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rec.models.rockets FAQ Part 09 - Competition and Records

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Archive-name: model-rockets/competition
Rec-models-rockets-archive-name: rockets-faq/part09
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Last-modified: 1999 December 3

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Rec.Models.Rockets FAQ : PART 09 of 14


9.1   Are there any manufacturers making kits specifically designed for competition?

    There are several sources of kits designed primarily for competition.
    Some of the manufacturers are:

     Apogee Components                      rocket motors 1/4A - F
     630 Elkton Drive                       Micro Motors (10.5mm) 1/4A - B
     Colorado Springs, CO 80907-3414        Composite 13mm B motors                   Long burn D, E, and F motors
         (Timothy Van Milligan)            Kits and supplies
     (719) 535-9335                         Educational materials and books           Catalog - $2.00, or see website

    Eclipse Components                     Competition model rocket parts
    570 Buckeye Dr.                         Blackshaft (phenolic) tubing
    Colorado Springs, CO 80919-1212         inexpensive
    (719) 598-6105                         Catalog - $1.00
           (Todd Schneider)

      Pratt Hobbies                         CMR-style nose cones and 
      2513 Iron Forge Road                   egg capsules
      Herndon, VA 20171                     Catalog: FREE
      (703) 689-3541 (voice/fax)          

      Qualified Competition Rockets        Offers a wide variety kits for
      c/o Kenneth Brown                      competition rocketry
      7021 Forest View Drive                 piston launchers, tubing, and 
      Springfield, VA 22150                  misc. supplies
                                           Catalog:  SASE
9.2   What are the major categories of competition model rocketry?

    The NAR sanctions model rocketry contests throughout the USA, and
    throughout the year.  The contest year runs from July 1 - June 30.
    The final contest for a given contest year is NARAM, usually held
    in August, after the end of the contest year.  The complete list
    of event and rules for model rocketry may be found in the NAR 
    "United States Model Rocket Sporting Code," also known as the 'Pink Book.'
    It is available free to NAR members, and may be ordered from NARTS.
    Some of the event types are:

    - Altitude (1/4A - G)
        The purpose is to get the maximum altitude from a model using a
        specified class of engine.
    - Streamer Duration (1/4A - G)
        The purpose is to get the maximum flight duration from a model with a
        specified engine type using streamer recovery.
    - Parachute Duration (1/4A - C)
        The purpose is to get the maximum flight duration from a model using
        a specified motor type.
    - Eggloft Altitude/Duration (B - G)
        In this event the competitor must launch either one to two large raw
        hen's eggs, depending on engine type and specific event, and recover
        it/them, intact, crack-free. The goal is either to reach the highest
        altitude or have the longest duration flight, depending on the event.
    - Rocket Glider and Boost Glider Duration (1/4A - G)
        In these events the competitor launches a glider using a rocket engine
        and tries to achieve the longest flight duration of the glider.  In
        boost glider the pod containing the motor may be ejected and recovered
        separately.  In rocket glider all parts, including the expended engine,
        must stay with the model.  Rocket glider is considered to be the more 
        difficult event because the model must be both a rocket and a glider 
        without loosing any parts.  The CG and CP requirements for the two 
        phases of flight are very different.  See Part 08 of this FAQ.
    - Helicopter Duration (1/4A - G)
        In these events the model ascends as a rocket.  Rotor arms then extend
        by some mechanism and the rocket slowly descends like a helicopter which
        has lost power.
    - Payload Altitude (A - G)
        In these events the competitor must launch one or more standard NAR pay-
        loads (1 ounce each of fine sand) and recover the model.  The number
        of payloads increases with larger engine sizes.
    - SuperRoc Altitude/Duration (1/4A - G)
        These events are for rockets that have a minimum and maximum length
        requirement based on engine class (0.25 - 4.5 meters).  There are 
        both altitude and duration variations.  The trick to these events is
        that the model may not bend or crimp during flight.
    - Scale Events
        These are craftsmanship events where competitors build scale models of
        real military or commercial rockets.  Fine craftsmanship is emphasized.
      * Scale: exact replicas of rockets, with major scale dimensions 
          verified by judges.
      * Sport Scale:  adherence to scale is judged from a distance of 1 meter.
      * Peanut Scale: Sport Scale for small models (<30cm long or <2cm dia.)   
      * Giant Scale: Sport Scale for large models (>100cm long or >10cm dia.)
      * Super Scale: must include a scale launcher as well as model of rocket; 
          judged same as scale
      * Space Systems: Sport Scale model and optional launch complex.
          Model must complete a predetermined mission with the purpose of 
          duplicating in miniature the full-scale operation of the prototype.
    - Plastic Model Conversion (PMC)
        This event is either loved or hated.  Competitors enter plastic models 
        of rockets or other aero-vehicles that have been converted to fly as 
        model rockets.  
    - Precision Events
        These include spot landing, random duration, predicted duration, 
        precision duration, and predicted altitude.
    - Drag Race
        Multi-round, elimination tournament where contestants gets points for:
      * FIRST lift off
      * LOWEST altitude
      * LAST to land
    - Research and Development
        A non-flying event where contestants enter results of research projects.
        Entries are judged for completeness, contribution to rocketry
        knowledge, degree of difficulty, etc.

