Getting Certified
Paths toward high-power rocketry certifications

Certifying Organizations:
Tripoli Rocketry Association (TRA)
National Association of Rocketry (NAR)

To legally fly high power rockets in the US, a person must be certified by one of these organizations.

Ordinary citizens can purchase rocket motors from A through G without any qualifications.
To purchase and fly H or I motors, you must be certified Level 1
To purchase and fly J, K, or L motors, or to fly experimental motors of any size, you must be certified Level 2
To purchase and fly M, N, O, or P motors, you must be certified Level 3

Getting certified will take some time, effort, and money.  Good things don't always come easily.

The steps:

1.  Join NAR or TRA.  You must be a member before doing your first certification flight.  

      a.  How?  Go to the TRA or NAR website, fill out the online application, and send it along with your payment.
      b.  How much?  TRA is $70 to join, NAR $62.  TRA offers a discount for students 24 and younger, cost is $30.

2.  Build your Level 1 rocket.  You must build it yourself.  You can't use someone else's rocket, and it must be an individual project, not a group project.  TRA Rules are here.  NAR Rules are here.

    a.  The rocket may be built from a kit or may be built from scratch.  I recommend using a kit for your first high power rocket - it will show you the materials and techniques used in this kind of rocketry, and will be a good design.  

    b.  It must fly on an H or I motor.  Most H and I motors are reloadables, 38mm in diameter.  38mm is one of the standard motor mount sizes.  

    c.  How much?  A rocket kit in this class will cost anywhere from $50 to $150, depending.  A reloadable motor casing will cost about $75, and the load to burn in it will cost $30 to $40.  You might be able to borrow a motor casing.  

2a.  Not required, but suggested:  go to a launch and fly your rocket on a G motor.  This will provide a test for the aiframe and experience for you.

3.  Go to a launch and fly it.  But get your ducks in a row first...

    a.  Arrange to get the motor you need from an on-site vendor.  Vendors come to launches and sell rocket motors, among other things.  You are allowed to buy one H or I motor to do your Level 1 certification flight under a TRA Prefect's supervision, or by a certified NAR member in good standing.  Bernie LaLime and Jim Harris usually attend NEFAR launches and carry a range of motors, but don't assume.. call or write to make sure they will be there and have the motor you need.

    b.  Make sure your official observer will be there and ready.  
            1.  If you are certifying under TRA, it must be the club Prefect.  The NEFAR prefect is Scott Borders.  Gary Dahlke often attends NEFAR launches, and is Prefect for Spaceport Rocketry Association (SRA) so he can do TRA certifications too.
            2.  If you are certifying under NAR, you only need to find an NAR member in good standing who is certified Level 1 or higher

    c.  Get your observer to watch you assemble your rocket and get it on the pad.

    d.   LAUNCH IT!

    e.  GET IT BACK!  The rocket must be returned to the observer, who will verify that it has not sustained major damage, and is still in flyable condition.  Lost rocket = no certification.  

    f.  The observer (Prefect or NAR member) sends in your forms, and TRA or NAR sends you an updated membership card with "Level 1" on it.

You can now buy and fly motors in the H and I range, the low end of high power rocketry.

  4.  Build your Level 2 Rocket.  

a.  This rocket must be capable of flying with a J or K motor, within the limitations of your flying field and conditions.

b.  If you choose rocket kits and motors wisely,  you can do both Level 1 and Level 2 certification with the same rocket.

5.  Study up.  You will have to take and pass a test before doing your Level 2 flight.  NAR and TRA have study guides to help you along.  They are rather generous, in that the test you take will consist of items that are in the study guides.  So if you know all the answers to the study guide questions, you should score 100% on your test.  

6.  Go forth and Launch!

a.  Again, make sure your observers will be there and ready, and the motor you need will be available.  Two members are needed to observe NAR Level 2 flights.

b.  You will need to take and pass the test before the launch can happen.  Study well - it would be a shame to go to the launch and not be able to fly your rocket because you blew the test.  

c.  Get your observers' attention, get the motor, assemble the rocket, get it on the pad, make sure you still have the observers' attention, and launch the thing!  

d.  Get it back, show it to the observers, and get your forms off to TRA or NAR.

7.  Level 3 Certification  I won't go into detail about Level 3 here - by the time you have obtained Level 2 you will be familiar with the overall process.  Briefly, level 3 involves obtaining input from a TRA/NAR technical advisor to make sure your design is acceptble, building a rocket capable of flying on an M motor, and launching and recovering it successfully.  

Jimmy Yawn