What are the laws and regulations?
Sport Rocketry is a shining example of an activity that is carefully and successfully self regulated through voluntary membership in national and international organizations whose primary goal is the safe enjoyment of amateur rocketry. In over 50 years of activity, not one individual has perished while flying rockets at a sanctioned launch. The National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and Tripoli (TRA) are the primary rocketry organizations recognized in the United States; most public rocket launches are held by clubs affiliated with either NAR, Tripoli or both. People interested in sport rocketry are encouraged to join these organizations for the many benefits they offer.
National Fire Protection Association Safety Code
Both NAR and Tripoli have safety codes based largely on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Safety Code. The NFPA codes for rocketry apply to the design of rockets and rocket motors and to launch operations including ignition systems, safe distances and launch site specifications. Rocket launch sites are laid out by volunteers and members of the hosting club to meet all requirements set forth by the NFPA with an eye towards safety. Tripoli and NAR safety codes also require that no rocket contain guidance systems, vertebrate animals or be launched more than 20 degrees from vertical. A complete review of all NAR safety codes may be found at www.nar.org ; Tripoli safety codes may be requested at www.tripoli.org. NFPA code 1122 refers specifically to Model Rocketry; NFPA code 1127 covers High Power Rocketry. For more information on the NFPA and to see codes 1122 and 1127 go to www.nfpa.org.
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates air space which effects most rocketry activities. Model Rockets enjoy relief from FAA regulations via Federal Aviation Regulations Part 101; see FAR101 at www.access.gpo.gov
Rockets weighing less than one pound and flying on less than 4 ounces of propellant, FAR 101 rockets, do not require notification of the FAA. Large Model Rockets, weighing between 1 and 3.3 lbs and flying on not more than 4.4 ounces of propellant, while not requiring a waiver from the FAA, require a phone call to the nearest FAA tower or airport for notification of the planned activity. Model Rockets are also considered toys by the federal government and as such must meet Consumer Product Safety Commissions safety requirements.
Waivers from the FAA are required to fly High Power Rockets weighing more than 3.3lbs and/or flying on greater than 4.4 ounces of propellant. While anyone may apply to the FAA for a waiver, this process is normally handled by a rocketry club officer, often the Launch Director. When granting waivers, the FAA reviews the normal use of the airspace for which a waiver has been requested to determine the feasibility of rerouting airplanes while launches are being held. Waivers to high altitudes are most readily granted for airspace that is not heavily used therefore, launch sites with high waivers are often many miles from large cities and airline traffic patterns. Waivers are granted in MSL or altitude above mean sea level. Waivers are often referred to in AGL, above ground level, a figure determined by subtracting the elevation of the launch site from the MSL altitude. For more information on the FAA see www.faa.gov.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
The acquisition and use of rocket motors, specifically Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant, or APCP, is NO LONGER regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. An ATF license is not required to purchase or use APCP rocket motors.