    The Tripoli "Member's Handbook" currently lists one competitive event for
    high power models:

    - Altitude Records
      The purpose is to get your rocket to the highest possible altitude with
      a given motor power range. Verify the altitude achieved. 

    In 1995, Tripoli added official altitude records for F through O powered
    consumer rockets. Some Tripoli records are listed later in this section.
9.3   What are some good events to try when first getting into competition?  Any
      'sage' advice?

    From (Buzz McDermott):
    I just started competition this year.  I must have asked 30 experienced
    competitors where to start.  I got 30 COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ANSWERS!!
    They ranged from 'keep it REAL simple' to 'try everything'.  Here is
    a summary of the most prevalent advice.  It seems to have worked for me.

    - Competition requires a large stable of rockets, given all the
      possible events and engine categories; start with some of the
      simpler ones where a single model might be competitive in more
      than one event (for example, the same model might be used for 1/2A-A
      streamer or parachute duration, another model might be competitive in
      any of A - C streamer or chute duration)
    - Try single eggloft (B-C, duration or altitude) before trying the
      multi-egg categories (such as D or E dual egg).
    - Go for a good, qualified flight first; then decide if 'going for
      broke' is appropriate on your second flight (this is for multi-
      flight events).
    - Get a teammate and enter as a team.  There are too many models you
      need to compete to be able to build all of them your first year.
      Entering as a team let's you pool time, talent, experience, and models.
    - Don't get discouraged if you aren't immediately competitive.
      Remember, the main goal is to enjoy yourself and HAVE SOME FUN.  
      If you are new at this, you're going to learn A LOT about rocketry by
      doing it the fun way.
      NOTE YOUR FLIGHT TIMES, ALTITUDES, ETC.  Your biggest weapon
      in many events is in being able to predict how your models
      will perform.
    - Make a model preparation checklist for each event (i.e., a detailed,
      step-by-step list of everything necessary to prep the model).  Use this
      list for your first few competitions.  Comp models are often prepared
      a little differently from sport models.  The difference between winning
      and losing is often just attention to detail, or lack of it, in the
      heat of competition.

    From (Mark Bundick)
    Note: This is a condensed version of some competition strategies for
    individual and team competitors, written by Mark 'Bunny' Bundick and
    posted to r.m.r.  Check the r.m.r archive server for the complete posting.
    The full posting points out that there are many ways to win, and the
    following is just what has worked for some individuals.

    Some Individual Competition Strategies:

    (a) Read the Pink Book.  If you don't know the rules for the event,
    you can't know how to win and how to improve.  Figure out the
    scoring for each event, how many flights are allowed, required
    number of returned flights, the reasons for disqualification, etc.
    Reading the rules will also give you some insights into how the
    contest will be run.  Start with the general rules then review the
    event-specific rules.

    (b) Practice for all events where your experience is low.  If you
    already know how to fly parachute duration  (PD), don't waste time
    practicing that at your club's sport launch.  Instead, suppose you
    don't do well in streamer duration (SD).  Build a couple different SD
    models with different streamers, and fly each of them at least a
    couple of times BEFORE the contest.  Take a notebook to the field
    and write down what happened, or at least write it down after you
    get back home.  Such notebooks can be the lifeblood of your
    competition model and strategy development.

    (c) Improve one event a year.  At the start of the season, it helps if
    you pick one of your weak events for special attention during the
    year.  Review the existing models and strategies for the event, look
    over the competition carefully during the contest year, and practice
    this key event each and every sport launch or test flying session
    you attend.

    (d) Strive for consistent flights.  Rob Justis, my old teammate from
    the 70's, always reviewed our DQ's after the meet and separated
    them into "DQ's for the right reason" i.e no return, and "DQ's for the
    wrong reason", i.e. separation.  We strove to avoid the latter
    obviously.  This made us terribly consistent, and with today's "two
    flights count" rule, this is even more important.

