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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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  • Re:VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! (Score:2, Informative)

    by marnargulus ( 776948 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:44PM (#9530081)
    From the ATF site:
    Carl J. Truscott was appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft to be the 6th Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in the Department of Justice, on April 18, 2004
    These guys get appointed, and the ones that aren't appointed get hired. It isn't really a voting issue, more of an issue with appointees.
  • Silly (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:46PM (#9530099)
    What will "licensing" do? Nothing.

    The 9/11 pilots went through flight training (in LICENSED classrooms). The government knew about it, but they did nothing about it.

    If the government can't be bothered following up on known terrorist taking flight training in the US, why are they trying to license model rocketry, which is incapable of being used for terrorism the way the governement is implying?

    People should use their brains. If you wanted to cause harm with a projectile, it would simpler and cheaper to bring in a shoulder fired missle that is readily available on the international arms black market than it is to engineer a rocket with a guidance system system capable of hitting a plane.

    Think for a change instead of assuming a bunch of assinine bureaucrats are actually helping.
  • by ncurses ( 764489 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:46PM (#9530102)
    And that's what I get for forgetting to close my a tag. And for forgetting my formatting tags. God I suck at basic posting stuff :P
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:49PM (#9530152)
    They just want fewer people to learn how to make and use rockets. They say to prevent terrorism, but when they finnaly unvail their police state they don't want rebels to be able to construct missile-type weapons against their choppers and what not.

    Terrorist is to Freedom Fighter as Criminal is to Activist.

    Orwell was 20 years too early.
  • 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. []
  • 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. []
  • by yppiz ( 574466 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:55PM (#9530239) Homepage
    The question I was responding to was not whether home-made rockets have killed people, but instead whether they have ever been used to terrorize people. The Qassam rockets are certainly in the latter category.

    --Pat /

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:03PM (#9530352) Journal
    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 bitterness that spoils the old sarcasm of his songs.)

  • Re:Really? (Score:2, Informative)

    by shepd ( 155729 ) < ... com minus distro> on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:08PM (#9530426) Homepage Journal

    Here's a real life example. They can start major fires [], and that wasn't even done on purpose.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • by ibpooks ( 127372 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:35PM (#9530800) Homepage
    You're exactly right. I'm a fireworks and pyrotechnics hobbiest, and we are governed by the same restrictions on explosives.
  • by darth_zeth ( 155639 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:42PM (#9530872) Homepage
    the gubmint doesnt have the POWER to REGULATE rockets, actually. The constitution does not outlien our rights, it outlines the government's powers.
  • by Pvt_Waldo ( 459439 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:42PM (#9530874)
    > 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 pound payload. Nonetheless, its use shocked the Israeli military and public, who are used to the Palestinians lacking any method of long-range warfare. Hizbollah, for contrast, has long shelled Israel from Lebanon using the Katyusha rocket. The Qassam rockets have been used to attack various Israeli towns, in some areas such as Sderot in the Negev and some Israeli settlements in Gaza shelling occurs almost daily, causing large scale property damage, serious injury and occasional loss of life.

    Israel has tried to stop the development of such rockets by extensive crackdowns on suspected militants, and by the destruction of facilities (such as metal shops) which could be used for their construction.

    Home made rockets that can attain altitudes of 10-40,000 feet have some pretty serious potential for misuse if you ask me. How hard could it be to just set up 10 of these a few miles outside some major city center, load them up with crude explosives (or better yet "dirty bomb" stuff like radioactive materials) and send them unguided to land in the heart of the city. Who cares if they land a mile off, or smack into some building? Think of the terror effect of 10 rockets slamming into downtown Manhattan, launched from some abandoned warehouse district in New Jersey, and the shooters are long gone after launch has happened.

    I would argue that the exact technologies and equipment used by these amateur rockets are directly useable by terrorists. You can even bet that a certain amount of the technology for the Qassam came from amateur rocket sources, similar to the one at []. Looks like about everything you need you can get there.

