Northern Illinois
Rocketry Association

NAR Section 117

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I fly at NIRA launches?

In short, it depends.

Our regular club launch facility is East Branch Forest Preserve, which isn't terribly big. Typically, you can fly most rockets that use 1/8A through D motors without any problems. E, F, and G flights are possible as weather permits. The Range Safety Officer (RSO) may exercise discretion in restricting larger engines and/or rockets. Keep in mind that larger motors, particularly composites, make a lot of noise and sometimes attract unwanted attention.

Everything from Micromaxx rockets on 6mm motors to a Phantom 4000 on a G80 motor has been flown at East Branch. There will be times when the RSO will not allow certain models/motors to be used depending on the conditions. A good example would be Aerotech BlackJack propellent motors; on windy days we ban their use because they are slow to build up thrust.

However, if you want to get your rocket back, you'll want to watch what type of motor you use. On a calm day a Wizard on a C motor will land back in the field; on a windy day it will be lost. The same goes for an Aerotech Mustang on an F motor. You could try it, but it wouldn't be recommended. Streamers are the recovery system of choice on the windier days. When in doubt, ask the RSO for help in selecting an engine.

Do I have to be a National Association of Rocketry (NAR) member to participate in NIRA events?

No. Anyone can fly at NIRA events. Membership in NIRA is open to any persons interested in sport rocketry. We do, however, encourage you join the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) as a good investment for the serious sport rocket flyer. NIRA is local chapter #117 of the NAR.

If you wish to be certified to fly high power motors you must be a member of either NAR or TRA.

A membership form for the NAR can be found here.

What kind of insurance do I need for flying rockets?

Technically none. You may be covered by your homeowners insurance, but you would be wise to check with your agent. Insurance is provided through the NAR for individual members, and the club is covered at all launches run by the club. In this day and age, you'd probably be wise to have some insurance.

Can I fly my rockets at times or places other than organized NIRA launches?

Of course! But, there are some places that we know about where you can't fly rockets anytime. Cook County Forest Preserves are off limits (you could be arrested, or at a minimum ticketed). Several NIRA members have had unfortunate experiences of this type, and ended up having to pay the fine. There is no leeway in the process; Estes Industries has made several attempts to get this ordinance changed, but with no luck thus far.

We recommend you avoid Cook Country Forest Preserve properties, and seek out other launch sites if you can't wait for one of our regular monthly club launches.

The cities of Wheaton and Glen Ellyn prohibit rockets in all their parks. Check with local officials to find out the restrictions on model rockets before you go launching. And be sure not to inconvenience any ball games; people in DuPage County take their recreation, particularly youth programs, seriously and won't be happy with them interrupted by something as trivial as rocket flying.

Before flying on any park district, school, or forest preserve property, you should check to see if any local ordinances exist which prohibit rocket flying. NIRA members have experienced confusion among public officials mixing model rockets up with fireworks, and virtually all park districts have ordinances banning the latter. Make sure the propery owners understand you are flying model rockets and not fireworks.

DuPage county allows rocket flying only by special permit. That permit is granted only to NIRA.

What, exactly, is a "model rocket" versus a "high power" rocket?

Model Rockets are rockets that conform to the guidelines and restrictions defined in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1122 document. These rockets weigh less than 1500 grams, contain less than 125 grams of total fuel, have no motor with more than 62.5 grams of fuel or more than 160 NS of total impulse, use only pre-manufactured, solid propellant motors, and do not use metal body tubes, nose cones or fins.

High Power Rockets are rockets that exceed the total weight, total propellant or single motor total impulse restrictions of model rockets, but otherwise conform to the same guidelines for construction materials and pre-manufactured, solid propellant motors. High power rockets have no total weight limits, but do have a single motor limit of no more than O power (40,960NS maximum total impulse) and have a total power limitation of 81,920NS total impulse.

What is the current legal status of model and high power rocketry in the US?

This section courtesy of Bob Kaplow. Information as of January, 2012.

FAA Regulations:

Rockets containing less than 125 grams of total fuel and weigh less and 1500 grams do not require any type of FAA notification and are not restricted by the FAA except where they pose a threat to aircraft.

FAA High Power Rockets (weighing more than 3.3 pounds, containing HPR motors, or containing a total of more than 125 grams of fuel) require a formal waiver be approved by the FAA and activated prior to the launch.

CPSC Regulations/Restrictions:

G class model rocket motors are restricted for sale to buyers 18 years of age or older. This includes the sale of G reloadable motors.

Other High Power Restrictions:

You must be high power (HPR) certified to fly high power rockets. The NAR and TRA both have programs for obtaining high power certification. You need to join one or both of these organizations if you want to fly high power rockets. NIRA has the necessary study materials and exams for Level II certification, or you may request those thru the NAR web site.

Under the NAR program, those as young as 14 can HPR certify as long as they are adult supervised.

Unfortunately, NIRA doesn't have access to a HPR site at the moment.