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U.S. ROCKETS Regulatory Change Page

Expert advise from those that live it and know. To
those, that control and selectively and arbitrarily
enforce, sometimes contrary to duty and procedure!
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California Health and Safety Code
California Health & Safety Code § 12520

Existing:

12520. Model rocket engine

"Model rocket engine" means a commercially manufactured, non-reusable rocket propulsion device which is constructed of a nonmetallic casing and solid propellant, wherein all of the ingredients are self-contained so as not to require mixing or handling by the user and which have design and construction characteristics determined by the State Fire Marshal to provide a reasonable degree of safety to the user.

Proposed 1:

"Model rocket engine or Model rocket motor" means a commercially manufactured, rocket propulsion device which propels a largely nonmetallic unmanned, atmospheric rocket (aero-vehicle), with solid or liquid, fuels or oxidizers or propellants, wherein all of the ingredients are provided or specified so as to require only assembly and preparation, but not mixing by the user and which have design and construction characteristics that provide a reasonable degree of safety to the user, as determined by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), typically the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) in concert with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). A "Model rocket engine or Model rocket motor" in this context is inclusive of ignition pellets, black powder ejection or ignition charges, igniters, delay fuses, delay trains, altitude reporting charges, and other accessories needed to properly activate stages, clusters, parachutes, payloads, and safety mechanisms.

Proposed 2:

"Model rocket engine" means a commercially manufactured, rocket propulsion device, wherein all of the ingredients are self-contained or specified, so as not to require proopellant chemical mixing by the user, and which has design and construction characteristics determined by the AHJ (NAR-NFPA) to provide a reasonable degree of safety to the user.

AHJ - Authority Having Jurisdiction
NAR - National Association of Rocketry
NFPA - National Fire Protection Association

Proposed 3:

12520a. Civil rocket engine or motor

"Civil rocket engine or motor" means a commercially manufactured, rocket propulsion device which propels an unmanned, atmospheric rocket (aero-vehicle), with solid or liquid, fuels or oxidizers or propellants, wherein all of the ingredients are provided or specified so as to require only assembly and preparation, but not propellant mixing by the user and which have design and construction characteristics that provide a reasonable degree of safety to the user, as determined by the experienced AHJ (NAR-NFPA).

CSFM also said that they would welcome and support a change in the law, but that they do not initiate legislation. The current person said something about supporting a law change as well, but that is not initiated by their office.

We would like CA OSFM to support a proposed legislative change by our industry.

California Title 19

Except for amateur rocketry, omit all regulations as pertains to rockets. Declare propellant and materials that do not "function by explosion" not regulated. Examples include rocket propellant with a low ambient burning rate (federal court precedent is <1000mm/s), similar delay materials, small ejection charges (0-2g) consisting of un-pressure-retained Black Powder, igniters with a slow burning propellant on them, ie. not detonators.

The amateur lisence qualification requirements are nearly impossible to achieve. Change the permit requirement to a fee, no test, and a peer review by three other rocketeers who sign an affidavit but themselves need not be lisenced by the state. Hardly anybody is, or can be, amateur rocketry Class 1 lisenced by the state, especially actual rocketry experts!

Consumer rocket approvals are already conducted nationwide by actual experts at the NAR. DOT/UN/IACO does article approvals so the CA system is redundant and entirely unnecessary and less sophisticated. We strongly suggest accepting all article approvals from other rocket producing countries as well, but especially China, England, France, Canada, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

Consumer rocketry now has a near perfect 45+ year safety record in the state. Declare it a widely legal product dischargeable anywhere in the state that conforms to the NAR safety code, and is FAA exempt or approved, including schools and parks. It's time to revive STEM education in this state, killed by grossly excessive consumer rocketry and other regulations.

It wouldn't hurt to revive after school model rocketry and other programs to reduce gang influence in this state which experienced a rapid rise when after school and city recreation programs were cancelled in the mid-1970's, and the money given to now grossly overburdensome police and fire salaries and benefits. That made the police and fire unions stronger in two hurtful ways, more money and more crime "for them". They hit the bureaucratic lottery!

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

(12) Purchase or use by persons 17 years old or younger of Type G model rocket motors that do not meet the specifications of 16 CFR, 1500.85(8) and (9), “Consumer Product Safety Commission Regulations.” (l3) Purchase or use by persons 17 years old or younger of reloadable model rocket motors or motor reloading kits that do not meet the specifications of 16 CFR, 1500.85(8) and (9), “Consumer Product Safety Commission Regulations.”

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms,
and Explosives (BATFE)

Reinstate former 27 CFR 55.141 (a) (7) with the minor revision that the former Class C DOT category which now encompasses all of class 1.4 be exempted again, as it was for decades from 1972-1998 or so.

The primary issue is, "What is covered by BATF regulations?" It used to be the case that a lot of rocket motors were not prior to 12/98, in 27 CFR 55.141, which covers Exemptions.

"The importation and distribution of fireworks classified as Class C explosives and generally known as "common fireworks", and other Class C explosives, as described by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations in 49 CFR 173.100 (p), (r), (t), (u) and (x)."

In the regulations referred to by 27 CFR 55.141 (a) (7), the DOT's 49 CFR 173.100 (u) is about toy propellant devices, defined broadly enough to include rocket motors using both cardboard and composite casings.

