Monday, March 16, 2009

NAR / TRA Legal Victory!

Since every other rocketry blog on the planet has done a celebratory post, I might as well too...
Basically, the NAR and TRA (poor Triploi, always listed behind the NAR) have officially won. BAFTE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) was declared to be 'arbitrary and capricious' by Reggie B. Walton, US Circuit Court Judge. Although it's not 100 percent final - BAFTE may still file appeals, or try to sneakily rewrite the laws, it's a huge victory for scientific facts over a government agency that, although certainly interested in national security, went way overboard.

In this case, this scientific truth is that high-power rocket motors are not explosive - they are designed to fire a rocket forward, not to explode, and that they're not usable for weaponry. A common M67 hand grenade, for example, has 6.5 oz - 184g - of explosives, which detonate in well under a hundreth of a second. An Aerotech 38mm H73J has 185.6g of APCP, which burns in 2.6s, over 250 times the burn time. The M67 frag grenade has a casualty radius of 15 meters, or about 49 feet. Even with the approximately 1% CATO rate of reloads like the H73, they can legally be ignited from 50 feet away, which would be risking nasty injuries with an M67.

HPR motors are also not useful for homemade weaponry, like say a homemade anti-aircraft missile - they're just not powerful enough. Almost no one in model and high-power rocketry is experimenting with active guidance systems, and those that exist are probably rudimentary at best. The reason that model and high-power rockets work so well is that they're light and can work on smallish motors and guided only by static fins. They simply don't have the power to lift warheads and active guidance systems. Take the common Stinger shoulder-launched missile, for example. It's 1.52m (5 feet) long and weighs about 23 pounds. It has an effective range of over 15000 feet, which means it packs probably an L motor, if not more. A model rocket of that size would have about a 29mm motor mount, maybe an F or G maximum, and reach maybe 3000 feet and far less than the Mach 2.2 of the Stinger. The Stinger is responsible for at least 270 confirmed aircraft kills; model rockets are responsible for none.

This decision means that LEUPs (Low Explosive User Permits) and explosive storage magazines will likely no longer be required for at least smaller HPR motors, plus that nasty 62.5g propellant limit will be gone, which means lower prices and more availability for F and G motors.

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