Bring your rocket engines, food, water, shade, ground cover for sitting or lawn chairs. Contact the launch controller for the schedule to launch your rockets.
Listen to the announcer. If they call “Heads Up” it means pay attention, look up, something hasn’t worked properly.
No running at the launch site. There will be cables strung around the ground going from the control box to the launch pads.
Follow the launch director’s instructions in order to place rockets on the pads and then recover them.
Smaller kids will need help sliding the rockets on the rods.
By George “The Other” Sprague
What a wonderful sight! All those launch pads, controllers and gizmos! Model rocket pads, mid and high power. Here you are launching with DARS for the first time, possibly your first flight ever. You’ve got a rocket with a G40 motor, ready to take out to the launch pad. The safety check is a go, the pad manager has assigned your pad and off you go. Arriving at the pad you suddenly realize the rod is way longer than it looks. How do you get the rocket on there? Do you bend the thing and hope it doesn’t break? Go find the tallest person on site? What about that relay looking thing?
Well folks, even old timers who haven’t flown in a while sometimes forget how to properly use the launch equipment. Let’s take a look at what is available at a DARS launch site. To begin with, the model rocket pads are straightforward. You slide the rocket on the rod, connect the clips to the igniter and that’s it, right? Well, there’s something else you need to do. And that is check for continuity. See that little button on the wood support just below the rod? Press it, and if you have continuity (meaning your clips are properly connected & juice will flow when the GO! button is pressed) you’ll see the red light come on.
The mid and high power pads are a bit different. First thing you’ll notice at the pad is the relay box. There is a switch with two positions: Arm & Safety. Make sure you place the switch on Safety, otherwise you just might have a surprise when you connect the igniter and check for continuity! Scrape the alligator clips against each other just to make sure you are on Safe. No sparks means good to go. Now would be a good time to clean those clips with steel wool. Get rid of accumulated crud for better electrical contact.
Take a close look at the launch rod. About halfway up you’ll see a break point. Unscrew the top part of the rod. Again, the steel wool would be in good use to clean off the rod. Slide the rocket down, then screw on the top part of the rod. Some pads have stand-offs to bring your rocket a few inches off the pad to prevent the rear (of the rocket) from getting scorched.
I’m certain you slid the igniter in the motor before you placed it on the pad, so now you can connect the clips. Wrap the wires around the clips for better contact. And on the subject of igniters, carry one or two spares with you. That way, if you have igniter failure, you don’t have to walk all the way back to your car for a new one. You’ll have them right there with you. Ok, the clips are on now it’s time to check continuity. Double check the switch to make sure it’s on the Safe mode. Press the button and you should hear a sustained beep, telling you that all is connected well. Let go of the button, and place the switch in the Arm position. You are now ready to see your bird conquer the skies!
By the way, DARS may have a rail for you if you need it. At the base you’ll see the mechanism that releases the rail so you can tilt it to load your rocket. Make sure it’s locked in place when you bring the rocket to a vertical position.
When in doubt, ASK! If you’re not sure about the equipment, ask someone on site. Better to ask than trying to second guess the equipment, and possibly break something. See ya at the launch site!