google, and it is not like Europe is free of regulation for model rocketry. [] It seems that things are very similar:

      Engines can be shipped via postal services or for larger parcels via special postal services because you can only buy A,B,C and D. Shops can sell motors but only A,B,C and sometimes D.
      I assume the A, B, C, and D engines sizes are the same as easily bought in the U.S. []
  • My 2 cents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Osgyth ( 790644 )
    Why is the gov't bothering to regulate a hobby the countless people have participated it, that unless my memory fails me, has never posed a threat to this so called "national security" myth. Their time and our money could be better spent in other ways. (I've got no clue where, which is why I'm not running for office.) Model rocketry has been one of my favorite hobbies for years, and i have never heard of it being misused in a way that warrants attraction from the federal government.
  • Yeah Right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:43PM (#9530065)
    Becuase the terrorists would set up rocket clubs. These regulations are insane. If they (terrorist) wanted to blast rockets or do whatever they do with them, they'll just do it, wether there are regulations for background check of rocket club members or not. What is next, do background checks on LUGs because of cyberterrorism, or perhaps read people's email ... (oh, wait, they already do that...doh!)
  • by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:44PM (#9530069) Homepage
    The article states this doesnt affect most rocketeers, just those building the 30 foot ones carrying a pound of fuel. In my opinion, those SHOULD be regulated
  • Ever since the Oklahoma City bombing there have been restrictions on pyrotechnicians. I don't know if it is a state law or a federal one but here in Ohio you are not allowed to have your shells for more than 3 days before a scheduled performance and there are a lot of permits to be filled out (this is all coming from a friend of mine).

    I don't know if I feel more annoyed by this kind of thing, or more safe. It seems that if someone actually has a permit to buy display scale fireworks, they wouldn't be using them for anything questionable. Plus, once they have that level of expertise it wouldn't be too difficult for them to brew up their own home grown bomb if they really wanted to blow something up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:48PM (#9530130)
    Terrorist #1: Did you bring the stuff?

    Terrorist #2: Well I got the explosives, but the ATF syas that .9lbs of propellant is illegal.

    Terrorist #1: Shucks, we need 1.1 lbs of fuel.

    Terrorist #2: Well I guess we have to scrub the mission.

    Terrorist #1: Next time America! When you allow more than .9 lbs of propellant, next time!

  • FUD (Score:5, Informative)

    by thpdg ( 519053 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:50PM (#9530171) Journal
    Is this just FUD? Estes says everything is ok. []
  • Sad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blike ( 716795 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:51PM (#9530179) Homepage
    Model rocketry had such a huge influence on me and my ambitions as a child. I remember being fascinated when my first estes rocket took flight and came down safely under a small parachute. To me, it was like my own personal NASA. I remember all the things I learned about the physics of gravity, drag, and newton's laws (however simplistic). Even recently I returned to the hobby armed with years of experience and tried my hand at video rocketry ( I was still dumbfounded with fascination.

    It breaks my heart to think that kids might not be able to experience the joy and wonder that rocketry brought me.
  • by prgrmr ( 568806 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:52PM (#9530194) Journal
    The chances of an unguided, sub-sonic rocket taking out an airplane is very small []

    While I can agree that some regulation of large quantities of solid propellant is a prudent thing, the thresholds in the current regs [] are too extreme, I think. Also, the $25 fee for a limited use permit is an unnecessary and excessive tax for an activity that has miminal impact on public assets.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:54PM (#9530227) Homepage
    When he was 19, Werner von Braun joined a rocketry club, the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR). A few years later, his terror rockets were bombing London. If it hadn't been for the rocket club, the V-2 wouldn't have been built.
    • And America wouldn't have had a space program. To quote Tom Lehrer's song on WvB's life, "'Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down. That's not my department.' says Werner von Braun"

      (If you're too young to have listened to Tom Lehrer, find $30 and go buy his CDs. It's a hilarious view of the world in the 1960s, by a singing mathemetician/professor from MIT. Right up the /. demographic's alley. TL, for those who don't know, is still alive and living in SoCal, but he's got that old man bitterne
  • by Roskolnikov ( 68772 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:58PM (#9530274)
    Hasn't the US Gov't seen any of the Dirty Harry movies?

    When will RC cars and Aircraft be outlawed?

    I seem to remember a scene in a movie where an RC car fitted with a bomb was used to explode a car.

    When you take all of the things that could be used in violent acts away, people invent new methods (and generally more efficient) methods for doing the things you planned on preventing.

