The Basics (FAQ)
If you are thinking you might be interested in this hobby or you are a brand new rocketeer, you probably have many questions.
This Article answers some of the questions that are commonly asked by Aspiring Rocketeers.
Well, sure it's safe. We, like Rocketry Organizations world-wide, wouldn't be here promoting it if it weren't.
Seriously, though, according to the Largest Model Rocketry company in the world (Estes), there have been at least 400 million safe launches of model rockets world-wide.
There are a number of factors that contribute to this excellent safety record:
Safer equipment - you don't have to build your own motors or load fuel.
You can buy inexpensive, reliable single-use motors that will propel your rockets to amazing heights.
Safety in materials - modern models are constructed using only lightweight materials such as balsa, cardboard, and plastic.
Safety systems - today's electronic launch controllers use safety keys to prevent a launch when you don't expect one.
If you follow some basic procedures there is very little that can go wrong.
The rockets use recovery systems, such as parachutes, so once they've been fired they are returned safely to the ground.
SAASA, as the South African National Organization of Rocketry has developed a Safety Code in line with International best-practices.
(All members have to sign and follow the Safety Rules, which is there to maximize your enjoyment and to protect you)
Technically, the practice of building rockets started with the Chinese, hundreds of years ago.
(The Chinese are credited with the invention of gunpowder and packed tubes and made simple rockets that were used in military actions and during celebrations)
World-wide, the Model Rocketry really only got started in the late 1950's.
Rocketry and Space travel were very much on the minds of people in the era of Sputnik and the Mercury rockets.
Many wanted to share in this by building and flying rockets of their own.
Some of the Early Experiments in creating scratch-built rockets ended in disaster, as the builders often made bombs, not rockets.
The sport really got its strong start with the development of safe and reliable motors that could be purchased commercially.
We now have rigorous standards that define how these motors are manufactured and used.
Today's hobby is as safe as any if you follow some basic safety guidelines in the construction and launching of your models.
It's difficult to say exactly how many people are enjoying this hobby at any given time, but based on Membership numbers of the NAR, Triploli, SAASA and other world-wide Rocketry clubs, the estimate is around 1 500 000.
In addition to the members that belong to recognsed Rocketry clubs and organizations, there are thousands of others that are "casual rocketeers".
You can get your start in this hobby with a small investment.
In South Africa, unlike in the USA, there are only a handfull of hobby shops that actually stock Model Rocketry kits at this stage
(This is due to regulations that requires a hobby shop to apply for a special permit to sell "explosives")
SAASA has partnered with an Authorised Importer and Distributor of Explosives and offers the largest selection of Rocketry Kits and Motors.
Expect to pay around R200 - R500 for a Entry Level Model Rocket Kit, and around R600 - R1000 for a complete Starter Set in South Africa
A starter kit will usually have a model rocket (some are even pre-assembled), a launch pad with launch rod, the electrical ignition system (with safety key),motors, igniters, and anything else you might need to launch your first rocket.
Note: if the rocket in the starter kit is not pre-assembled, you will need some basic tools and supplies to complete it. See the Getting Started page for more on this.
If you know someone who already has a launch pad and ignition system, you can get started for even less money.
In this case, you can go and purchase a kit, assemble it, and use your buddies launch equipment to get it off the ground.
(This is a good way to go if you're not quite sure if the hobby is for you and don't want to make too large an investment until you know more about it)
Model Rocket Motors are availble for as low as R20* (per launch, subject ot change), but typically cost around R50* (per launch, subject to change)
Importing Model Rocket Motors into South Africa is Illegal and impossible without an Explosive Dealer License !
The transportation of Dangerous Goods (including Explosives) is strictly regulated, and this adds to the cost of importation and distribution.
Unfortunately the Rand is very unstable and the cost f importing goods from the USA is directly tied to the US $ exchange rate.
Still, SAASA has managed to keep costs down to a minimum, and we are passing savings to our Members.
As has already been mentioned, the hobby is a safe one as long as some basic rules are observed.
If you're twelve or younger, you'll probably want to get the help of an adult.
Building a model rocket is not difficult, but you do need to follow instructions closely and it helps to have someone with some experience looking over your shoulder.
If you don't have an adult handy, you can always contact SAASA and ask for some assistance. Most SAASA members will be happy to share what they know and get you off to a strong start in your new hobby.
Typical beginner rockets will travel as high as 100m - 300m (300 to 1000 feet).
Advanced (high power) models commonly go higher than 2500m (5,000 feet), with some going much higher.
The altitude of a flight depends mainly on the rocket design and weight and the engine used for the launch.
Keep in mind that the higher a rocket goes, the larger launch site you'll need to make sure that you get it back after it returns to earth.