the state of rocketry regulation

this is posted as a summary, and to bring newcomers and BARS up to speed with the state of the regulator environment affecting high power
rocketry today. It is posted in four parts, three and a final part containing references
- iz
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=== part 1 of 4 =in all fairness, I believe that the vast majority of BATFE personnel are patriotic Americans, and
are simply doing their jobs as defined by their superiors
I can understand how in the aftermath of 9/11, where several agencies were caught napping, everyone
in intelligience and law enforcement are saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame
on me", and are determined to be proactive.
the problem arises when the efforts to be proactive results in such extensive loss of freedom that
we wonder what "way of life" is still intact to be protected? It has always been a especially
tough call in the area of arms and munitions, where the right to bear arms is under attack from the
public clamoring for crime reduction. Fortunately the NRA is a powerful lobby that has been
successful to some degree in pushing back attempts to regulate private arms ownership out of
existence.
in the case of rocketry, our experience is that many BATFE field offices have had insufficient or
inconsistent direction from their superiors, and much has been left to interpretation by individual
agents. This has been especially evident in the broad spectrum of what is deemed "acceptable"
storage magazines during field visits.
but to the credit of the field agents, during these visits adhoc remarks pass and we discover that
most field agents, like us, are bewildered at why hobby-grade rocket propellant (Ammonium
Perchlorate Composite Propellant) is being regulated as an explosive, when it tests objectively as
either a flammable solid or even less hazardous, as a unregulated plastic. We don't see permits,
fingerprints and background checks, and plywood-lined steel boxes with two padlocks with 1/2 inch
shackles located 75 feet from any inhabited building or public road in order to store road flares.
Yet this is what the inclusion of APCP on the BATFE explosives list has caused. This despite the
fact that APCP does not meet the definition of explosive set in law by Congress:
"... any chemical compound mixture, or device, the primary or common purpose of which is to
function by explosion ..."
the Black Powder used in parachute ejection charges (in minute amounts, typically 1-2 grams per
charge) is exempt from all storage and permit requirements as long as it is
"... intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes ..."
of which amateur rocketry is both sporting and recreational. Furthermore, rockets and rocketry
materials are exempt from regulation by virtue of rockets being "propellant actuated devices".
although previously acknowledging these exemptions in law, in the last few years, the BATFE has
autonomously and unilaterally decided that none of these exemptions apply any longer, and have
insisted on the permits, background checks, and storage requirements I mentioned previously.
the above actions by the BATFE provoked a lawsuit brought against them by the Tripoli Rocketry
Association and the National Association of Rocketry. This suit is still in the preliminary stages.
(continued)
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We don't see permits,

Izzy....
The 75ft rule only applies to OUTDOOR storage magazines. Now Im sure there are several inspectors who require 75ft for Indoor...but its only because they have not read the FEDERAL Explosives regs properly. There also may be local and State regs that could apply also. There is no distance requirements for Indoor magazines(federal level). If there was even a lot of people with detatched garages would require variances.
-Tim
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I have this in writing. When I requested my attached garage variance, I also requested a variance of the 75' limit, at the insistence of the agent I was dealing with. She turned out to be an IDIOT in mnay ways. In my case, my magazine is more than 75' from the neighbors house, but the corner to corner distance between garages is less than 75'.
My variance letter plainly states that no variance is necessary for an indoor magazine because there is no distance requirement for an indoor magazine.
    Bob Kaplow    NAR # 18L    TRA # "Impeach the TRA BoD"         >>> To reply, remove the TRABoD! <<< Kaplow Klips & Baffle:    http://nira-rocketry.org/LeadingEdge/Phantom4000.pdf www.encompasserve.org/~kaplow_r/ www.nira-rocketry.org www.nar.org
Save Model Rocketry from the HSA! http://www.space-rockets.com/congress.html
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kaplow snipped-for-privacy@encompasserve.org.TRABoD (Bob Kaplow) wrote:

Is any of this ATF crap on the web like my permits are?
Jerry
--
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.
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And sometimes even out in the country the distance requirement becomes impossible to satisfy. I've often pointed out how I'm pretty much stuck even though I live on a family farm totalling 62 acres. There are no attached garages I can use and no outbuildings that will satisfy ATF and state and local officials. Everywhere more than 75 feet from an inhabited building(and road) is literally in the middle of either a field or forest and not available to me for that purpose. And there are zoning and tax considerations. There is a slight possibility that in one exact location I could put in a root cellar and call it the building containing an indoor magazine--but I doubt I could get away with even that.
62 acres of contiguous land in the family and I can't store one lousy SU H motor! ATF's storage requirements are obviously **intended** to impede rocketry hobbyists to the maximum degree possible. There is no other way they can be interpreted. +McG+

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there
because
may be

lot of

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Nope. Even a "pump house" counts. Those things are even more minimal than dog houses.
Jerry
--
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.
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there
because
may be

lot of

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=== part 1 of 4 =in all fairness, I believe that the vast majority of BATFE personnel are patriotic Americans, and are simply doing their jobs as defined by their superiors
I can understand how in the aftermath of 9/11, where several agencies were caught napping, everyone in intelligience and law enforcement are saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me", and are determined to be proactive.
the problem arises when the efforts to be proactive results in such extensive loss of freedom that we wonder what "way of life" is still intact to be protected? It has always been a especially tough call in the area of arms and munitions, where the right to bear arms is under attack from the public clamoring for crime reduction. Fortunately the NRA is a powerful lobby that has been successful to some degree in pushing back attempts to regulate private arms ownership out of existence.
in the case of rocketry, our experience is that many BATFE field offices have had insufficient or inconsistent direction from their superiors, and much has been left to interpretation by individual agents. This has been especially evident in the broad spectrum of what is deemed "acceptable" storage magazines during field visits.
but to the credit of the field agents, during these visits adhoc remarks pass and we discover that most field agents, like us, are bewildered at why hobby-grade rocket propellant (Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant) is being regulated as an explosive, when it tests objectively as either a flammable solid or even less hazardous, as a unregulated plastic. We don't see permits, fingerprints and background checks, and plywood-lined steel boxes with two padlocks with 1/2 inch shackles located 75 feet from any inhabited building or public road in order to store road flares. Yet this is what the inclusion of APCP on the BATFE explosives list has caused. This despite the fact that APCP does not meet the definition of explosive set in law by Congress:
"... any chemical compound mixture, or device, the primary or common purpose of which is to function by explosion ..."
the Black Powder used in parachute ejection charges (in minute amounts, typically 1-2 grams per charge) is exempt from all storage and permit requirements as long as it is
"... intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes ..."
of which amateur rocketry is both sporting and recreational. Furthermore, rockets and rocketry materials are exempt from regulation by virtue of rockets being "propellant actuated devices".
although previously acknowledging these exemptions in law, in the last few years, the BATFE has autonomously and unilaterally decided that none of these exemptions apply any longer, and have insisted on the permits, background checks, and storage requirements I mentioned previously.
the above actions by the BATFE provoked a lawsuit brought against them by the Tripoli Rocketry Association and the National Association of Rocketry. This suit is still in the preliminary stages.
(part 1 of 4 parts)
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=== part 2 of 4 =while all this was going on, the BATFE was giving the reassurance that these measures
"... will allow ATF to better monitor explosives commerce in an effort to enhance homeland security, but is designed to not be overly burdensome to legitimate purchasers."
prior to May 24, 2003, even though the BATFE was denying applicability of all exemptions, the permits were not required for rocketeers purchasing rocket motors and flying at launches within their own state (no inter-state commerce). As of that date, all rocket motors used in rocketry larger than a child's model rocket required permits and storage.