    Case in point; it was too hard to get enough explosives to damage the WTC buildings, but highjack a couple of airplanes fueled to cross the continent and you have the means to do so.

    Why not outlaw planes? why not require background checks to fly? I defer to George Carlin on this one, surely a large fist could be used to take control of a plane, will we have strength tests at the gates?

    While I rattle on about how stupid we've become, why not just sedate all plane passengers with enough to keep them out cold for the duration of the flight? you fall asleep in the terminal and wake up at your destination? Heck, why not just sedate the entire population?

    If you spend all of your time trying to prevent the things that could happen, nothing will happen and no progress will be made.

    End of silly rant.

    • While I rattle on about how stupid we've become, why not just sedate all plane passengers with enough to keep them out cold for the duration of the flight? you fall asleep in the terminal and wake up at your destination?

      Actually, this would be great for the airlines. They could fit alot more people on the plane that way! I remember a lot of road trips were like this too. I'd go to sleep about 10 mins. after traveling on interstate then just wake up 4 hours later at where ever we were going. Traveling is
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:59PM (#9530289)
    It's the technological base here in the country that we need to protect, and this hobby is a good introduction for kids that are interested in technology.

    You, I, and the rocketry guy quoted might believe this, but protecting the technological base in this country is not a priority for the American powers-that-be.

    More important is keeping labor cheap and the country tied down under a web of Homeland Security minutiae, which will keep the populace cowed and their own grip on power secure.

    By contrast the Indian government, which actually seems to have their own national interest in mind, will be happy to run the miniscule "security" risk and let Indian kids play with model rockets-- the better technologically educated they are, the more advanced the tech jobs they can attract from willing American corporations.

    You can glean a government's whole philosophy from little issues like this.

  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:01PM (#9530332)
    next thing you know, they'll be trying to nickle and dime away our right to bear arms on the grounds that people don't kill people, guns do ....

    .... oops, uh, nevermind.
    • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:53PM (#9530990) Journal
      Guns don't kill people -- people kill people. On the other hand, a lot more people kill people when there are guns everywhere and there's no societal desire to train people how to properly use and respect guns. I'm perfectly happy to allow everyone in the U.S. to own as many guns of any caliber as they want, as long as everyone is required to take a mandatory gun safety and training class before they can own one.

  • by IronChefMorimoto ( 691038 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:02PM (#9530336)
    I can kind of see why the Justice Department might want to regulate these rocket hobbyists, if it's been determined that a reasonably dangerous payload could be added to the rocket.

    Some sort of anthrax aerosol or something that explodes in mid-air over a small area. Maybe in a neighborhood or park. I don't know -- I'm just speculating here. Makes you wonder if it could be done.

    However, if THAT is the sort of issue that they're raising with these poor rocketry hobbyists, then when will (if it's not happened already) model airplane/helicopter hobbyists have to start filling out government forms? I mean, strap some sort of acid dispersal system onto the bottom of a remote control helicopter and actually CONTROL where you start spraying people (again -- just wild speculation here). THAT sounds to me like more of a threat than model rockets.

    My 2 cents.

    • Couple problems there. For one, these rockets go straight *up*. Meaning anything they disperse over an area, the person launching it gets hit with as well. Secondly, a proper aerosol of something like anthrax is *extremely* hard to build, not considering the general difficulty of growing anthrax anyway.

      The most fundamental, substantial reason is this: It's too complicated. Terrorists do not use complex methods, because they don't have to. They can achieve very large impacts, with very small attacks.
  • by Cheirdal ( 776541 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:04PM (#9530371) Homepage
    You can still enjoy safe hobbies that involve owning assault rifles. Start an organization called The National Rocket Association (NRA) and write your congressment telling them that the NRA is very disappointed in their actions. That might actually get some results as long as you just use the acronym.
  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:10PM (#9530448)
    From the article

    While the vast majority of model rocketeers are not subject to regulation, high-powered rockets, which can be 30 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds -- with some flying more than 60 miles or reaching speeds over 1,000 miles per hour -- do need to comply with the requirements of federal explosives law."

    After reading the comments, I was all set to believe the government was way out of hand. But then I decided to read the article.

    The rockets I use to launch used 'B' & 'C' engines, and when I got older the big 'D' engines. The rockets that that are being regulated ARE NOT MODEL ROCKETS.

