Frequently Asked Questions

In July of 2023, model rocketry enthusiasts from all over the world will gather in Texas for the FAI World Championships for Space Models. Since the announcement that the United States was awarded the bid to host the Championships, US Team members have been fielding questions from interested individuals about the event and how they might participate. We’ll tackle a few of the most frequent asked questions here.

What is the FAI? The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) is the world sanctioning body for airsports, overseeing events as varied as parachuting, sailplanes, general aviation, aeromodelling, and even space flight. When Charles Lindbergh landed the “Spirit of St. Louis” in Paris after the first successful solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, the FAI was on hand to officially certify the flight. Model rocketry is formally known as “space modeling” in the international world, and falls under the aeromodelling category of FAI activity, along with radio control, drone, and free flight aviation disciplines.

What are the World Space Modeling Championships? The World Space Modeling Championships are essentially the Olympics of competition model rocketry, with eight events being contested. Competitors take part both as individuals and as members of national teams in each event. Commonly referred to by the informal acronym “WSMC,” the World Championships are held every two years, and countries bid for the right to host the international community. The first WSMC took place in the former Yugoslavia in 1972, so the 2023 event will commemorate the 50th (+1) anniversary of that first Championships.

Has the WSMC ever taken place in the US before? Yes, the United States has hosted the Championships twice before, in 1980 and 1992. The 1980 event was held in Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Melbourne, Florida was the site for the 1992 event.

What are the events? A World Championships features eight disciplines, each known by a cryptic FAI alphanumeric designation:

  • Parachute Duration (S3)
  • Rocket Boost Glider Duration (S4)
  • Scale Altitude (S5),
  • Streamer Duration (S6)
  • Scale (S7)
  • Radio Control Rocket Glilder (S8)
  • Helicopter Duration (S9)
  • Precision Altitude/Precision Duration/Fragile Payload (S2/P)

That last event is a bit of a mouthful, but it is essentially a metric version of The American Rocketry Challenge (TARC). The altitude target is a bit higher at 300 meters and the target time is 60 seconds, but the “fragile payload” (an egg!) is the same. No one is better equipped to excel in the S2/P event than the TARC teams with whom NAR mentors work!

Is this just for adults, or can younger people take part? There are separate Senior and Junior competitions. In the FAI world a competitor is a Junior up to and including the calendar year they turn 18. So, if you turn 18 in 2023, you can fly as a Junior Team member. Anyone older than that can try out for the Senior team. By the way, participation on a national Team looks great on a college or scholarship application.

Can I take part? Absolutely! The US Team Selection Event will take place immediately prior to NARAM in July, 2022. Watch this space in the coming months for more details. We hope to have an immense US Team, and the rules allow each country to field as many as 64 competitors. There will also be a wide range of volunteer opportunities available, ranging from timekeepers to contest administrators.

Do I need special motors? Absolutely not! The 2023 World Championships will use commonly available rocket motors for all events. Equity in motor access was a cornerstone of the US bid to host this Championships, and standard single-use motors from Estes and Aerotech will be used by all competitors. This will also free foreign participants from the burden and expense of shipping motors to the contest site.

Can we bring our own motors? No, only rocket motors certified and legal for sale, transport, and use in the US will be allowed for this championship (“NAR Certified Motors”). This means that each competitor will be using the same motors as every other competitor, ensuring a level playing field and impeccably fair Championships. The “arms race” associated with motor making and sourcing will be eliminated. This will also relieve the competitors of the logistical burden and expense of shipping motors to the contest site. For the S2/P and S7 events, a wide range of possible motors will be available, and may be ordered from the organizers in advance of the contest as appropriate for their models. Detailed information including thrust curves and dimensions will be published well in advance of the contest.

How do I learn more? The NAR website has a very comprehensive collection of materials related to FAI-style flying, including rocket plans, event specific tips, and sources for parts. There’s also info on how to get in touch with event specialists who can guide you through some of the trickier parts of preparing for the Team selection event.

Why have you chosen the S2/P Precision Duration event instead of S1 Altitude? The S2/P event is permitted for Class 1 events per the FAI Sporting Code. S2/P is a very popular event in the US, and a very similar event is the basis for the successful American Rocketry Challenge, a student event administered annually by the National Association of Rocketry. The S2/P event also uses more powerful motors than traditional spacemodeling disciplines, resulting in a dynamic, exciting, telegenic event with high spectator appeal. It can also be flown and administered much more quickly than the traditional S1 event. S2/P also simulates the restrictive engineering and mission requirements of an actual aerospace program to a much greater degree than the S1 Altitude event.

Why is this event not being held during the traditional late-August period? We have chosen the early July dates based on the US academic calendar, coupled with weather considerations. By 1 July of each year all elementary and primary schools in the US have closed for summer vacations and begin to reopen by late July. More importantly, the July dates will allow for maximum participation by both volunteers and US Junior competitors. Increased Junior participation is a critical goal for our bid. Early July is warm in Texas, but bearable. Late August is very, very hot.

Will it be expensive to travel and attend? Every effort is being made to deliver a great Championships for the competitors at reasonable cost, primarily using economical dorm-style housing. We have also secured some sponsorships to reduce the cost and will be seeking more. However, competitors should plan well in advance for travel expenses that are greater than most World and European Championships.