    (e) Fly all the events.  Sounds simple, but many people don't do
    this. You don't have to win the event, but if you don't fly it, you're
    sure to get behind because you're conceding flight points right off
    the bat to your competition.   Over the course of a contest year,
    you can concede 10% of your yearly total this way.

    (f) Concentrate on events with high individual event weighing
    factors (WF).  If you have to choose events to fly, or are short of
    preparation time for some of the scheduled events, prepare for and
    fly the highest WF events first.  Simple again right?  But how many
    people go to a contest and fly PD first thing in the AM cause the
    wind is calm, and ignore BG which has a WF two to three times that
    of PD?

    (g) Refine, don't abandon, your models and strategies.  Rarely do
    you get super performance improvements from forgetting all you
    know to adopt a totally different strategy.  I've seen so many people
    hop onto a design when it didn't fit their flying style and then get
    burned. They switch because some guy had a super performance
    at  a contest, so he must have the "Holy Grail" of models.  Right
    after Tom Beach placed highly at a NARAM with a flexie RG, I saw
    lots of folks try them, and crash.  Tom had lots of flexie experience
    that helped, and when regular BG flyers tried to adopt his style
    without the background, BOOM!  If you're serious about switching
    to a completely different model, say from swing wings to slide wing
    rocket gliders, then take the time to practice, practice, practice and
    build up the background in the new method.  There are no quick
    fixes to the winner's circle.

    (h) Pick your contests carefully.  If you can't fly helicopter duration
    (HD) all that well, and the next regional you plan to attend has two
    HD events, find another contest! Sometimes, this isn't possible. But
    if two contests  compete for your participation at the same time,
    take the one that has more of your "strong" events.

    (i) Casting Your Bread:  Share what you've learned with others.  A
    three time national champion who shall remain nameless positively
    stomped every challenger in his sight.  But his desire for keeping
    secrets and his unwillingness to share left him with few friends, and
    after a brief time, he left our hobby,  poorer himself and leaving our
    hobby poorer for failing to let us learn from him.  The benefits of
    making new friends and sharing far outweigh any short term
    competitive advantage you might think you have from being
    secretive.  As a quotation I once read went  "We have all drunk
    from wells we did not dig and been warmed by fires we did not
    build."  So go ahead.  Cast your bread on the waters.  You won't be

    Hope this provides you competition types some food for thought.
    I'd love to hear from anyone with comments, questions, brickbats,
    etc. at
9.4   What is a 'piston' launcher?  Does it really help?

    From:  (Roger Wilfong)
      Pistons offer several advantages and a couple of hassles.

       +1)  They eliminate the need for launch lugs and therefore reduce drag.
       +2)  They keep ignition leads from fouling in glider wings.
       +3)  They can increase lift off velocity (see below).
       +4)  They recover an otherwise lost portion of the whoosh generator's

       -1)  They require additional maintenance.
       -2)  Ignition can be a hassle.

      A launch piston is usually made of cylinder of 12-18" of BT-5 or PT-13
      and a fixed piston made of an old 13mm motor casing or brass tubing.
      In practice, the support shaft is attached to a tripod or other launcher,
      an igniter is inserted into the tubing on the top of the piston.  The
      bottom 1/4" of the motor in the model is friction fitted to the top of
      the piston tube and lowered onto the igniter (I use 2-3 short pieces of
      thin 1/4" masking tape across the joint of the piston/body tube to
      reinforce the friction fit - actually I've found it easier to use a
      looser fit and the masking tape than to get just the right friction fit).
      The micro clips of a launch controller are attached to the bare ends of
      the zip cord.  When the motor ignites, exhaust gas pressurizes the
      cylinder and pushes the piston down.  Since the piston is fixed, the
      effect is that the cylinder is pushed up.  When the stop ring at the
      bottom of the cylinder hits the bottom of the head, the cylinder stops
      and the model pops off the cylinder.

      In effect the piston has acted as the launch lug for the fist 12-18" of

      Roger's Piston Theory (developed through observation and tinkering, it
      is not based on a mathematical analysis):

      For performance events, pistons offer an advantage over launch lugs or
      towers primarily because they convert an otherwise unusable portion of
      motors total impulse into motion.  There is a startup time at the
      beginning of the burn where the motor is not producing enough thrust
      to lift the rocket - it is this portion of the burn that the piston is
      making use of.

