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How Does a Launch Event Function?

By Dan Stroud

 

Good question.
The club sponsoring the event sets up the launch site. They should have all the equipment needed to launch the rockets (unless special equipment is needed).

 

To familiarize yourself with a launch setup, it would be a great idea to get there early and help them set it up. Since many events will go all day long and two-day events are not uncommon, they always need volunteers. Be sure to take food and water if no food vendors are going to be there.

There will be:

  • A parking/setup area. People often bring pop up canopies to shade them from the sun.

  • A flight line barrier. A line, tape, or flags will indicate the separation between the viewing area and flying field.

  • A check in area. Here you check in and pay the launch fee for the day, if there is one (generally $5.00 - 15.00 per day, except for large national events).

  • The launch operation area. Here you'll find the control equipment that operates the ignition system for each launch pad, the PA system, and a board indicating the launch pads, which each flyer's Flight Card will be pinned to once assigned a pad.

  • The safety inspection area. This is where each rocketeer presents their rocket for inspection prior to each flight.

  • Vendors. Sometimes areas are reserved for vendors they know are coming. Some of the bigger events will have motor vendors, rocket vendors and food vendors. Check ahead of time as everyone will need to bring food and drinks if a food vendor isn't going to be present.

Everyone arrives and sets up an area where they can prepare rockets. First come, first served is generally the rule (be courteous and don't take up more space than you'll need). When your rocket is ready you fill out a Flight Card and take it and your rocket to the safety inspection area.

 

Once the rocket has been checked and OK'd by the Range Safety Officer (RSO) you can take your rocket and your flight card to the range head (the launch operation area) and wait to be assigned a pad.

The Pad Managers will assign you a pad when the launch range is clear. You can then head out and prepare your rocket for launch.

 

When rockets are ready on the pads and the range is clear again the Launch Control Officer (LCO) will launch the rockets one by one. The LCO will first read the information on the Flight Card, ask you if you're ready if it's special launch, begin the countdown and launch the rocket. If you'd like to push the button yourself, all you have to do is ask.