    And I love the last line on the page. "Foreign Nationals Welcome To Attend The Class!!"

  • Re:Yeah Right (Score:3, Informative)

    by terrymr ( 316118 ) < minus physicist> on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:52PM (#9530983)
    So ... you can buy 50lbs of black powder without any permits at all ... that makes a good general purpose bomb too.

  • by Pvt_Waldo ( 459439 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:13PM (#9531241)
    Tell Hezbollah that. They've fired over 140 of them into Israel.
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:18PM (#9531313)
    I think that's the cheapest fuel + oxidizer combination. The problem is that liquid fuel is harder to handle, need pumps, injectors, etc. Perhaps the easiest would be to make your own nitrocellulose (cotton, nitric acid, sulfuric acid), and dissolve in acetone and mix with some filler (would sawdust work?) to make it burn slower.
  • by ravenspear ( 756059 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:25PM (#9531394)
    If a few people may get killed because of this rocketry program

    That argument is moot. As others have pointed out, since the amateur rocketry industry was properly regulated by Tripoli and NAR decades ago there has not been a single accident where anyone has died.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:26PM (#9531412)
    Actually it does affect more than just the 30 foot rockets. Any motor with more than 62.5 grams of propellant, is affected. An H motor, which is where the regulations start, can be used to launch a rocket up to around 5 pounds. That sized of a rocket isn't going to go very high on an H. The whole thing boils down to how the ATF is classing aluminum perchlorate. They class it as a low explosive, even though it can't explode. It just burns. Where they are regulating it is that you need a low explosive user permit to keep regulated motors. Try and get one of these and you will see where the problem is. The FAA already has plenty of regulations to handle rocketry. A rocket one to 3.3 pounds, needs 48 to 72 hours notice prior to launch. Anything over 3.3 pounds needs an approved waiver, and 30 to 45 days notice depending on where you look for the regulations.

    Tripoli # 09990
  • by Penguinshit ( 591885 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:28PM (#9531429) Homepage Journal

    You might wanna have a look at this [] site..

    And I don't usually have bare arms when I bear arms...
  • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:42PM (#9531573)
    The constitution does not outline our rights, it outlines the government's powers.
    Moderate parent up -- he actually understands what the Constitution does, unlike the majority of slashdotters (or the majority of senators, for that matter). The Constitution grants a limited (and specifically enumerated) set of powers to the various branches of the government, and lists specific things that the government is FORBIDDEN to do. The Constitution does not CREATE rights -- we already have them. What it is supposed to do is to prevent the Government from infringing on the rights we already have.

  • There's been a lot of people saying how motors larger then 62.5 grams are huge, used to launch 30 foot high rockets, unneeded, etc. This isn't the case.

    For example, I have a rocket which carries a radio controlled digital camera. Here's what it needs to get to various altitudes:

    To get off the launch pad and slowly lumber up 400 feet: G64 reload (62.4 grams propellant)
    To leave the launch pad at a safe speed and obtain a resonable altitude(1000 feet): H128 reload (95 grams)
    To get somewhere that would yield really cool pictures (3000 feet): I211 reload (251 grams)

    Note the much higher altitude from the H128 verses the G64. The rocket is so underpowered with the G64 that most of the fuel is spent just keeping the rocket from falling back down. The H128 gets it moving at a much more efficiant speed. Thus the huge altitude difference with a motor only 50% larger. (I've used both motors, with an altimeter in the rocket to verify altitude and deploy the parachutes).

    Most of the really neat payloads need a bunch of power. Such as a tiny computer, wireless lan card, and batteries. Or a video camera.

    It used to be legal to purchase and fly any of these motors without a low explosive user permit (LEUP). The largest motor you used to be able to get sans LEUP was the AeroTech J570, which would have put my camera rocket up around 6000 feet. Now, the most powerful easily avaliable motor will be the AT G125, which puts my camera rocket up around 450 feet, although it does leave the launch pad at a safe speed.