      Since the piston gets the model moving before the motor generates enough
      thrust to lift the model, it is possible that at the instant of
      separation, the motor may no be developing sufficient thrust to keep
      accelerating the model and the model may decelerate for the next few
      feet after leaving the launcher.  This is not a problem for PD/SD models
      and most gliders - they are typically light enough that the piston has
      accelerated them to a high enough speed for the fins to work properly;
      however, it can be a real problem for payloaders and egglofters (I have
      seen egglofters almost come to a stand still after leaving a short
      piston).  So for heavier models, a piston/tower combination provides
      additional guidance and helps prevent tip off.

      The tower is of only small advantage with SD/PD models; however, it can
      help if there are other disturbing forces at separation that could cause
      the model to tip.

      Because they affect the gas flow during the ignition of the motor, pistons
      don't work well with composite motors.  My experience has been that
      composites either cato or chuff when used with a piston.  (If someone
      has worked out using a composite on a piston, how did you get it to

      Pistons are a real advantage in any performance event.  For eggloft and
      payload, they typically allow you to use the next longest delay.  For
      instance, a B6-2 is needed for a conventional eggloft model.  On an 18"
      piston, a B6-4 ejects at apogee.  Earlier I referred to using a piston
      on a Big Bertha - an A8-3 gives a marginal flight without the piston;
      with the piston, ejection is at apogee.

      There are a couple of variations and modifications to conventional pistons
      that can further enhance their performance.  The diameter of the head
      (6, 13, 18 and 24mm) is one parameter to play with.  Jeff Vincent and
      Chuck Weiss presented a floating head piston as an R&D project at NARAM-
      28 that further increased performance.
9.5   Aside from hanging around 'old timers', how can I learn more about
        competition strategies and techniques without re-inventing the wheel
        many times over?

    The best place to start looking would be the NAR Technical Services
    (NARTS) catalog.  NARTS has several documents of particular interest to
    competitors.  The NARTS catalog can be browsed at the NAR web site -
    Look for the NARTS catalog, and when browsing through it, look for these titles:

        US  Record  Setting  Designs

        CMASS Plan Book

        MIT Competition Notebook

        Journals of the MIT Rocket Society...

        Proceedings of the MIT Model Rocket Conventions...

        NAR Technical Reviews, Volumes 1 - 7

        Boost  Glider Analysis-"A Free Flight  Method  For Boost Glider Analysis."

        Streamer Duration Optimization

        Basic Design Rules for Boost and Rocket Gliders
9.6  Tripoli Altitude Records

The following is a list of altitude records based on motor class.  These
are all official Tripoli Altitude Records as determined by the Tripoli
Contest and Records Committee.  Further information on Tripoli Altitude
Records and specific requirements can be found in the Altitude
Competition portion of the Tripoli Handbook. 

Motor Class     Altitude        Name              Date

F               1387 meters     Mark Clark         3/10/96
G               1483 meters     Mark Sims         11/02/96             
H               2221 meters     Dave "Fritz" Katz 11/05/95
I               3997 meters     Pius Morozumi      9/09/95
J               3006 meters     Chet Geyer         5/18/96
K                               (unclaimed) 
L                               (unclaimed)
M                               (unclaimed)
N               9431 meters     Walter Blanca       8/14/95
O                               (unclaimed)

The above list of official Tripoli Altitude Records is current as of
January 20, 1997.

    Robert Gormley, Chairman
    Tripoli Contest and Records Committee
9.7   NAR Competition Records

NAR competition records can be viewed using your web browser at:

9.8   Some Unofficial High Power Altitude Attempts

    Some of the high power records come by way of a posting from Chip Wuerz
    (  Chip is part of the University of Central Florida's
    high altitude rocketry project.  Additional information has been taken from
    several issues of _Tripolitan_/_High Power Rocketry_ magazine.

    * * Some current records for NON-METALLIC NON-PROFESSIONAL Rockets: * *

    ---Top altitude holders:

       Altitude:  27,576 (altitude by Adept altimeter)
       Set by:    Pius Morozumi
       Event:     Black Rock V, Black Rock Dry Lakebed
       Date:      July 16-18, 1993

       Altitude:  24,771 feet  (11.7% tracking error)
       Set by:    Chuck Rogers and Corey Kline
       Event:     Lucerne Dry Lake Bed, Lucerne, Ca.
       Date:      June 1989, USXRL-89

       Altitude:  24,662  (tracking error unknown)
       Set by:    Tom Binford
       Event:     LDRS XI, Black Rock Dry Lake Bed, Nevada
       Date:      August 16, 1992

