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 42-45 seconds, and to an altitude of exactly 850 feet (measured by an onboard altimeter), and that then returns the egg to earth safely, without cracking it. Onboard autonomous control systems are allowed; radio-control and pyrotechnic charges are not.
TARC is entering its 21st year — TARC 2023. It is the largest model rocket contest ever held. Co-sponsored by the NAR and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the first 20 years of TARC together attracted 14,429 middle & high-school teams made up of a total of over 85,000 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 come to a final fly-off competition held 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 are selected based on the scores reported from qualification flights that they conduct locally throughout the US by April 3, 2023
Read about the TARC 2021 National Finals in this Sport Rocketry Article on TARC 2021
Check out this great TARC promotional video about the TARC 2022 Finals from the NAR’s AIA partners.
The entry forms, rules, and other details about TARC 2023 are posted on the AIA’s website. The most recent version of the rules and the team handbook is posted at the bottom of this page. Event registration for TARC 2023 is open from May 18 until December 1, 2022. The TARC 2023 National Finals will be held on May 20, 2023 at its normal site, the Great Meadow facility in The Plains, VA (45 miles west of Washington, DC).
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.” See the excellent lessons-learned presentation below for advice on mentoring.
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 3, 2023. 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 – 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
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
NAA Brewer Trophy
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 ($20 rather than the normal Junior rate of $30) if their adult teacher is a regular full member of the NAR. Only the teacher will receive the bimonthly NAR magazine, Sport Rocketry. This membership option is not available online, please call NAR Headquarters at 319-373-8910.
|TARC 2023 Handbook||June 12, 2022, 4:12 pm||2 MB|
|Mentor and Observer Guidelines 2023||June 12, 2022, 4:28 pm||230 KB|
|TARC Publicity Handout - 2023||June 12, 2022, 4:32 pm||185 KB|
|Event Rules - TARC 2023||May 21, 2022, 1:15 am||332 KB|
|TARC 2023 Qualification Flight Report Form||June 12, 2022, 4:11 pm||230 KB|
|Rocket Motors Approved for TARC 2023||June 12, 2022, 4:11 pm||185 KB|
|TARC Flight Testing||October 10, 2019, 2:32 am||3 MB|
|Parts for a TARC Rocket||November 19, 2019, 2:10 am||262 KB|
|Northville HS Presentation - 1st Place in TARC 2021 Presentation Competition||August 7, 2021, 8:35 pm||917 KB|
|TARC Lessons Learned - Pinkas (Jan 2021)||November 21, 2021, 4:38 pm||4 MB|
|Cary Academy Presentation - 1st Place in TARC 2022 Presentation Competition||May 21, 2022, 1:17 am||818 KB|