    The guys launching 30 foot rockets are using motors like the AeroTech N2000, which has 7,770 grams of propellent. These have always required a LEUP.

  • 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 Halo- ( 175936 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:02PM (#9531804)
    I agree about the notion of terrorism and rockets, after all, one of the first modern rockets with the V2 used by Hilter in WWII.

    I'd have to disagree about the delivery mechanism part though. I used to build these things as a kid, and the amount of thrust needed to get just a tiny bit of payload into the air is enormous. The biggest thing I ever saw was an extremely light disposable camera, and the rocket it took to lift it used several of the biggest engines available at the time.

    Even when they do lift off, they go straight up, and come down on a parachute. (If you are lucky) a few blocks away in a high wind. The mechanics and force required for lateral flight is a lot greater than almost any amateur can overcome.

    And as for biowar and dirty bombs... I dunno... Heat and unreliablity aren't something I'd want to put my hard-obtained anthrax into. And most the radioactive metals are extremely massive. Combine that with the problems associated with lateral flight, and it's a pretty iffy proposition. I think anyone who obtains and uses radioactivity or biologicial agents is going to scare the pants of the general public reguardless of the delivery method.

    I'd be much more concerned about people using balloons. If you're just trying to indiscrimately drop sometime nasty on people, a weather balloon and a tank of helium would reliably put a lot more payload in the air for a lot less money and exposure. The Japanese were able to achieve mild success during WWII using incerdiary devices and similiar devices from halfway across the world to the west coast of the US.

  • by Ribald ( 140704 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:24PM (#9532037)
    To all the people saying that accuracy doesn't matter, or a guidance system could be created easily, let me throw in my impressions.

    For a terror weapon, no--accuracy doesn't matter all that much. The V2 rockets Germany fired into Britain, for example, could generally hit pretty close to London. Firing an unguided rocket into an urban area, however, would be a little trickier. First off, any solid-fueled rocket I've seen of decent size leaves a visible trail of smoke (at least the larger ones; amateur rocket guys--correct me if I'm wrong), so it's fairly easy to trace it back to its launch point (not that the launcher would necessarily care).

    Also, it would be pretty difficult to launch one of these from an urban area and not be noticed--you'll need a fairly large open field, especially if you're going for a longer range. Yeah, you could launch one straight up from your backyard, but it would come basically straight back down.

    Finally, as to guidance--good luck. Even the old V2 was gyro-stabilized, and it did well to hit inside the city it was aimed at. GPS won't do you any good at all. Sure, it will give you a decent position and groundspeed, but it's updated at most at a 1-Hz rate.

    To guide a missile, you need high-rate dynamic outputs (I'd say at least 100-Hz for a crude rocket), and good attitude (pitch/roll/yaw) outputs--GPS gives neither. You need an inertial navigation system, or at least an inertial attitude reference system, and those are very, very hard to make. I can think of three companies that sell these systems--two in the US, one in the UK, and I work for one of them (my opinions are my own, not my company's, etc.). They're on the State Department's Significant Military Technology List, which makes them hard to get, even if you've got the $50k-$200k to buy a nav-grade one.

    Sure, if you had space to launch one from, and had the math/engineering background necessary to stabilize the rocket, compute its ballistic trajectory (you can do a decent numerical integration of this in Excel, even accounting for decreasing mass and thrust effects pretty easily and quickly, BTW), and had calm (or at least known, steady) winds...

    Yeah, you could send a rocket with a small payload on a (pretty flat) trajectory for a few miles and probably manage to hit a (large) building or park-size area. But you're not going to shoot a rocket off at 80 from horizontal from 30 miles away and take out the president's car.

    And actually making it explode...that's a whole new matter! Not my field, but I think constructing a fuzing device capable of detonating the warhead in a proximity fashion is beyond the scope of your 'common' terrorist. Likewise, if you wait for the impact to set it off, anything easily constructed to accomplish that would likely be destroyed before it managed to initiate the detonation. Putting in an unstable explosive won't work, either--it would explode on take off (we're talking, what--upwards of 30g's?). That leaves you commanded detonation, so you have to be close enough to see the rocket and detonate it before it smashed into something and broke, which is tricky at those speeds.