    I realize that commenting without reading the article is a badge of courage here but you gotta read the article sometime.
  • Time to adapt? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by earthforce_1 ( 454968 ) <> on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:10PM (#9530455) Journal
    I think it is time for model rocketry enthusiasts to start developing miniature lightweight engines that run on less restricted liquid or gas fuels, such as gasoline, alcohol, kerosene or propane. Time to "route around" the restrictions. Nobody is going to concern themselves with you filling up a jerry can of gasoline. , as they will assume it would be going into your lawnmower. Since the engines themselves would be more expensive, you would probably want to reuse and recover them. I had no problems buying small O2 cylinders for my welding kit, at least here, (Canada) there isn't draconian restrictions on it.

    Ironically, this would probably make for a less safe hobby, as I wouldn't want to be anywhere near a liquid fuelled rocket that ruptured its fuel tank and/or oxidizer on launch.
    • Re:Time to adapt? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cr0sh ( 43134 )
      Hybrid rockets are a start - the problem with the current crop (NOX + "plastic" fuel) is getting the NOX (not super-easy to get, nor cheap), plus the whole setup actually seems pretty dangerous (I have seen a high-power hybrid launch - the guy launching it stood next to the rocket, filled it up - when the countdown was ready he waved, turned the valves off, removed the hoses, then ran like hell - to get clear of the rocket before the ignighter hit).

      I am wondering if an inversion of this could be done - comp

  • by DRWHOISME ( 696739 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:11PM (#9530465)
    Go to the gunshop and you can buy kegs of gunpowder,even through the mail. The NRA would put Bush out of business if he cracked down on that . So the regs are useless if your going to disallow one and allow the other.

    An idea for you high powered rocket guys is to go with a method of fueling rockets with gunpowder.
    I wonder what the gov would do then ?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:22PM (#9530604)
    The government's crackdown on Boy Scout hobbies has arguably left the nation a much safer place. Legions of Boy Scout fanatics, armed with model rockets and swiss army knives have been dealt a serious blow and their nefarious activities have been set back days, perhaps even weeks.

    Scout leaders are being urged at this time to encourage scouts of all ages to take up firearms training. Firearms, being readily available and licensed, are a safe recreation. Remember, guns don't kill people, rockets do.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

    Terrorist #1: I would like to use this rocket to wage holy war against the infidels.

    Terrorist #2: You cannot. The infidels have fuel limits. You will not have the range.

    Terrorist #1: In that case I will use this assault rife I bought for home defence.

    Terrorist #2: You are a most wise servant of Allah.

    Terrorist #1: Mwaahahahahah!

    Terrorist #2: Mwahahahahaha!
  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:07PM (#9531148)
    Stop all the silly suggestions as if such a rocket will be used to "shoot down a plane".

    Is it really so hard to image that using "high-powered rockets, which can be 30 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds -- with some flying more than 60 miles or reaching speeds over 1,000 miles per hour" can be used as a weapon?

    Someone rolls up 15 miles outside of DC, fires a salvo of these rockets with 10 lb. of explosive on each and disappears before the first one even hits?

    Sure, they won't do much damage but that is the point of terrorism. Terrorism can't win a war by itself, it requires the other party to lose the will to fight.

    It amazes me that people think that building a rocket weighing "hundreds of pounds" or flying over 60 miles is "a hobby.

    The really interesting thing is that over 1/2 of the replies to this topic are simply knee jerk anti-Bush rants.

    If you can't see that a 30 ft rocket that can fly over 60 miles needs to have some type of regulation then I can't help you.
    • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:52PM (#9531700) Homepage
      Have you ever been to a high-power rocket launching? These aren't "slap-together" missles. Many of these rockets take several 10's to hundreds of hours to put together - spending anywhere from $500.00 to several thousand per rocket is not unheard of. Many of the people involved are rocket scientists and engineers in their day jobs - others are involved in other highly technical disciplines, and got their rocketeering chops from flying their own stuff. These guys know how to build big and safe engines from simple sugar (so-called sucrose or candy loads). The people involved know each other as a group, and work out trading skills and such - this guy needs and engine built (candy fuel in a PVC or alluminum tube), so he trades that for his skill at machining a nozzle from graphite or alluminum on a lathe. The launch pads themselves use pieces of alluminum rail that is pretty expensive (most of it is 80/20 style extruded alluminum). Transport, setup, and takedown is a relatively long process. None of this is cheap - not the materials, not the rockets, not the knowledge.

