The American Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is an aerospace design and engineering event for teams of US secondary school students (6th through 12th grades) run by the NAR and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). Teams can be sponsored by schools or by nonprofit youth organizations such as Scouts, 4-H, or Civil Air Patrol (but not the NAR or other rocketry organizations). The goal of TARC is to motivate students to pursue aerospace as an exciting career field, and it is co-sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers, Estes Industries, the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA. The event involves designing and building a model rocket (650 grams or less in weight, 650 millimeters or more in length using NAR-certified model rocket motors totaling 80 N-sec or less of total impulse) that carries a payload of one Grade A Large egg for a flight duration of 40-43 seconds, and to an altitude of exactly 800 feet (measured by an onboard altimeter), and that then returns the egg to earth by parachute, without cracking it. Onboard timers are allowed; radio-control and pyrotechnic charges are not.
The first seventeen TARC, held in 2003 through 2019, were the largest model rocket contests ever held. Co-sponsored by the NAR and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the seventeen events together attracted 12,090 middle & high-school teams made up of a total of over 70,000 students from all 50 states. These students had a serious interest in learning about aerospace design and engineering through model rocketry. The top 100 teams each year came to a final fly-off competition in mid-May near Washington, DC, to compete for $100,000 in prizes and a free trip to either the Paris or the Farnborough (England) air show in Europe (Farnborough in even years, Paris in odd years). These teams were selected based on the scores reported from qualification flights that they conducted locally throughout the US.
Read about the TARC 2019 National Finals in this Sport Rocketry TARC 2019 Article
The 18th American Rocketry Challenge, TARC 2020, got stopped in mid-March 2020 by the national COVID-19 pandemic, so all of the team registrations have been shifted to 2021, and the event restarted on September 1, 2020 using the same rules as TARC 2020. TARC 2020/2021’s target flight duration of 40-43 seconds is measured from the moment of rocket liftoff until the egg payload capsule lands. The target flight altitude of 800 feet is measured by an onboard electronic altimeter. The top 100 teams from among all those who have entered will meet in a final fly-off competition on May 15, 2021 at Great Meadow, The Plains, VA. These top 100 teams will be selected based on the sum of duration and altitude scores reported from two local qualification flights that they conduct in front of an NAR Senior (adult) member observer at their choice of time up until the flight deadline of April 5, 2021.
The entry forms, contestant handbook, rules, and other details about TARC 2020/2021 are posted on the AIA’s website. The most recent version of the rules and the team handbook are posted at the bottom of this page. Event registration for TARC 2021 (for those teams that were not in TARC 2020 but now want to join the fun) will be open from September 1 until December 13, 2020.
The NAR asks all of its Senior (adult) members and its Sections to take an active role in supporting TARC. This event offers a tremendously rewarding opportunity to teach rocketry skills to bright and enthusiastic young people and to “pay forward” to a new generation of rocketeers for the support that we once received from others when we were starting out in the hobby. Please use the TARC Publicity Handout attached at the bottom of this page to get the word out about TARC. Individual NAR Senior (adult) members can help by being a “mentor” or a “qualification flight observer” (or both).
Mentors are adult (age 21 and above) members of the NAR who volunteer to serve as technical advisors and instructors or coaches to TARC teams. Each TARC team has a school teacher as an advisor; not all of them know much about such rocketry skills as staging and clustering. The role of the mentor is to get teams over the initial learning hump of mastering basic rocketry skills; they are not allowed to help teams with their final contest designs. Mentors may also serve as “qualification flight observers.”
If you want to volunteer as a NAR Mentor, contact NAR TARC Manager Trip Barber.
Qualification flight observers are adult members of the NAR who watch a team’s official “qualification flight” attempt at a mutually convenient time and place sometime before April 5, 2021. The observer verifies that the flight is conducted within event rules and that the egg payload is uncracked after flight, serves as one of the two stopwatch-equipped timers for the flight, and then records the flight duration and altimeter-reported altitude post-flight. He or she signs the official flight-report form, which is then sent in to the AIA. Qualification flight observers are under no obligation to also serve as a mentor to a team, although they may do so. Observers must be impartial; they cannot be related to any member of the team they observe, be employed by the team’s school, or be a member of the team’s sponsoring non-profit organization. Impartial adults may join the NAR (online if desired) simply for the purpose of being an observer, if a team is not otherwise able to locate an NAR adult member. The responsibilities and procedures for being an NAR mentor or observer are explained in our Mentor and Observer Guidelines below. The form to use in observing a TARC qualification flight is also posted below.
NAR Sections can help by listing all of their launches on the NAR “Launch Windows” web page and by providing free access to these launches and use of Section or personal launch equipment for any TARC team that needs to do a test or qualification flight. For a current list of NAR rocket launches, see our “Launch Windows” web page.
Only certain NAR-certified model rocket motors of total impulse class “F” and below are approved for flight use in TARC 2020 – those in current production that are not classified as “high power” per NFPA due to very high thrust or sparky propellant. The list of those that are approved is posted below.
TARC National Finals NAA Brewer Trophy
Recognition for the NAR from TARC
The NAR and our TARC partners at the Aerospace Industries Association have received all five of the most prestigious national and international awards there are for aerospace education and outreach because of what all of us have done in making TARC succeed:
2012 Aviation Week & Space Technology Laureate Award for Workforce
2013 National Aeronautic Association Frank Brewer Trophy for aerospace education
2015 National Coalition of Aerospace Educators Mervin Strickler Award for aerospace educational outreach
2016 Federation Aeronautique Internationale Frank Ehling Diploma for aerospace educational outreach
2020 National Aviation Hall of Fame Spirit of Flight Award for sustained aerospace educational outreach
NAR Site Owner Insurance
TARC teams that need “site owner insurance” (insurance which protects the owner of the land used for a rocket launch) in order to gain access to a flying site for their local test and qualification flights may get this through the NAR, just like NAR Sections (clubs) can do. This insurance is available only for actual landowners (including schools and school boards), not for school officials who are concerned about personal liability. It is available for $15, but only to teams whose teacher supervisor is a member of the NAR, and which have at least three student team members who are members of the NAR. You can apply for site insurance using this printable form.
NAR Membership for Students in TARC Teams
Students who are members of a registered TARC team may join the NAR at the “family member” rate ($13 rather than the normal Junior rate of $25) if their adult teacher is a regular full member of the NAR. Only the teacher will receive the bimonthly NAR magazine, Sport Rocketry. This option is not available online, use the link below to download a printable membership application form.
|TARC 2021 Handbook||August 29, 2020, 4:45 pm||723 KB|
|Mentor and Observer Guidelines 2021||August 29, 2020, 4:45 pm||230 KB|
|TARC Publicity Handout - 2021||August 29, 2020, 4:46 pm||186 KB|
|Event Rules - TARC 2021||Other||August 29, 2020, 4:47 pm||586 KB|
|TARC 2021 Qualification Flight Report Form||August 29, 2020, 4:47 pm||313 KB|
|Rocket Motors Approved for TARC 2021||August 29, 2020, 4:48 pm||187 KB|
|The American Rocketry Challenge 2020-2021 Explained||August 23, 2019, 4:31 pm||635 KB|
|TARC Flight Testing||October 10, 2019, 2:32 am||3 MB|
|Parts for a TARC Rocket (Oct 2019)||November 19, 2019, 2:10 am||262 KB|
|Other||December 17, 2019, 1:22 am||121 KB|