Model and High Power Rocketry

Code Analysis

 

The Issue:

            With the recent passage of the Safe Explosive Act (Nov 25, 2002) under Homeland Security, a permit is now required to use and/or store Model and High Power Rocket Motors.

 

The Hobby:

            Model rocketry started during the “space race” and has attracted over 80,000 members since it first began back in the 60’s.  The hobby of rocketry is governed by two national organizations: National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and Tripoli Rocketry Association (TRA) and draws from all walks of life and from young to old.  It is broken down into two distinct groups Model and High Power.

 

Model Rocketry:

Model rockets are constructed from materials -- such as cardboard, plastic, and balsa wood -- and are fueled by single-use or re-loadable rocket motors manufactured by certified businesses. These rockets may be flown over and over simply by replacing the used motor with a fresh one. They typically contain a parachute, streamer, or other recovery device that allows them to land gently for later re-flight. Model rockets weigh less than 3.3 pounds and use motors with less then 62.5 grams of propellant.

 

High Power rocketry:

Like model rockets, high power rockets are typically made of non-metallic materials such as cardboard, plastic, wood and fiberglass. Launching of high power rockets requires more preparation than launching model rockets. Not only is a larger field needed, but Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearance must be arranged well in advance of the launch date.  High power rocket engines cannot be purchased over the counter by the general consumer. Typical hobby stores do not carry them. They can be mail-ordered by adult modelers who are certified to purchase and use them. High Power Rockets weigh more then 3.3 pounds and use motors with more then 62.5 grams of propellant. The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) classifies rocket motors over 62.5 grams as a low explosives.

 

Types of rocket motors:

Model rocket motors are typically made of Black Powder but can be made from composite materials such as ammonium perchlorate with a rubber binder commonly referred to as Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant (APCP). The rubber also serves as the fuel (MSDS attached).  Different additives can be used to create effects like sparks or colored flames.  All high power rocket motors are APCP. Typically, APCP burns at a rate of about 0.04 inches per second under atmospheric pressure. Black powder burns at about 6.5 inches per second under atmospheric pressure. Under this condition APCP burns at less than 1% the rate of black powder. The burn rate of black powder goes up dramatically under pressure. For example, black powder burns at about 2700 inches per second under a few hundred psi of pressure. Under the same conditions, APCP burns at about 0.3 inches per second or less than 0.012% the burn rate of black powder

 

History:

Prior to the passage of the Safe Explosive Act, high power rocket motors could be ordered from licensed dealers, which then would deliver the motors to the launch site where they were then used by certified rocketeers. This system was approved by the ATF.

 

Recent Restrictions:

With the passage of The Safe Explosive Act, permits are now required to use and/or to store rocket motors over 62.5 grams. These permits are called Low Explosive Use Permits (LEUP) and are issued by the ATF. Part of the requirement for a LEUP is for storage approved by local fire authority having jurisdiction. 

 

Codes governing storage of Rocket motors:

 

Federal Law: Code of Federal Regulations

But they recognize the impact of the above regulation goes beyond the intent with regard to the hobby of sport rocketry as is indicated below:

 

State Law: California Code of regulations

    Title 19: Public Safety, Division 1: State fire Marshal, Chapter 6: Fireworks:

Article 16: Experimental Rockets/Unlimited

            Article 17: Model Rockets

Article 18: Experimental High Power Rockets and Motors

The only one that mentions anything about storage is Article 17, and it is very vague on storage.  But it does make mention of NFPA 1122 in other areas.

 

California Fire Code (2001)

 

Article 77: Explosive Materials (does not talk specifically about rocket motors)

7702.3.3 Location. “Magazines for the storage of low explosives shall be located in accordance with nationally recognized standards” (NFPA?)

