Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Northern Colorado Rocketry?

In May of 2002, the executive committees of Punching Holes in the Sky of Northern Colorado, National Association of Rocketry Section #565, and Tripoli Rocky Mountain, Tripoli Rocketry Association Prefecture #72, believing that one club was stronger and better than the sum of the two separate clubs, voted to merge the two clubs and form Northern Colorado Rocketry club.

Who is eligible to join?

Everyone. There are no membership restrictions. Non members are given a few days of launching to “try us out”. After the introductory launch day, you must join to participate.

Where do you fly?

Northern Colorado Rocketry has two launch sites the Atlas site, formerly PHITS’ launch site, and the North site, formerly TRM’s launch site. Both launch sites are situated about 40 minutes from Fort Collins, CO in the Pawnee National Grasslands.

When do you launch?

NCR’s launch schedule is posted on the Calendar page. Typically, we launch on the first Saturdays of the month during the winter and the second Saturdays from spring to fall with a few first Saturdays and a couple of weekends. As the time approaches an upcoming launch, status information is presented at the top of the home page and is updated frequently.

What should I bring?

Both launch sites are surrounded by many square miles of open prairie. There is no food, water, or toilets. Feel free to bring any of the three, just don’t expect to find them there and be prepared to take out whatever you’ve brought in. The ground on much of the range is covered by prickly pear cacti so wear boots and long pants. Sometimes after it rains, the mosquitoes would make you think you were in a jungle so bring insect repellent. A couple of hours in the sun is usually enough to burn most people’s skin so bring sun protection. And if you plan to launch and recover many rockets, you should wear sun glasses to avoid excessive exposure to your eyes. Bring a garbage sack to put your refuse in because the nearest trash can is at least 12 miles away. Of course, bring your rockets and motors.

What does NCR have for launch equipment?

Typically we set up 16 launch pads with rod sizes from 1/8″ to 1/2″ as well as several rails and three rod towers. The Atlas site features a concrete slab on which the pads are placed. All launchers are remotely controlled from the launch control table with continuity verification on the pad and at the launch control. We are set up to handle virtually all standard launch guidance configurations and therefore discourage bringing your own equipment.

Are there restrictions at either launch site?

Yes. The Atlas site, although better suited for winter and dry weather launches, will not easily accommodate launches with motors larger than K impulse due to the site layout. Also, the Atlas site is covered by a 12,000 ft AGL waiver while the North site is covered by a 20,000 ft AGL waiver. Check the launch schedule on the Calendar page for any other restrictions.

How large is your recovery range?

The range at the Atlas site is about 1.5 miles wide and 2.5 miles long, or about 3 square miles. The range at the North site is considerably larger, including nearly 93,000 acres of public lands. Maps of the launch sites can be accessed through the Launch Site page.

What are the benefits of joining the club?

The first and most obvious benefit is that you can continue launching with us. Your dues are used primarily to maintain and improve the launch equipment and other launch related services. In addition to a comprehensive set of launch equipment, the club owns and maintains an assortment of motor hardware and hybrid ground support equipment. For more details about benefits, check out the Membership page.

How can I join?

Simply fill out a membership form and mail it with the first year’s dues and initiation fee to the address on the Membership form. Or bring the form and your payment to the next launch.

Whether you are a model rocketeer flying A, B, C or even G motors, or you’re a seasoned L3 flying multiple M and N motors every year or even if you’re a Tripoli Research Nut building O, P, Q or even bigger motors, Northern Colorado Rocketry has something to offer you.
In order to join, you “should” be a Tripoli or NAR member, although that is purely optional unless you want to fly H motors or larger You should be somewhere between 6 and 116 years old, and willing to pay $50 to join up for the first year and $25 per year for each year thereafter or a $125 fee for life membership.(Unless you’re under $18 and there is NO life membership and yearly dues are only $5)

What does it cost to join?

Adults pay $25 annually plus a one time $25 initiation fee. Junior members (under 18) pay $5 annually with no initiation fee.  Due to the cost for support, NCR now charges a registration fee for the spring and fall multi-day launches. There are sometimes membership/launch registration fee packages offered at these launches that represent a savings over paying the fees separately.

Why should I join a national organization?

The first big benefit of membership in the National Association of Rocketry and/or Tripoli Rocketry Association is insurance. If you are a member of NCR, your rocketry related activities while you are at club launches are insured by the club policy. If you have a mishap while launching in the field near your house, you will NOT be covered by the club policy. NAR or Tripoli insurance covers all rocketry related activities carried out in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and safety guidelines no matter where you are.
The most popular benefit is, of course, certification. Motor dealers will not sell motors larger than G impulse to persons not presenting proof of certification. The NAR and Tripoli rocket organizations are the only groups authorized to certify flyers.
Finally, the national organizations are advocacy groups and constantly working to maintain the character and integrity of our hobby.

Do I need to be a member of NAR or Tripoli to join NCR?

