Northern Illinois
Rocketry Association

NAR Section 117

NIRA's History and Mythology

The club now known as NIRA was named the Glen Ellyn Rocket Society (GERS) by Scott Godron of the Glen Ellyn Toy & Card shop (retired from Amoco) when it was founded in 1963. Meetings were held at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center. Dues were 25 cents per month.

The club's main annual event was a Labor Day launch held at South Park (now Newton Park). Regular club launches were held at North Park (now Ackerman Park).

Sometime during the late 60s or early 70s the 67 existing NAR sections were alphabetized and assigned numbers from 101-167. GERS was designated section #117. GERS/NIRA has been continuously chartered since 1963, making it one of the oldest NAR sections in the country. No one really knows who the oldest is. Only a handful of those original clubs remain, and some of them have gaps in their history.

In 1975 GERS hosted a regional contest at Fermilab.

Name Change

In 1976, GERS changed its name and became the Northern Illinois Rocketry Association. The change was motivated largely in hopes of appealing to rocketeers from a wider area. That's how our number came to be out of alpha order with the remaining original sections.

Six years of Rockwell trophy winners:

In 1979 the club newsletter, The Leading Edge, was resurrected under Ric Gaff with assistance from Mark Bundick, Bob Kaplow, and others. The Leading Edge went on to win six North American Rockwell trophies under four different editors.

NIRA Dominates Competitions

NIRA dominated national competitions as the National Champion section in 1985, 1986, and 1987, and reserve champion in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1988. NIRA hosted NARAM-28 and NARAM-33. Several members were national champions during that period.

In 1991, along with NARAM-33, NIRA hosted NAR's first ever HPR launch under ORDs controlled airspace. We received a waiver to 1,700', which allowed us to fly big, draggy rockets that don't go very high. The largest rocket flown was a LOC Bruiser on a K550 motor.

During the 1990s NIRA hosted Midwest Regional Fun Fest (MRFF) sport launches, which often had nearly 1000 rockets launches in the weekend.

New Field, New Meeting Space

During the 90s NIRA lost both its original flying field, and its original meeting space. The club end up as nomads for several years before finding a home with the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

Watch the Grass Grow began during this timeframe at the Harvard sod farm, and eventually moved to the Richard Bong State Recreation Area in Wisconsin. The event is now run by the Wisconsin Organization Of Spacemodeling Hobbyists (WOOSH). NIRA received the first ever HPR waiver for Bong. Both WOOSH and the Fox Valley Rocketeers (FVR) have spun off from NIRA as club members outside the DuPage County area reached critical mass and organized their own clubs.