 

Also in the California Fire Code:

 

Part 1, Section 101.3: Subjects Not Specifically Regulated by this Code.  “Where no applicable standards or requirements are set forth in this code or contained within other laws, codes, regulations, ordinances or bylaws adopted by the jurisdiction, compliance with applicable standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or other nationally recognized fire safety standards as are approved shall be deemed as prima facie evidence of compliance with the intent of this code”.

 

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 

 

NFPA 1122: Model Rockets (motors less then 62.5 grams)

Section 4.20        Residential Storage of Model Rocket Motors and Motor Components.

 

4.20.1         Not more then 23kg (50lb) net weight of solid propellant model rocket motors,                               motor reloading kits, or motor components shall be stored at a residence.

 

4.20.2             Not more than 11kg (25lb) net weight of solid propellant model rocket motors, motor     reloading kits, or motor components shall be stored at a residence shall be permitted to be stored in the living quarters     

 

NFPA 1127:  High Power Rocketry: (motors over 62.5 grams)

Section 4.19 Storage of High Power Rocket Motors, Motor Reloading Kits, and  

                     Pyrotechnic Modules

 

4.19.1            High power rocket motors, motor reloading kits, and pyrotechnic modules shall be stored at least 7.6 m (25 ft) from smoking, open flames and other sources of heat.

 

4.19.2          Not more than 23 kg (50 lb) of net propellant weight of high power rocket motors, motor reloading kits, and pyrotechnic modules subject to storage requirements of 27CFR 55 shall be stored in a Type 3 or Type 4 indoor magazine.

 

4.19.2.1    The indoor magazine shall be painted red and the top shall bear the following words in white letters at least 76mm  (3 in) high: EXPLOSIVES – KEEP FIRE AWAY

 

4.19.2.2     The indoor magazine shall not be located in a residence.(See 4.19.2.4)

 

4.19.2.3     The indoor magazine shall be permitted to be located in a detached garage or out building             

 

4.19.2.4      The indoor magazine shall be permitted to be located in an attached garage of a single-family residence where approved by the authority having jurisdiction and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

 

4.19.2.5      Pyrotechnic high power solid rocket propellant rocket motors, motor reloading kits, modules, or any other solid propellant motor products that are exempt under 27CFR 55 shall be stored in a re-closeable, noncombustible container.

 

4.19.3            Large quantity storage shall comply with both of the following requirements:

1) Quantities greater then 22.7 kg (50 lb) of net propellant weight of high power rocket motors, motor reloading kits, or pyrotechnic modules subject to storage requirements of 27CFR 55 shall be stored in a Type 4 or greater outdoor magazine.

2) The Type 4 or greater magazine shall meet the distance requirement s of table 4.19.3. (Note: 75 feet or greater)

 

4.19.4            High power rocket motors, motor reloading kits and pyrotechnic modules shall be stored in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, regulations, statutes, and ordinances.

 

4.19.5            A high power rocket motor shall not be stored with an ignition element installed.

 

The request:

I would like a permit to store up to 50 pounds of High Power Rocket motors (motors over 62.5 grams) in an attached garage in either a Type 3 or Type 4 magazine. I have met all the requirements of State and local codes and meet the requirements of NFPA 1127. I shall apply for a LEUP from the ATF. The following are not required but add to the safety for emergency personnel and my family. I have a one-hour firewall between my garage and the living quarters. I will provide (at least) a 2A10BC fire extinguisher in my garage. I will post “No Smoking” signs. I will install a single station smoke detector in the garage. I would also like to have a Premises File made up for my address in the 911 Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system to alert all emergency responders to the location of the magazine and it’s contents.

 

Fireman’s diamond numbers (NFPA 704) for rocket motors are:

Health: 2

Fire Hazard: 1

Reactivity: 2

Specific Hazard: Blank

 

Information Supplied:

MSDS for Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant (APCP)

ATF’s “High Power rocketry” briefing paper

ATF’s ruling #2002-3

Site Plans

Burnable Samples

 

[Your Name]

[Street Address]

[City State Zip]

[Telephone Number]