      I can't imagine a quick salvo being built and fired off perfectly. During the launches I have seen, more than a few failed on the pad, many failed mid-flight. I have seen video of launches that exploded on the pad (without the help of explosive tips). Lastly, none of the rockets I saw went 60 miles - hell, none broke 20,000 feet, nor went out of the flying envelope secured for the days (pretty large volume, too).

      That isn't to say that these things couldn't have been made to be missles - but the expense and expertise required to do so is huge, so huge it hasn't happenned yet, despite high-powered model rocketry being around for well over a decade (and model/experimental rocketry being around for much, much longer).

      Finally, for the people that do this - it is a hobby. These are guys (most are grown adult men with maxed out credit cards or other funding) who instead of buying a motorcycle or a boat, build large and expensive rockets to fly and amaze their peers with. As a spectator, I have found it to be an incredible and exciting hobby. It tempts me to get involved in it - I just can't afford it (either monetarily or time-wise)...

    • by codegen ( 103601 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:59PM (#9531769) Journal
      It amazes me that people think that building a rocket weighing "hundreds of pounds" or flying over 60 miles is "a hobby.

      It amazes me that people think that writing your own operating system is "a hobby".

      What about mountain climbing? What about amateur astronomers that make [] their own 30 to 40" telscopes including computerized tracking systems [] accurate to less than 1/2 arc second? What about amateur robotics?

      Now it may be the case that there needs to be some type of regulations for serious hobbies, but there is such a thing as overkill.
  • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:10PM (#9531198) Homepage
    Why the government even tries is beyond me. Amateur rocketry, which is safe, fun, educational and produces the rocket scientists of tommorow is now regulated.

    but I can still stop by my local roadside fireworks/adult bookstore/stuckey's and buy as much stuff that goes boom, crackle and sizzle for two for the price of one... all I have to do is join the Fireworks PAC...

    Governement idiots.
  • by syukton ( 256348 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:19PM (#9531332)
    As Iraq is showing us, anyone can make an IED, and they don't need rocket engines to do it. With the recent success of SpaceShipOne, I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering what kind of power old tires and laughing gas can provide when they fall into the wrong hands.

    Hey wait, can we hit two birds with one stone and sell the ingredients and instructions on mixing rubber particles and N2O to MAKE model rocket engines, thereby skirting the legal restriction? hmmm. Like a website where you can order both ingredients and a reusable mixing chamber + exhaust for them to combust within. It might make model rocketry a little more complicated (hey, this isn't rocket science! oh, wait..) but all things considered, I'm curious what kind of altitude a model rocket can achieve with a propulsion system similar to SpaceShipOne's.
  • Fond memories (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:11PM (#9531910)
    Once upon a time, in grade school, we made model rockets, spread all the students over the very large land area surrounding the school, and shot off the rockets one by one (with the scattered kids doing their best to catch the rockets as they parachuted down so that they wouldn't hit the ground and get damaged.)

    My rocket went up, but never came back down, at least that we could tell. I was disappointed to lose the rocket, but all the "cool" kids were trying to get their rocket to go the highest, so my disappearing rocket was a celebrity.

    Now, at the time, my parent's house was a block from the school. YEARS later, a neighbor across the street (about a block and a half away from the school) was cleaning his gutters, and found a rocket. He gave it to my mother, in case I wanted to "play around with it". Sure enough, it was MY rocket from that day in eigth grade.

    Anyway, just relating a fond memory of rocketry hijinks. And, for what it's worth, I never blew anything up, never hurt myself or others, and didn't develop into a pyromaniac.


  • On Other News . . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:31PM (#9532100) Homepage
    I saw on the History channel that the Panama Canal would not be possible today due to the environmental groups and issues. Many of yesterday's engineering feats would be stymied today because of all the environmental litigation and resistance by environmental groups. Consider, as well, the rhetoric stating that our inability to improve our energy production (i.e., electricity power plants) over the past couple of decades is for similar reasons. Even 'clean' means of producing electricity has fallen into the angst of some groups (e.g. wind-generated electricity now bad because it kills birds).

    How is that any different than the issue we have at hand? The government is imposing regulations that are making a hobby more difficult, so people are leaving the hobby. I see this as a similar issue, so I don't see why we complain about one but not the other.
  • by pm ( 11079 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @06:01PM (#9532889)
    There's been increasing regulation in the US in the area of model airplanes as well. The Dept. of Transportation and the FAA issued a notice N8700.25 in Oct. last year that regulated "Unmanned Aerospace Vehicles" (link here []). Reading through this document a lot of model airplane hobbyists are becoming increasingly alarmed about goverment regulation of their (my) hobby. The notice specifically states that it does not affect model airplanes but then states that model airplanes are flown at an altitude of less than 400 feet - which, if you have been to any model airplane flying field is about 400 feet less than reality.