       Altitude:  22,211 feet   (5.3% tracking error)
       Set by:    University of Central Florida
       Event:     LDRS X, Black Rock Dry Lake Bed, Gerlach, NV.
       Date:      August 1991

    Highest tracked flight at LDRS-X / BALLS 1.
    Second all-time highest track of a non-metallic high power rocket.
    University of Central Florida's research project and altitude attempt
    to break the current high-power rocketry altitude record of 24,771 feet
    set by the KLINE/ROGERS team in 1989.  Altitude attempt had been based on
    3850 NS L-engine, new Vulcan L-750 engines deliver 3,000 (now known to be
    less from motor testing results) newton seconds.  In an attempt to make
    up power loss and to provide margin on the goal altitude of 25,000 feet,
    the upper stage was delay-staged by several seconds.  Altitude predictions
    computer simulation program predicted 28,500 feet.  Upper stage flew
    substantial trajectory, reaching apogee nearly 2 miles downrange.
    Rocket used microprocessors / timer-controlled staging and ejection,
    on-board flight data measurement package, and a radio beacon system to
    locate upper stage.  Track was accomplished using red carpenters chalk.
    Both stages were recovered.
9.9   Biggest Non-metallic Rocket Flights

    1) Rocket:      Down Right Ignorant
       Weight:      800 pounds +
       Set by:      Dennis Lamonthe, Chuck Sackett, and Mike Ward
                    BlackRock Dry Lake Bed, Gerlach, NV.
                    August 17, 1992, FireBALLS experimental launch
       Description: Super scale based on Esoteric rocket designed by Ron Schultz
       Height:      34' 7"
       Diameter:    24"
       Power:       1 O-class custom motor
                    5 Energon L1100 motors
                    8 ISP K1100 motors
                    (around 76,000 NS total impulse)
       Materials:   24" fiberglass tubes for main body tube
                    1/8" aluminum plates for coupler bases and fin
                      mounting boxes
                    1/2" aluminum plate for motor thrust plate
                    2x5" oak boards for tube coupler assemblies
                    2x5" pine boards for body tube strengthening
                    plywood centering rings
                    3/4" birch fins
                    14" paper tubing for upper body tube hard resin/fiberglass
                     nose cone (originally a sounding rocket nose cone shroud)
       Note:        The definition of 'non-metallic' traditionally has meant
                    'no substantial metal components' as well as no structural
                    components being metal.  DRI appears to push that definition
                    to its absolute limit, or a little beyond.
9.10  Other Non-professional Flights of Note

    1) Rocket:      Frank Kosdon metal rocket
       Date:        LDRS XII
                    Argonia, Kansas
                    15 August 1993
       Power:       Kosdon non-certified O10000 (that's O-10,000)
       Materials:   All metal rocket with custom manufactured motor
       Altitude:    35,407 feet AGL; closed optical track
       Notes:       This is a special-case flight.  The rocket does not
                    follow the rules for high power because metallic rockets
                    are expressly prohibited by both the NAR and Tripoli.
                    It also uses a custom made motor.  The motor was made
                    by a manufacturer with other high power motors certified
                    by Tripoli.  It was pre-manufactured and solid propellant,
                    within the total NS limits of high power consumer rockets.

                    Tripoli does not recognize this flight, or any other flight,
                    for altitude record purposes unless a successful deployment
                    of the recovery system is observed or the rocket can be
                    recovered to show successful recovery system deployment.

9.11   Some other highest verified altitudes

    Robert (Bobby) Gormley has gathered the following F through Open (i.e.,
    unlimited) altitudes.  These are not official records, but the highest
    verified altitudes of CONSUMER ROCKETS for each motor class.

    From: rgormley@phoenix.Princeton.EDU (Robert Gormley)

    Class  By              Motor(s)       Altitude     Launch

    O      Frank Kosdon    O10,000        37,978 feet  Fireballs 005
    M      Univ. Cen. FL   L750/L750      22,211 feet  LDRS-X
    L      Pius Morozumi   K550/K250      27,576 feet  Black Rock V
    K      *Deb Schultz    K250           21,659 feet  LDRS-XI
    J      Mike Keller     J125           15,062 feet  LDRS-X
    I      Mark Clark      I132           11,873 feet  LDRS-X
    H      Mike Vaughn     H125            8,435 feet  Fireballs 005

    * The K250 has been tested to be in the L range and I am looking for
      another entry to replace it.
Copyright (c) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Wolfram von Kiparski, editor. 
Refer to Part 00 for the full copyright notice. 

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