    So basically, that leaves a short range rocket with a small payload that can't be too volatile, and is probably going to not blow up in the first place, or make a harmless fireball (and it's not heavy enough to make significant shrapnel). I'll admit, you could fill it with scary Chemical X, but I think the best you're going to accomplish is knocking out a window--like that kid who flew a Cessna into the Bank of America building in Tampa, taking out a few windows and half a cubicle.

    I don't fear terrorist rockets--it would be a lot simpler to take the money and rent a truck, and fill it with any nasty number of things. Any idiot can do that.

    But it's like with anything else. You want to stop people from doing things you don't want with computers? To the jail with them all. Don't want anyone to be able to make anything that might turn into a scary weapon? Throw all us engineers in there, too.

  • by sneakers563 ( 759525 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:38PM (#9532165)
    This is true - I'm a private pilot (another group targeted after 9/11) and there's an area near my local airport that we're told to avoid because of the very large "model" rockets flown there. I don't know the exact ceilings, but I do know that typical cruising altitudes (3 - 5 thousand feet AGL) are not considered enough. I still think this is a bit of an overreaction, but the mental picture we have of a foot-tall rocket with an egg payload is not necessarily accurate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:57PM (#9532341)
    Fun fact of the day -- compressed gas can store lots of energy, and deposit said energy all over nearby structures *very* quickly.

    IIRC, a scuba tank stores more energy than its weight in chemical explosives.
  • Umm.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @05:19PM (#9532561)

    Unless something has changed that I'm not aware of, you can buy a high-power rocket motor at a launch without any permit *if you use it at the launch*. Not the easiest way, but it does work.

    Contact your local high-power rocket club. In our area, one of the local vendors got their permits to sell motors, so you can show up at a launch, buy a motor, and fly. Again, not necessarily the easiest or best, but it does work.

    Or, you could just use the nitrous-oxide hybrids. No permits required. If your club fronts the money for the initial charging equipment, it's not a bad way to go.

  • 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 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:04PM (#9534031)
    No. There are technical definitions for explosives and combustibles. Combustion, which is what a rocket does, has a flame rate of 10 feet per second or slower. Detonation, which is what an explosive does, is defined as supersonic flame travel.

  • All about APCP (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2004 @06:22AM (#9536052)
    Ok... some people here have the completely wrong idea about high-power rocketry.
    I will attempt to straighten some of your views out.

    Ok, first off... APCP does NOT EXPLODE.
    At atmospheric pressure, most APCP burns at a rate of 1.5mm (0.059 inches) per second. That is very slow, no?

    Now, there is a value called "n" which is used in the equation R=a*P^n... for most APCP formulations, this value will be around 0.4. What the mentioned equation does is deterimine the regression rate (burn rate) at elevated pressure by substituting the pressure (P) into the equation (in PSI). A common "a" value to use would be around 0.017 (the "a" and "n" values can be determined by burning "strands" of propellant under pressure and measure how long it takes to burn a certain length strand).
    If you work out this equation, you will find that at even 1000psi, the burn rate is still quite slow.

    There are differences between gasoline and APCP. APCP contains it's own oxygen source so it can burn in the absence of oxygen in the form of an oxidizer - gasoline is does not.

    Yes, gasoline can be very explosive... only when dispersed in a "mist" so the surface-area avaliable for combustion with the air is very high - even FLOUR can explode when "dusted"!

    I have been doing experimental rocketry for about 3 years now. Yes, that means I make my own rocket motors - ( .jpg).
    I have never seen an accident come close to happening at my local rocket club. Most people who take part in rocketry don't build their own motors anyway - this takes away a large amount of PERCIEVED RISK. In fact, the MOST serious injury I have recieved from my taking part in rocketry is a CUT FINGER from trimming my cast propellant "grains" for use in a motor to get them to fit properly.