    If model airplanes that fly above 400 feet (which a high percentage of them) are no longer considered model airplanes, but are now UAV's, then they may fall under new regulations.

    There are plenty of threads on the RC websites where hobbyists are trying to figure out what to do to try to limit the impact of new regulations on their hobby. One good example is This one [].
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @06:08PM (#9532946)
    And you'll have free license to use it as you wish. The workings of rockets and guns are fair similar.
  • by owendelong ( 614177 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @06:52PM (#9533211) Homepage
    There is a lot of FUD out there on this subject. Some promulgated by the government, some by people who aren't fully aware of what is happening.

    Here is some data I hope folks will consider. This comes from my time as a hobby rocketeer and my knowledge of the current regulations.

    Rocket fuel is not an explosive. Multiple independent laboratories, including the New Hampshire State Police have tried to make APCP (standard solid rocket fuel) explode and have been unable to do so. It burns, and, it has it's own oxidizer, but, it does not explode.

    The BATFE and the UN have classified it as an explosive under a definition of the term which encompasses anything which burns and includes it's own oxidizer (can't be extinguished by smothering). As such, this definition would also cover road flares.

    Prior to the safe explosives act, I could buy rocket fuel, which, as others have pointed out is less dangerous (and less explosive) than gasoline or fertilizer and diesel in the form of pre-made motors and store it in my house without need for any federal permit. As a result of the regulations, I cannot store rocket motors in my house, and, I have had to get a federal permit which cost me $100, required me to submit an FBI fingerprint card to be kept on file by DOJ, sumit to a DOJ background check, virtually waive my 4th amendment rights (that's right, BATFE can inspect my house anytime they choose even though I have a non-storage permit), and, requires substantial record keeping for all motors I buy, store, expend, or sell.

    Used to be if I went to a launch and someone had a motor I needed and I had a motor they needed, we'd trade. Under the new regulations, he and I need to record returning it to a vendor who then sells them to us. We aren't allowed to trade or sell the motors to each other without an explosives dealer permit.

    The problem is the BATFE has no procedures for regulating hobbies. The regulations are all written to cover people that blow up buildings for a living or blast tunnels for railroads and the

    While most of us in the hobby don't think any regulation is warranted and that the hobbies own process of self regulation has demonstrated a long history of excellent safety, we are mainly objecting to the fact that these regulations are so overly burdensome that they are eliminating participants from the hobby.

    As to the memberships in NAR and TRA, yes, many people who used to fly rockets are continuing to pay their dues to these organizations to help them continue the fight against these unreasonable regulations. But, if you go to launches, you will see fewer flyers and fewer rockets being launched on less power. The regulations are putting a damper on the hobby. Vendors are feeling the crunch, including Aerotech. Yes, they're doing better now than immediately after the fire, but, they're nowhere near their pre-fire business levels.

    Finally, even without the federal regulations, there are requirements to gain access to high power motors. TRA and NAR both have procedures and checkouts required for people to attain certifications for various levels of motors. Up to a G motor, there are few limitations. H and I motors require a level 1 certification. J, K, and L motors are level 2 which requires not only building, flying, and successfully recovering a level 2 rocket, but, requires a written test on rocket regulations and safety procedures. To fly an M, N, or O motor requires a level 3 certification which involves significant review and substantial expense to achieve.

    Further, to launch rockets over a certain amount, one must first obtain permission from the FAA in the form of a waiver. The FAA will not grant a waiver to launch a 300 pound rocket downtown or next to the local airport. General public safety is adequately addrsesed by the regulations prior to the Safe Explosives Act.

    Another consequence of the SEA is that most shippers are no longer able to transport rocket motors (it would require them to get every
  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @08:53AM (#9536450)
    I've been a model rocketeer for a long time, and my concern is this will push kids back to the homebrew engine days - with the resultant injuries and damage that was the reason G Harry Stine, George Estes and others created the hobby.

    Model rocketry is fun, and a good way to get kids away from computers into the sun. It develops an interst in science, engineering, and using computers to design and test. Competitions are good ways to meet people and make friends for life.

    It'l be a shame if teh government kills our hobby.

    JLC NAR 21573

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27