Government Launches Crackdown on Model Rockets

rec.models.rockets,alt.politics.bush,talk.politics.misc,alt.fan.rush-limbaugh,alt.politics.democrats.d,alt.politics.liberalism,
May 7, 2004 PAGE ONE Explosive Debate: Should U.S. Check Up On Model Rockets?
Under 9/11 Law, ATF Keeps Tabs on Propellant Buyers; Feds Visit Al's Hobby Shop
By ROBERT BLOCK Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL May 7, 2004; Page A1
ELMHURST, Ill. -- Al's Hobby Shop in this leafy corner of suburban Chicago is always packed with mothers looking for Cub Scout badges, teenagers ogling imported slot cars and grown men playing with model trains.
But to federal law-enforcement officials, Al's is also a possible terrorist supply depot. And so, last October, a special agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was sent to Al's from Washington to buy $1,700 in model rocket motors.
"The guy told me that the government wanted to do some tests," recalls Tim Lehr, who sold the agent 40 motors containing almost 60 pounds of propellant. "He wouldn't say what the tests were for, but I could guess: The government wanted to ruin my hobby."
Since the passage of the initial post-9/11 antiterrorism laws in October 2001, hobby rocketry has been struggling to avoid regulation that enthusiasts say will destroy their sport, deter youngsters from pursuing an interest in science and waste the nation's limited law-enforcement resources. The Department of Justice says that federal agents need to keep an eye on who is buying model rockets because the toys are potentially dangerous and could be adapted by terrorists to attack airplanes and American soldiers.
At the heart of the problem is a long-running dispute between hobbyists and the ATF, which is part of the Justice Department, over how to legally classify the chemicals used to propel rockets. Ammonium perchlorate composite propellant, better known as APCP, is a rubbery mixture of resins, powdered metals and salts that ignites at 500 degrees Fahrenheit and burns like a road flare on steroids. It's the same fuel that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses in the solid rocket boosters on the space shuttle.
For hobby rockets, APCP comes in the form of pellets wrapped in cardboard about an inch in diameter and three inches long. The cylinders, which start at $12.50 apiece and can go up into the hundreds of dollars, can be stacked in reusable aluminum casings to power larger rockets.
Rocketeers have always maintained that APCP doesn't detonate, it deflagrates. That is, it burns intensely at a controlled rate. Since 1971, however, the ATF has branded APCP as a "low explosive" subject to regulation and licensing by the bureau. In practice, the ATF largely ignored the rocketeers as long as they weren't selling or buying APCP across state lines.
With new fears about national security after 9/11, President Bush signed the Safe Explosives Act, an antiterrorism law contained in the bill that created the Department of Homeland Security. In effect for a year, the law now requires permits for all purchases of rocket motors and all explosives, including APCP.
Suddenly, hobbyists who had been freely purchasing such motors for years had to be fingerprinted and to submit to background checks. They had to pay $25 for ATF low-explosive-user permits to purchase more than 2.5 ounces of APCP and allow local and federal inspectors onto their property anytime to check for proper storage of the propellant.
The government insists it is trying to balance civil liberties with homeland safety. But federal investigators say that since terrorists showed they could level skyscrapers with boxcutters, no potentially suspicious activity can be ignored. "Most of the people involved in these activities are harmless fanatics and nerds," says one federal law-enforcement official. "But since 9/11, we have a responsibility to make sure the nerds are not terrorists."
Other hobbyist have also come under federal scrutiny, including bird watchers on the Canadian border and operators of radio-controlled airplanes. But this does little to console the rocketeers. Terry McCreary, associate professor of analytical chemistry at Murray State University in western Kentucky and a hobby-rocket guru, says sport rocketry helps kids by interesting them in wonders of chemistry, physics, astronomy and aerodynamics. "If you look deeply into the background of our top mathematicians and scientists, you will find a kid with a model rocket."
Pointing at a troop of about 15 Boy Scouts at a recent launch in The Plains, Va., Doug Pratt, who runs his own hobby-rocket business out of his basement in Herndon, asked: "Does that look like a group of terrorists to you?"
Faced with the prospect of being fingerprinted and having agents poking around their past, many rocketeers are leaving the hobby. The rocket club at Kettering University in Michigan has closed down because of the new regulatory requirements.
Looking for help, rocket groups have turned to Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, an avid fan of hobby rockets and model airplanes. In May last year, Senator Enzi sponsored a bill to exempt hobby rockets from government regulation.
The Department of Justice, which oversees the ATF, then wrote him a letter saying that "large rocket motors could be adapted by terrorists for use in surface-to-air missiles capable of intercepting commercial and military airplanes at cruise level and for use in 'light antitank' weapons capable of hitting targets from a range of nearly five miles."
Mr. Enzi wrote back to Attorney General Ashcroft, asking to see the results of the tests that led his department to its conclusions. Within weeks, an agent from the ATF was sent to Al's Hobby Shop outside Chicago to buy the first rocket motors for testing. Over the past six months, according to ATF officials, agents and private contractors have been working at Air Force bases in Utah and Florida firing model rockets at drones, vehicles and simulated crowds of people. The tests are classified.
Some rocketeers have hit upon another solution: They make their own fuel. They get together on weekends with pizza, beer and jars of precursor chemicals for "cooking parties" in their homes and apartments or in the back rooms of their businesses.
"It's legal and completely safe," says Jerry O'Sullivan, an insurance agent who cooks fuel with his friends in suburban Washington. Mr. O'Sullivan, who is a member of the Maryland Delaware Rocketry Association Inc., is taking advantage of a loophole in explosives legislation exempting anyone who mixes an explosive for his own "personal" use from having to get a permit. The exemption was created mainly for farmers who mix fertilizers and fuel oil to blast their own irrigation ditches.
One oddity of the government crackdown is the focus on rockets and not guidance systems. "The secret is in the guidance systems," says Arthur "Trip" Barber, a former captain of a U.S. navy guided missile destroyer, who is now vice president of the National Association of Rocketry. "I can build a rocket overnight but I couldn't build a guidance system in a lifetime."
=================================
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snip:
"Most of the people involved in these activities are harmless fanatics and nerds,"
one out of two ain't bad.

