IT’S LAUNCH DAY
WHAT TO EXPECT
Welcome to WSR Launch Day! The following info will familiarize you with how we run a launch, and how you can maximize your time and contribute to the smooth running of the event. Once you’ve done it a few times, it will become second nature.
The Go/No Go is announced around 8pm on the Friday night before the launch. It may include changes to start/finish times. It will include an expected weather and wind forecast. This can play a role in what or how you intend to fly.
On the morning of the launch, many club members meet at eRockets to load launch equipment. Sometimes we preload on Friday evening for a high-power launch. For low power launches, loading gear can take as little as 20-30 minutes.
Setup at Federal Rd. takes around an hour, and just 30-40 minutes for Rip Rap. We ask that you arrive early enough to help out. This gives you a chance to become familiar with the equipment and the process.
When you arrive at the field, pay attention to where and how others are parked. Set yourself and your gear up in a similar fashion to everyone else. At Rip Rap, DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH THE GRASS except to park. At Cedarville, CAREFULLY park at an angle, with your car’s nose towards the creek. NEVER DRIVE ON THE PLOWED FIELD. If you need to retrieve a rocket from the other side of the creek, you will need to drive back out to the road and go down the other side of the culvert, staying on the grass until you can get your rocket. If you need special mobility accommodations in the parking area, please let us know far enough ahead of time to try to figure something out.
We’ll do a flyers’ meeting at the LCO table just before the beginning of the launch window, where we have a safety briefing and give the pertinent info for the day. (The common parts of the safety briefing can be found here.) We will also try to catch latecomers and brief them.
RSO stands for Range Safety Officer. This person is responsible for the safety of the launch event during their shift. The way we run launches, senior club members take shifts acting as RSO. The responsibility of the RSO is to inspect rockets (especially large or high-power rockets, and those of visitors or first-timers) to make sure they are built well and that any safety rules that are in place are being followed. The biggest responsibility and privilege of the RSO is that they have the absolute authority to deny any flight for any reason. The RSO ensures we abide by the NAR Model Rocket Safety Code and the NAR High-Power Safety Code.
LCO stands for Launch Control Officer. That’s the person who manages the flight line. They primarily push the Big Red Button on the launch controller. They also make pad assignments and control the motion of people in the field. We do this in shifts as well.
There will be tables near the flight line that have flight cards. A FLIGHT CARD IS REQUIRED FOR EVERY FLIGHT. You can fill them out at the prep table, or take a whole bag back to your spot and fill them out. You’re even welcome to make your own flight cards, pre-filled with your info; sample flight cards are available on our Groups.io site in the Files area. The flight card should include at a minimum:
- Your name and NAR number (if you have one)
- Your rocket’s name
- What kind of guide you need (1/8”, 3/16”, ¼” rods, 1010 or 1515 rails)
- How the rocket recovers, INCLUDING if you are using electronic deployment (and at what altitude your main recovery device will be deployed)
- Exactly what kind of motor(s) you have installed (including propellant type for composites) and if there are clustered motors or if the rocket has multiple stages
- Whether the rocket has been flown before
- Special or interesting info about the rocket or the flight that we need to know
The flight card is vital to flight safety and to give the LCO everything they need to conduct your flight. For example (and this is an extreme case), let’s say the flight card indicates you are about to launch a 5′ rocket on an H115DM (Dark Matter) motor. The LCO will assign you to the high-power pads (often called the “away cell” to assure clear distance per the NAR HPR Safety Code). Since this is a “sparky” motor you will need to assemble a 2-person fire team to go to the pad after the launch to make sure the field doesn’t catch fire. There should be some info on deployment, such as if they are using dual deployment (either full electronic or a Chute Release) and at what altitude the main should deploy. This lets the LCO know what to expect during the recovery part of the flight, so people aren’t getting worried that the chute didn’t come out, and not to reach for the alarm horn too quickly. The flight card can also tell us useful info like if this is a certification attempt (so the LCO can make sure the witnesses are ready). They can announce a heads-up flight, meaning there is something unique about the flight which should warrant everyone’s undivided attention during the flight (this is somewhat rare and is used VERY sparingly, especially on high-power launches). It can also be fun info like a flight milestone (the rocket’s 100th flight), a dedication or memorial flight, a competition/contest flight where timers are needed, and so on.
So when it’s time to fly:
- Prep your rocket for launch at your personal prep area by your vehicle.
- Fill out your flight card.
- Present your rocket to the RSO (Range Safety Officer) or a senior member of the club for inspection. Be prepared to answer any questions and to correct any issues they bring up. They will initial your flight card.
- Head to the flight line and wait for the LCO to start accepting flight cards. They will assign your pad and let you proceed to load your rocket. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not familiar with how to use the pads.
- Go back to the observation area and watch your rocket fly into the sky!
- When the LCO declares the range is safe, go recover your rocket.
At the end of the launch window, please consider staying to help tear down. Many hands make light work. Always clean up your area. Leave the site at least as clean as you found it.
Other important things to remember:
- Please pay attention to what’s going on around you. In the unlikely event that the LCO has initiated the alarm horn, if you can see the rocket coming inbound please point to it so people will know where to look, and prepare to take cover if the rocket or its parts are headed for the flight line or parking area.
- Always listen to the RSO(s) and LCO(s). Their job is to keep everyone safe. WSR will never compromise on safety.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you need or forgot something, ask around. Someone will probably be able to help you out, especially the club officers.
- In return, if someone asks for help and you can, please do so.
- Have fun!
As you attend more launches, you’ll become more familiar with the terminology and the process, but the senior club members are always available to answer any question you might have.