In order to understand high power rocketry enough to launch and successfully recover an L1 rocket, please make sure you have already read HPR Background Information. Level 1 Certification allows flyers to fly High Power Rockets with a total installed impulse up to 640 newton-seconds.
Once you've read through this page, visit Launch Day for critical information on what to bring, wear, etc.
NFPA 1127 and FAA 101
Note: Might be better to just give summaries of each relevant section and only post links to full documents. Someone please fix.
The National Fire Protection Association has multiple documents spanning different types of rocketry. Section 1122 governs model rockets and 1127 governs high powered rockets. We are most interested in 1127.
NFPA 1127 sets the rules and regulations for high power rocketry, including the motor classification system, rules for Range Safety Officers, and guidelines for the safe construction, use, and storage of rocket materials. Critically, it also includes the formal definition of High Power Rocketry, and it is this definition that is referenced in ITAR.
The Federal Aviation Administration Regulations also has a relevant section to the high powered rocketry community. FAA 101 Subpart C, Amateur Rockets. Here are the extremely relevant sections.
- §101.22 Definitions.
The following definitions apply to this subpart:
- (a) Class 1—Model Rocket means an amateur rocket that:
- (1) Uses no more than 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of propellant;
- (2) Uses a slow-burning propellant;
- (3) Is made of paper, wood, or breakable plastic;
- (4) Contains no substantial metal parts; and
- (5) Weighs no more than 1,500 grams (53 ounces), including the propellant.
- (b) Class 2—High-Power Rocket means an amateur rocket other than a model rocket that is propelled by a motor or motors having a combined total impulse of 40,960 Newton-seconds (9,208 pound-seconds) or less.
- (c) Class 3—Advanced High-Power Rocket means an amateur rocket other than a model rocket or high-power rocket.
- §101.23 General operating limitations.
- (a) You must operate an amateur rocket in such a manner that it:
- (1) Is launched on a suborbital trajectory;
- (2) When launched, must not cross into the territory of a foreign country unless an agreement is in place between the United States and the country of concern;
- (3) Is unmanned; and
- (4) Does not create a hazard to persons, property, or other aircraft.
- (b) The FAA may specify additional operating limitations necessary to ensure that air traffic is not adversely affected, and public safety is not jeopardized.
- §101.25 Operating limitations for Class 2-High Power Rockets and Class 3-Advanced High Power Rockets.
When operating Class 2-High Power Rockets or Class 3-Advanced High Power Rockets, you must comply with the General Operating Limitations of §101.23. In addition, you must not operate Class 2-High Power Rockets or Class 3-Advanced High Power Rockets—
- (a) At any altitude where clouds or obscuring phenomena of more than five-tenths coverage prevails;
- (b) At any altitude where the horizontal visibility is less than five miles;
- (c) Into any cloud;
- (d) Between sunset and sunrise without prior authorization from the FAA;
- (e) Within 9.26 kilometers (5 nautical miles) of any airport boundary without prior authorization from the FAA;
- (f) In controlled airspace without prior authorization from the FAA;
- (g) Unless you observe the greater of the following separation distances from any person or property that is not associated with the operations:
- (1) Not less than one-quarter the maximum expected altitude;
- (2) 457 meters (1,500 ft.);
- (h) Unless a person at least eighteen years old is present, is charged with ensuring the safety of the operation, and has final approval authority for initiating high-power rocket flight; and
- (i) Unless reasonable precautions are provided to report and control a fire caused by rocket activities.
- §101.29 Information requirements.