rec.models.rockets,alt.politics.bush,talk.politics.misc,alt.fan.rush-limbaug h,alt.politics.democrats.d,alt.politics.liberalism,
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

rec.models.rockets,alt.politics.bush,talk.politics.misc,alt.fan.rush-limbaugh,alt.politics.demo crats.d,alt.politics.liberalism,
They are going to to outlaw Guns next, Then We will all be Slaves ,thanks to Bush FEMA all ready has the camps set up, Yep They are REAL. What more evidence do Bush lovers need?

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
col

This is the example of why this government scares the crap out of me. They are pursuing the ridiculous while turning a blind eye to the obvious. The showboating dog and pony show at it's finest.
We'll never be safe with this close minded group. They should step aside.
--
Chuck Rudy VooDoo Digital Productions
http://homepage.mac.com/wesrudy
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just like the Canadian gun registration, big waste of money and it will likely be dropped.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

<snip>
This is actually old news. Since February there's been a bill wending its way through Congress to clarify the law to exempt hobby-class model rockets from the regulations and the ATF has indicated it has no interest in closing down model rocket clubs or regulating the model rocket industry. The new rule going into effect basically says that a single rocket motor cannot have more than 62.5 grains of propellant - in model rocket terms that's a "G" engine.- without a permit. Most casual hobbyists fire model rockets with motors in the A through D rated thrust range so they won't be affected. The permit process is simple and painless; you file a form, pay a $25 registration fee, get fingerprinted and then you can (almost) launch manned moon rockets. See
http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/rocketry_security_030306.html
For more information. It's the same kind of kerflunkle as when states started requiring motorcycle helmets: Clubs screamed bloody murder, said the sport would be "ruined", yet more people ride today than ever.
-- From 1984 to present Kerry has maintained that he "Never implied he threw away his own medals" during a war protest in 1971.
"I gave back, I can't remember, 6, 7, 8, 9 medals," Kerry said in an interview on a Washington, D.C. news program on WRC-TV's called Viewpoints on November 6, 1971.
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Politics/Investigation/kerry_vietnam_medals_040425.html
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Said bill is dead.
"Most casual hobbiests" means basically the folks that purchase an Estes ready to fly rocket, fly it a few times, and then never fly another rocket. Hardly more than a passing interest.
Real rocket hobbiests (whose interest last more than a few days or weeks) frequently use motors larger than a G.
The permit process is neither simple nor painless. Try it sometime. It will cost you $100 for the usefull permit, a few bucks here and there for fingerprints and photograph, and then several hundred dollars for a storage magazine. Assuming that you have someplace you can put a magazine, otherwise you must depend on finding someone else who has an approved magazine to help you out. The ATF will not issue a permit unless you have storage. After you apply, the BATFE will show up for an interview and then assuming that they issue you a permit, they will show up for periodic inspections. Then I can go and buy a $20 motor.
A bit much for a material that DOES NOT EXPLODE. The ATF claims that APCP deflagrates (burns rapidly) but they never define what those terms mean. How fast must something burn to be classed as deflagration? They will not say.
The article you reference has a quote from Gail Davis at the ATF about getting a permit: "There's a process for that and it's not an impossible process". Which is quite different from "simple and painless".
The $25 permit allows you to make a few purchases in intrastate commerce. The constitution only allows the federal government to regulate interstate commerce but that hasn't slowed down the fed's power grabs at all.
OrionCA wrote:

--
David W. Schultz
http://home.earthlink.net/~david.schultz
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
David Schultz wrote:

And they're playing fast and loose with the term "deflagration" - to an explosives chemist, that means "any combustion not fast enough to be a detonation" - from BP down to road flares. The BATF is taking language intended to distinguish different types of explosives (those that detonate and those that merely deflagrate in an explosive manner) and twisting it to assert that any "deflagration" is an instance of "functioning by explosion"...
-dave w
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

meters per second.

--
Jerry Irvine, Box 1242, Claremont, California 91711 USA
Opinion, the whole thing. <mail to: snipped-for-privacy@gte.net>
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Fri, 07 May 2004 20:47:48 -0700, OrionCA wrote:

Unless, of course, you're like me - haven't launched in a few years (due to time/money/no good local location) and haven't kept up on the politics of HPR. (Yeah, my Tripoli cert. lapsed - got certified in the early 90s, national launch just outside Wichita. It's been a while.)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Skippy wrote -

Nope you silly undereducated rabid roo ... here is the true meaning of the word:
'To burn or cause to burn with great heat and intense light'
So it dosen't have to burn fast to have high specific heat ... you silly pocket guide to rocket motors roo ...
Something doesn't have to burn quickly to have a high delta H (Al Gloer, I am trying to impress people too with fancy terms too :) ).
Skippy ... you are a fake roo ... where are you going to come up with that $60,000.00 ...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Beatle Man wrote:

According to the "action on appeal" it was reduced to $40k... that says something like "well we can't back out completely once we've got an 'enforcement action' going in our files (it looks bad if we start cases and then don't close them with a recorded penalty) but maybe we do believe part of your story after all..."
-dave w
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

:)
--
Jerry Irvine, Box 1242, Claremont, California 91711 USA
Opinion, the whole thing. <mail to: snipped-for-privacy@gte.net>
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.