Then BATF changed the rules. First, they deleted the definition of Common Fireworks in the rules that became effective 12/98. Instead, they substituted "Consumer Fireworks" which sounded a lot like the earlier definition EXCEPT that it lists specific UN numbers–in this case UN0336 and UN0337–instead of the more general Class C explosives (now 1.4). Neither UN0336 and UN0337 are relevant to rocketry, and in fact are used for materials classified as 1.4G.

Exemptions:
27 CFR 55.141 (a) (7), to exempt only:

Omit:

"The importation, distribution, and storage of fireworks classified as UN0336, UN0337, UN0431, or UN0432 explosives by the U.S. Department of Transportation at 49 CFR 172.101 and generally known as "consumer fireworks" or "articles pyrotechnic."

Replace with:

"The importation and distribution of fireworks classified or listed as Class 1.4 (formerly Class C) explosives and generally known as "common fireworks", and other Class 1.4 explosives, as described by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations in 49 CFR 173.100 (p), (r), (t), (u) and (x), or a foreign country classification bureau."

The importation and distribution of substances or articles classified or listed as DOT/UN 4.1 Flammable Solid or below. Igniters which are an electrical unit with a slow burning solid on it. Time fuses or propellant tubes. Black Powder deployment tubes. A pound per type of open BP.

UN0336 and UN0337 are for fireworks. UN0431 and UN0432 are "articles pyrotechnic." UN0432 in particular is the designation given by the DOT to small black powder rocket motors, so Estes and Quest are still exempt. However, none of the UN numbers used for composite propellant motors were included, even for those classified as 1.4S, just like Estes motors are. This is apparently not what the BATF intended.

Furthermore the scope of regulations vastly exceeds the mandate of the BATFE by congress in a wide range of areas after you consider the actual text of their mandate:

Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, Title XI
Regulation of Explosives
Public Law 91-452, Approved October 15, 1970 (as Amended)
[NOTE: Any reference to the Internal Revenue Code of
1954 refers to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986
(Sec. 2, Public Law 99-514, 100 Stat. 2085, October 22, 1986.)]

PURPOSE

SEC. 1 1 01. The Congress hereby declares that the purpose of this title is to protect interstate and foreign commerce against interference and interruption by reducing the hazard to persons and property arising from misuse and unsafe or insecure storage of explosive materials. It is not the purpose of this title to place any undue or unnecessary Federal restrictions or burdens on law-abiding citizens with respect to the acquisition, possession, storage, or use of explosive materials for industrial, mining, agricultural, or other lawful purposes, or to provide for the imposition by Federal regulations of any procedures or requirements other than those reasonably necessary to implement and effectuate the provisions of this title.

Proof of BATFE recognition of Propellant Actuated Device exemption.
Federal Court Order (pdf) establishing a burning rate threshold for burn/deflagrate.

FINAL FEDERAL COURT ORDER 16 March 2009:

"ATFE’s own burn rate threshold for deflagration is 1000 millimeters (or one meter) per second."
Tripoli Rocketry Ass’n, 437 F.3d at 81-82

This means a burning rate under the BATFE threshold for deflagration (<1000mm/sec) involves mere burning, not deflagration (>1000mm/sec), or detonation (>1138 fps, Mach 1, the speed of sound).

Department of Transportation (DOT)

There is an entire class of propellants which show no explosive properties below a certain threshold size and through Bureau of Explosives testing showed to not even be Class 1 a subset of which is Class B (now 1.3).

Since they passed the threshold tests for explosivity and burning rate, they are not subject to jurisdiction of DOT (HMR) at all.

Remember that we are not talking about propellant "powders" here, where 50 pounds of a "substance" is an explosive, and below 28 grams is class 1.4 and say 1 gram in an "article" is exempt.

We are talking about a solid chunk of material which above a certain size, typically above an 8.4 x 100 cm solid cylinder is treated as having "mass burning" properties, whether or not they are externally inhibited like consumer propellants, which is a shipping quantity hazard factor not an explosivity factor at all. Rocket propellant (APCP) is not typically stacked in large logs like firewood during transport to ease ignition in an accident. Slow burning solid propellant grains are not an explosive at all. It is divided into smaller packages in wood crates or fiberboard boxes, and shippped in relatively small quantities per shipment or container, less than 25 pounds net on average, and almost always below the 1000 pound net DOT placard limits per shipment.

HMR exemption practice should be expanded to comply with the existing regulations, to not subject to HMR, solid cast or extruded propellants shown to not have explosive characteristics and to have a burning rate under the DOT (2.2mm/s) threshold for a 4.1 flammable solid.

BOE Test Report for typical Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant (APCP). "Passed" below a 8.4 x 100 cm solid cylinder solid chunk size. Falls out of class 1.3 or 1.4 consideration.

BOE/DOT Test Criteria
DOT's own criteria for burning rate of a slow burning solid or "slurry" is over 2.2mm/sec to be included in class 4.1 at all, below which the material is not subject to HMR at all. All of our consumer rocket propellants fall below that DOT class 4.1 2.2mm/sec ambient burning rate threshold entirely.

QED. APCP propellant, or any other slow burning solid cast or extruded propellant, is not a DOT class 1.3 or 1.4 explosive as defined or tested. APCP propellant is not a DOT class 4.1 flammable solid as defined or tested. APCP is not subject to 49 CFR HMR (DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations).

That's my NARCON 2011-12 entry.

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