- (a) Class 2—High-Power Rockets. When a Class 2—High-Power Rocket requires a certificate of waiver or authorization, the person planning the operation must provide the information below on each type of rocket to the FAA at least 45 days before the proposed operation. The FAA may request additional information if necessary to ensure the proposed operations can be safely conducted. The information shall include for each type of Class 2 rocket expected to be flown:
- (1) Estimated number of rockets,
- (2) Type of propulsion (liquid or solid), fuel(s) and oxidizer(s),
- (3) Description of the launcher(s) planned to be used, including any airborne platform(s),
- (4) Description of recovery system,
- (5) Highest altitude, above ground level, expected to be reached,
- (6) Launch site latitude, longitude, and elevation, and
- (7) Any additional safety procedures that will be followed.
TRA and NAR Codes
- Tripoli Rocketry Association Safe Launch Practices. Great document on when and how to safely launch your rocket.
- RSO Guidelines. Fantastic resource to understand what Range Safety Officers look for.
- NAR's High Power Rocketry Safety Code. Very good resources, summarized further on.
- TRA's Code for High Power Rocketry. This resource is pretty scarce, would not look here for explicit instructions.
For reference, here is a summary of NAR's safety code. For an non-edited version of NAR's code, check out the links above.
- Certification. I will only fly high power rockets or possess high power rocket motors that are within the scope of my user certification and required licensing.
- Materials. I will use only lightweight materials such as paper, wood, rubber, plastic, fiberglass, or when necessary ductile metal, for the construction of my rocket.
- Motors. I will use only certified, commercially made rocket motors.
- Ignition System. I will launch my rockets with an electrical launch system, and with electrical motor igniters that are installed in the motor only after my rocket is at the launch pad or in a designated prepping area. The electronics will have an off and on switch. They will turned off until my rocket is in the launching position.
- Misfires. If my rocket does not launch when I press the button of my electrical launch system, I will remove the launcher’s safety interlock or disconnect its battery, and will wait 60 seconds after the last launch attempt before allowing anyone to approach the rocket.
- Launch Safety. I will use a 5-second countdown before launch. I will ensure that a means is available to warn participants and spectators in the event of a problem. I will ensure that no person is closer to the launch pad than allowed by the accompanying Minimum Distance Table. I will check the stability of my rocket before flight and will not fly it if it cannot be determined to be stable.
- Launcher. I will launch my rocket from a stable device that provides rigid guidance until the rocket has attained a speed that ensures a stable flight, and that is pointed to within 20 degrees of vertical. I will use a blast deflector to prevent the motor’s exhaust from hitting the ground.
- Size. My rocket will not contain any combination of motors that total more than 40,960 N-sec of total impulse. My rocket will not weigh more at liftoff than one-third of the certified average thrust of the high power rocket motor(s) intended to be ignited at launch.
- Flight Safety. I will not launch my rocket at targets, into clouds, near airplanes, nor on trajectories that take it directly over the heads of spectators or beyond the boundaries of the launch site, and will not put any flammable or explosive payload in my rocket. I will not launch my rockets if wind speeds exceed 20 miles per hour. I will comply with Federal Aviation Administration airspace regulations when flying, and will ensure that my rocket will not exceed any applicable altitude limit in effect at that launch site.
- Launch Site. I will launch my rocket outdoors, in an open area where trees, power lines, occupied buildings, and persons not involved in the launch do not present a hazard, and that is at least as large on its smallest dimension as one-half of the maximum altitude to which rockets are allowed to be flown at that site or 1500 feet, whichever is greater.
- Recovery System. I will use a recovery system such as a parachute in my rocket so that all parts of my rocket return safely and undamaged and can be flown again, and I will use only flame-resistant or fireproof recovery system wadding in my rocket.
- Recovery Safety. I will not attempt to recover my rocket from power lines, tall trees, or other dangerous places, fly it under conditions where it is likely to recover in spectator areas or outside the launch site, nor attempt to catch it as it approaches the ground.
The following is a combination of the NAR and TRA requirements and rules.
You must be at least 18 years old to be certified for Level 1. Although it is good practice to already be a member of NAR and/or TRA before certifying, in practice it is not enforced. Motors must be certified and non-experimental.
