IT’S LAUNCH DAY – WHAT TO EXPECT
Welcome to WSR Launch Day! The following info is here to 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 for the launch should be posted by Friday night (usually by 8pm). This would include changes to start/finish times or cancelations. There should also be an expected weather statement, including wind forecast. This is important because it can play a role in what you intend to fly (very windy days are no time to go for altitude records).
On the morning of the launch, many club members meet at eRockets to load launch equipment. For a high-power launch at Cedarville’s Federal Rd. Field, this can often be the evening before the launch. For low power launches that happen nearby at Rip Rap Rd. Field, loading gear can take as little as 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. It also 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 (like, if you have a truck or minivan, point the back end toward the flying field and set yourself up). At Rip Rap, this will be demonstrated by club members who are already there. DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH THE GRASS except to park. At Cedarville, park at an angle, with your car’s nose towards the creek (PAY ATTENTION). NEVER DRIVE ON THE PLOWED FIELD. And 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 or people 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 authority to deny any flight for safety violations. and that is an absolute authority. The RSO abides 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 push the big red happy button. They make pad assignments (telling flyers which pad to use based on traffic, the requirements of the rocket and motor being used). They control the motion of people in the field (saying when pads are safe so people can recover their launched rockets as well as send waiting flyers to their pads). Occasionally they will tell people who are in the recovery area to stay in place at a safe distance and wait for a launch to happen before returning. We also do this in shifts.
When you’re ready to fly, there will be tables near the flight line that have flight cards. EVERY FLIGHT IS REQUIRED TO HAVE A FLIGHT CARD. You can fill them out at the prep table, or take some back to your spot and fill them out. You’re even welcome to make your own flight cards, pre-filled with your info. Links to sample flight cards are below. When your rocket is ready to launch, come up to the prep table, let the RSO inspect your rocket and sign your card, and then head to the flight line and wait for the LCO to assign your pad. Make sure the RSO signs your card.
The flight card is intended to A) give the LCO enough info to make a good decision on which pad to assign, and B) to have information that will be announced so that the crowd will have what they need to pay attention to for that particular flight. Your 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); as well as if there are clustered motors or if the rocket has stages
- Whether the rocket has been flown before
- If there is anything special or interesting about the rocket or the flight that we need to know (including if it is a heads-up flight)
The flight card is vital to flight safety and to give the LCO everything they need to conduct the flight. For example, and this is an extreme case, let’s say someone fills out a flight card and hands it to the LCO, and the card says they are about to launch a 5′ rocket on an H115DM (Dark Matter) motor. The LCO will then assign them 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 the flyer 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). Depending on the answer, it will let 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 also 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 it’s the rocket’s 100th flight, it’s dedicated to someone, it’s for some kind of competition 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 you to a pad and let you know when you can go out to load your rocket. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not familiar with the pad system. This is especially true with rails.
- Go back to the observation area and watch your rocket fly into the sky!
- When the LCO says so, 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:
- Always listen to the RSO(s) and LCO(s). Their job is to keep everyone safe. And WSR will never compromise on safety.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most everyone will be more than happy to help.
- If you forgot something, don’t be afraid to ask around. Someone will probably be able to help you out.
- Similarly, 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.