    You are always going to get the odd stupid, ignorant person who thinks they can take a bunch of chemicals, mix them up like they would a cake recipie and then shove the stuff down a pipe and expect results. These type of people get themselves burnt beyond belief/killed - Fortunately, these type of people handily remove themselves from the gene pool very effectively.

    To all of you who think guidance systems are easy to implement - think again. Hey hey, just where are you going to get a MIL-SPEC GPS system from? How are you going to control those servos with the utmost accuracy required for guidance? Got the software skills to program it all to work?

    I don't think so... think about what you are saying.

    - Matt
    - (
  • by owendelong ( 614177 ) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @02:21PM (#9538215) Homepage
    It's not just the background check, and, it's not about pretending to be a kid. Many of the rocketeers that I have encountered work in the aerospace field in their real life.

    The problem here is the combination of truly burdensome regulation (more on this later) _AND_ it's complete lack of effectiveness. While the BATFE has people focused on hobby rocketry, real terrorists are laughing their ass off making real bombs that really explode out of things that still aren't regulated (ammonium nitrate, diesel fuel, gasoline, alcohol just to name a few of the unregulated materials). Further, the raw materials for APCP are not regulated, and, it is quite easy to learn to make your own motors. It requires some machining resources, and, the mixing process is nowhere near as safe as the final product. As such, most hobbyists prefer to buy their motors rather than build them. I'm betting that the obstacle of building your own motor would not be a significant hurdle to a terrorist. Just so you know, the basic ingredients of APCP are Ammonium Perchlorate (this is the only item that takes some searching to find a place you can buy it, but, it is readily available, and, if you were desperate you could substitute Ammonium Nitrate, although it is not as safe and the mixture becomes more critical), Rubber, Metal (usually iron if you want a red flame, copper for a blue flame, aluminum for a white flame, but, also affects the rate of combustion), a small amount of black powder, and
    a plasticizer (essentially an epoxy or resin). All of these things are
    easily purchased annonymously.

    Now about how burdensome the regulation is... Prior to this regulation, I could go to a launch, buy motors, launch them in rockets at the launch, and I didn't need to worry about federal paperwork, regulation, etc. Now, I have to present my LEUP, provide a copy of my LEUP and clearance letter to each dealer (a signed copy), maintain records of each and every motor I buy, burn, return, destroy, store (wait, I'm not allowed to store any more), or otherwise dispose of for a period of at least 3 years. I have to allow the BATFE to inspect my home at any time of their choosing (even though I have a non-storage permit and don't store any explosives), had
    to submit an FBI fingerprint card, and had to be subjected to a federal background check. For this privilege, I also have to pay the BATFE $100 and go through the whole process all over again every three years. I can no longer trade motors or sell them to other rocketeers at launches (instead, sometimes we'll loan rockets -- he'll fly his motor in my rocket and I'll fly my motor in his rocket), but, usually, we both have to find a friendly dealer, then, we both "return" our motors to the dealer who then sellse them back to us. All because to sell to each other, under the new regulations, at least one of us would have to have a Dealer permit instead of a User permit.

    This is not the inconvenience of having to deal with DMV to get a drivers license. This is a much more burdensome regulation. Imagine if gasoline (which is far more explosive than APCP) were regulated in this manner. I bet you wouldn't be saying "it's a small price and smaller burden for the greater good of automotive regulations".

    Finally, kids come into this in that alot of launches have kids present. They fly low power stuff (A-G) and have a great time doing it, but, one of the things that inspires them to fly the low power stuff and learn about rocketry is watching the higher power stuff. Also, kids like to hang around and learn from the adults that are flying the higher power stuff. They get not only theoretical lessons, but, they actually get to see lessons in applied physics, mathematics, structural engineering. They
    actually start to see the application of what they're being taught, and,
    that makes them much more interested. Kids at launches start actually asking questions and listening to answers about gravity, acceleration,
    mass, Newton's laws of motion, etc. They see what happe

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982