Your certifier (for NAR) needs to be either two people with the level you are attempting for, or one person with the level above the one you are attempting for. They must witness the flight.
The rocket must be built by the flyer. The rocket shall have a display on the exterior identifying the calculated center of pressure. The rocket must be of "conventional rocket design". "Odd Rockets" including flying pyramids, saucers and flying spools will not be allowed for any certification flight. The rocket may be either a kit or scratch built. Scratch built rockets may contain commercially built components.
Standard parachute recovery is required. Non-parachute recovery methods (e.g. tumble, helicopter, gliding, etc) are not permitted for certification flights. If the rocket is using dual deployment, the first recovery event may be via a drogue-less or streamer as long as the main or second event uses a standard parachute.
The certification flight must be with a single certified H or I motor (tested total impulse between 160.01 and 640.00 n-sec).TRA does not allow staged and/or Clustered rockets for certification flights while NAR states you must use at least one HPR motor on your certification rocket. The flyer shall be observed by the certifying member or their designated representative during the assembly (if a reload or hybrid) and preparation of the motor. Single use motors are permitted.
Electronics are not required for level 1 certification flights.
The model will be subjected to a safety inspection prior to flight. The safety inspection form is on the back of the NAR High Power Certification Application. During the safety inspection the modeler will be expected to provide oral answers to technical questions related to the safety and construction of their model. The questions may include (but not limited to) identification of the model’s center of gravity and center of pressure, methods used to determine model stability, and interpretation of the rocket motor’s designation. The certification team will initial (or check) the blocks indicating that model safety, motor certification, and the existence of a FAA waiver (if required) in effect were verified prior to flight.
Level 1 Certification flight may take place at any insured launch. The certifying member (i.e. Prefect, TRA Director, NAR certifiers or TAP Member) must be present and witness the certification flight. The certifying member must witness the rocket ascend in a stable manner and descend in stabilized manner controlled by the recovery system.
The rocket must be presented to the certifying member for inspection. If the rocket cannot be recovered, but can be inspected in place (power lines, tree, etc...) this is acceptable. The certifying member shall inspect the rocket for excessive damage. Excessive damage shall be considered damage to the point that if the flyer were handed another motor, the rocket could not be put on the pad and flown again safely. Damage caused by wind dragging will not cause a disqualification. If successful, the certifiers will sign the correct sheet to indicate that the certification attempt was successfully completed.
The certification sheets are returned to NAR or TRA Headquarters. No fees are required. The certification sheet must be returned by the certified individual or the event sponsors to NAR or TRA Headquarters to allow updating the NAR or TRA database. NAR sends an updated membership card showing the certification level upon receipt of the certification paperwork.
Any of the following will result in non-certification for a certification flight:
- Motor Cato
- Excessive Damage
- No recovery system deployment or tangled recovery system deployment
- Rocket drifting outside the specified launch range
- Components coming down not attached to the recovery system.
- Any other violation of TRA safety code associated with this particular flight.
- Any other legitimate reason the certifying member deems merits non-certification
Tripoli Central California
Tripoli hosts launches on the third Saturday of each month. Details, calendar, updates, and directions, as well as other pertinent information, can be found on their website here. Be aware that Tripoli has slightly different policies and forms from NAR, as well as requiring a separate Tripoli membership in order to launch. However, certification levels from either are accepted at the other, i.e. if you are certified L1 through Tripoli, you can get your L2 certification at NAR, as long as you are a registered member of both.
Livermore Unit of the National Association of Rocketry
LUNAR hosts launches on the first Saturday of each month - details can be found here.
Mailing It In
You must mail in your certification form to have the rocketry association acknowledge your achievement. These are the addresses of NAR and TRA.
National Association of Rocketry HQ
P.O. Box 407
Marion, IA 52302
Tripoli Rocketry Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 87
Bellevue, NE 6800
Make sure to wash off all the metal components of your rocket so they do not corrode from left over motor fuel.