No, but you cannot launch high power rockets (anything in excess of G impulse) without being a member of the NAR or Tripoli and appropriately certified. Proof of certification and current membership may be required.

What does the RSO do?

The range safety officer (RSO) is responsible for compliance with all NAR and Tripoli safety guidelines as well as for the orderly conduct of the launch. The RSO has the final word on any issue affecting the safety of the launch. His or her word is final and cannot be questioned for any reason.

What does the LCO do?

The launch control officer (LCO) is responsible for activities on the pad including actually launching the rockets. All rockets must be checked by the LCO prior to being loaded on a launch pad.

How many people normally come to NCR’s launches?

NCR (and the two clubs that merged to form NCR) normally sees participation by as few as 15 and as many as 50 people. They are usually accompanied by friends, children, and myriad other spectators. The spring and fall 3-day launches can attract even larger crowds.

Who can participate at NCR launches?

Of course all club members and their immediate families are welcome to participate. Non members are given one day of launching to “try us out”. After the introductory launch day, you must join to participate. To join, check out the Membership page.

What kind of weather will cause a launch cancellation?

Launch activities are constrained by NAR safety guidelines as well as the Federal Aviation Administration. Winds in excess of 20 mph, low clouds, or precipitation of any type will close the range to launching.
Also, weather that prevents volunteers from getting to the range or setting up the equipment will cause cancellation.
Finally, the US Forest Service may cancel any launch if there is excessive fire danger.

Are there limitations as to what rockets I may bring?

You may only launch rockets using motors that are currently certified for use by the NAR or Tripoli and you must hold certification appropriate for those motors. Scratch built rockets and rockets from kits launching with larger than recommended motors MUST have their stability verified prior to launch. Rockets built without modification from kits and launched with the manufacturer’s recommended motors usually are exempt from the need for pre-verified stability. All rockets must comply with NAR and Tripoli safety guidelines for construction, material content, and payloads.

What is a waiver and do I need one?

The “high power rocket” is defined not only by the NAR but also by the FAA. An altitude waiver is a certificate issued by the FAA which needs to be activated any time a high power rocket is to be launched into controlled air space. It does not give the user exclusive rights for the use of the airspace above the launch site, it only gives permission to use the airspace within the constraints of the certificate. Yes, you do need one to launch a high power rocket just about anywhere in the United States. Fortunately, you are covered by the club’s waiver whenever you are launching at an NCR launch. It is a Federal crime to launch a rocket that will exceed the waiver altitude. Check the Calendar page for the waiver altitude for each launch. A copy of the waiver document is kept in the RSO’s notebook.

How can I tell how high my rocket will go?

There are a variety of simulation programs available. A reasonably good on-line (free) version can be found at Calendar page. RockSim from Apogee Components is a very good simulator used by many club members.

What is considered high power rocketry?

Any rocket having a motor or motors with a total impulse in excess of 160 Newton seconds (a G motor) is considered a high power rocket.

What are level 1, 2, and 3 motors?

Level 1
H motor 160 – 320 Nsec (Newton seconds total impulse)
I motor 320 – 640 Nsec

Level 2
J motor 640 – 1280 Nsec
K motor 1280 – 2560 Nsec
L motor 2560 – 5120 Nsec

Level 3
M motor 5120 – 10240 Nsec
N motor 10240 – 20480 Nsec
O motor 20480 – 40960 Nsec

Why do I need high power certification?

If you want to launch rockets with motors in excess of G impulse, you must be certified by the National Association of Rocketry or Tripoli Rocketry Association. To launch high power motors at an NCR launch, you must be certified by the NAR or Tripoli. Also commercial motor distributors will not sell motors to persons not presenting high power certification for the motor being purchased. Access to larger motors enables launching larger rockets or the same rockets to higher altitudes.

Waiver Rules

NCR has two regular launch sites with FAA waivers in place. We have striven to provide the highest waivers we can get approved by the FAA for both sites.

Atlas Site

At the Atlas site, we have a standing 12,000′ AGL waiver. No higher waiver is available due to the proximity of the nearby highway (CO HWY 14).

Pawnee North Site

Our premiere launch site, one of the best in the entire United States, has a standing waiver of 20,000′ AGL with call-in windows to 35,000′ AGL available during our annual multi-day launches, Mile High Mayhem and Oktoberfest.

Special Rules for flights over 25K AGL

As NCR is a Tripoli Prefecture, we are required to conform to Tripoli rules even though our launches are only sanctioned by NAR. This means that all flights exceeding 25K AGL are required to either submit their flight plan to Tripoli for board of directors approval (Tripoli Members only) or to file a proper flight plan with the FAA AST office. Apparently NAR was overlooked in the process of negotiating flight rules above 25K AGL and to date, NAR has not made any arrangement with FAA for review of flights above that flight level. Legally, all non-Tripoli flyers MUST file a flight plan with the FAA through the AST office if they expect to fly over 25K at an NCR sanctioned launch. See Joe Hinton or Warren Musselman for further details.