for individuals like myself, who live in an urban area, meeting the storage requirements for APCP is impossible (75 foot distance requirement); and it should in fact not even be a requirememt as APCP is not explosive. This is also problematic for individuals living in apartments, or even owning their own homes in plots smaller than 150', which is the case in cities, suburbs and most townships across the U.S. Only people living in rural America would have such expansive property as to be able to meet these distance requirements.
well, I've come a long way in providing background; but the point that I wanted to make is that it is not the individual BATFE field agent or even field office management that has created this crisis. All of these know full well that they have their hands full performing legitimate and necessary law enforcement duties and are being distracted by misguided regulations to suppress a few thousand hobby and amateur rocketeers from engaging in their fun and educational pastime, one that is more often than not a "family affair" (my two sons and my daughter all build and fly rockets alongside me).
the problem has been the leadership in the BATFE, and more recently in the DoJ.
a perfect case in point is as follows. Senator Enzi, in an effort to come to the aid of unfairly threatened amateur rocketeers, introduced an explicit exemption for rocketry that recognized the legitimate considerations of safety and security for rocketry materials that are hazardous (those used in military applications, but never in amateur rocketry). That bill is S.724, cited below.
unfortunately, when the bill reached the Senate Judiciary Committee for review and recommendation prior to passing in onto the Senate floor for a vote, the DoJ derailed the bill with a letter filled with fanciful disinformation about the threat of amateur rocketry. The timing was such that there was insufficient opportunity for the gross exagerations to be addressed before the SJC made a decision to substitute an entirely new rocketry exemption bill, authored by Senator Kohl and introduced by he and Senator Hatch.
(part 2 of 4 parts)
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=== part 3 of 4 =In the days that followed, the Amateur Rocketry Society of America presented rebuttals to the claims made in the DoJ letter. Senator Enzi also made an official request to the DoJ for them to substantiate their claims, but the DoJ simply ignored the request.
Further progress of the Hatch-Kohl substitute rocketry exemption bill onto the Senate floor where it could be debated or restored was blocked by Senators Schumer and Lautenberg, and this is where we stand today.
so there is the long and short of it. It was a policy decision made by the BATFE leadership while they still functioned under the Treasury Department, but which continued and worsened when the BATFE was moved under the Department of Justice as part of the Homeland Security reorganization.
it is from that leadership, along with Senators Hatch, Kohl, Schumer and Lautenberg, that the obstacles to restoring hobby and amateur rocketry spring.
this, in a time when America is most challenged to compete with such countries as India and China for the commercialization of space.
in the interest of our countries ability to maintain the lead in aerospace, our youth and amateurs must be empowered to engage and solve the technical problems which will continue to challenge us in the future.
references follow
best regards,
"iz"
Ismaeel Abdur-Rasheed ARSA NERO IEAS TRA NAR
(part 3 of 4 parts)
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=== part 4 of 4 =references:
BATFE Explosives List http://www.atf.gov/pub/fire-explo_pub/listofexp.htm
definition of "explosive" in law: 18USC40.841(d) http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/841.html
black powder exemption in law: 18USC40.845(a)(5) http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/845.html
exemption of "propellant actuated device" in regulations: 27CFR555.141.a(8) http://tinyurl.com/265jg
NAR/Tripoli suit against the BATFE http://www.tripoli.org/documents/batfe/batfe.shtml
BATFE assurance that regulations are not "overly burdensome" http://www.atf.gov/explarson/safexpact/modelrockets.htm
Senator Enzi's bill S.724 as introduced http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname 8_cong_bills&docid=f:s724is.txt.pdf [ http://tinyurl.com/2bj88 ]
DoJ letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee http://www.space-rockets.com/doj.html
Hatch-Kohl substitute rocketry exemption bill http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname 8_cong_bills&docid=f:s724rs.txt.pdf [ http://tinyurl.com/etnt ]
ARSA rebuttals to DoJ letter http://www.space-rockets.com/reply1.html http://www.space-rockets.com/aircraft.html http://www.space-rockets.com/tanks.html
Senator Enzi's letter to DoJ requesting substantiation http://www.space-rockets.com/arsanews#enzi2
Senators Schumer and Lautenberg block further progress of the rocketry exemption bill http://www.space-rockets.com/arsanews#724block
for more information on the regulatory crisis
see http://www.space-rockets.com/arsanews and http://www.space-rockets.com/congress
for more information on hobby and amateur rocketry
see http://www.flyrockets.com
(part 4 of 4 parts - concluded)
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