arsa.jpg - 21.8 K

Amateur Rocketry Society
Of America

On Line News Letter

updated.gif - 0.2 KMay 5, 2006

ARSA Homepage

Resources

Newsletter

Legislative Efforts

National & International Stories

Education Stories

Consumer-Hobby Rocketry Stories


flag.gif - 12.8 K flag.gif - 12.8 K

"Americans Flying Rockets
Are Not Terrorists!"

Copyright © 2003 Amateur Rocketry Society of America


US Federal Court Rules AP Propellant Not An Explosive

May 23, 2009 - The High Power and Amateur Rocketry world finally received some good news and relief from Federal regulations. The court case brought by the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and Tripoli Rocketry Association (TRA) against the ATFE for putting ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) on the ATFE Explosives List was won by NAR and TRA. The AFTE decided not to appeal the court ruling. This means amateurs can make, transport and use APCP without any ATFE explosive permits. It also has the effect of cancelling out the major negative effect that the passage of the Homeland Security Act had on the hobby. While black powder is still regulated, many hobbyists have switched to Pyrodex "P" for parachute ejection charges as an effective substitute for black powder. Purchase of Pyrodex does not require an ATFE permit and can be bought in many sporting goods stores. With the court case won and APCP off the ATFE Explosives List, ARSA sees no need to pursue federal legislation in this area of the hobby.


Consumer Product Safety Commission Prosecution
Puts Pyrotek Owner In Federal Prison

May 5, 2006 - Pyrotek and NE Lab Supply, major suppliers for amateur rocketry, are out of business. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been pushing consumer pyrotechnic companies to require ATF permits from their customers even when the chemicals are not on the ATF explosives list. The CPSC initially visits the owner and threatens prosecution unless the company agrees to CPSC terms of requiring ATF permits. John Rasmus, owner of Pytrotek, did not agree and the CPSC filed charges against him. Not having the financial resources to defend himself in court, he accepted a "plea bargain" that prevented Pyrotek from selling any oxidizers or fuels. He also paid a $10,000 fine. This agreement essentially put Pyrotek out of business as these chemicals are the backbone of consumer pyrotechnic companies.

Rasmus started a new company called NE Lab Supply, which sold oxidizers and fuels. The CPSC viewed this new company as a violation of the "plea bargain" and went to federal court. With no financial resources to defend himself, Rasmus pled guilty to three counts of criminal contempt for violating the terms of a previous plea bargain. In October of 2005, John Rasmus was sentenced to 5 months in federal prison, 5 months home confinement and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge James M. Munley, Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Click here for CPSC press release on Pyrotek


Consumer Product Safety Commission
Harrassing Chemical Dealers To Require
ATFE Permits For Pyro & Rocket Chemicals

December 3, 2004 - For several months, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been conducting an intense campaign to require that chemicals used in pyrotechnics and amateur rocketry be sold only to those individuals and companies with ATFE permits. These are chemicals which are not on the ATFE Explosives List and legally do not require a permit. The CPSC has been systemically harassing businesses to force them to comply or face expensive legal court action. While the CPSC has no legal basis for their action, they hope the threat of financial ruin in a prolong court battle against the federal government will motivate business owners to bow to CPSC demands. This spring, the Department of Justice started looking for ways to regulate all chemicals via the ATFE. The ATFE enforcement division was cool to the idea, but Justice was determined to pursue it. It is not known at this time if there is any connection between the CPSC harrassment campaign and the Department of Justice.

Some chemical companies have given in to the demands of the CPSC. Fire Fox Enterprises has decided to fight, but lacks the financial resources to do so. It has asked members of the pyrotechnics community for financial aid. The letter below from Fire Fox to the Fireworks Foundation details the situation.

Fire Fox Enterprises Letter

The time has come to start the fund raisers, and we appreciate your willingness to help us. We were hoping that we would not have to write this letter, but unfortunately all of our attempts to negotiate with the CPSC have failed. On Monday last we were served with a Summons to either sign the Consent Decree that was attached or appear in court. After reading through the new proposed Consent Decree, we have come to the conclusion that to sign it we would in fact be putting an end to our business, as we could not survive with such a devastating blow in sales by eliminating these items from sales as stated in this Decree.

This is a brief summary of their decree;
No sales whatsoever on the following items unless the customer has an ATFE manufacturing permit;
any Chlorate compound, Magnesium Metal (all), Permanganate compound, Peroxide compound, Zirconium Metal, or any listed in 16 C.F.R. 1507.2.
No sales on the following to anyone that does not posses a ATFE Manufacturing Permit, the following particle size in less than 100 mesh, Aluminum and Aluminum Alloys (all of them), Magnesium Aluminum Alloys, Titanium Alloys or Zinc Metal.
No sales on the following items to anyone that does not posses a ATFE Manufacturing Permit in quantities greater than 1 LB per year, Antimony and Antimony Compounds, Benzoate Compounds, Nitrate Compounds, Perchlorate Compounds, Salicylate Compounds or Sulfur.
No sales on any Fuse greater than 25' per year per customer who does not posses a ATFE Manufacturing License.

As you can see this covers virtually ALL OXIDIZERS and most of the commonly used fuels. This will effectively put us and all other suppliers out of business and with us, the clubs. The ATF tells us that hobby fireworks for your own use and not for resale is legal without permits in most cases (you still need an ATFE to purchase time fuse if you are making shells and black powder). However, you do have to store the completed devices properly according to their specs (magazine) but if you do not have an ATFE you do not need to register the magazine with ATF. You just need one constructed according to their specs should they have reason to visit you and you do need to keep magazine records.

The CPSC does not care about this. It looks to us like they are trying to get these chemicals listed on the FHSA (fed hazardous substance act). If they do, these items are GONE! As you know we have been willing to do our part in controlling those that wish to make illegal devises, as they are the ones that make it hard for all of us that strive to follow the regulations and keep this hobby alive. We do not sell "combination orders" for flash without an ATFE but the CPSC has broadened their language as to what is a combination order. They now state that anyone who orders the materials that can be used to make salutes, even separately and/or over any period of time and even if not all of the materials it takes to make them was ordered, again even over any period of time would be in violation of the FHSA. One example is an order for potassium chlorate or perchlorate and paper tubes! Another would be an order for 250 ft of fuse, etc. etc..

We both wish that we could fight this alone without asking for any help, but unfortunately we do not have enough finances to do that, so we are turning to you and humbly asking you to help us with this. It does not matter who you purchase your materials from. If we loose this battle all the other suppliers will fall as well and they know it. It is time to rally all the support we can to get through this. Please help us and your hobby by addressing as many supporters as you can to come to our aid. We have been in contact with our attorney (Doug Mawhorr) and he is very positive that we will have a good chance of this going our way with some restrictions of course.


Wall Street Journal Reports Hobby
Rocketry's Struggle With Government Regulations

May 8, 2004 - Friday's edition of the Wall Street Journal ran a story that summarized the on going battle between rocket hobbyists and the Department of Justice and ATFE over Government regulations. The article mentions that the classification of ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) as an explosive is at the core of the problem. Reporter Robert Block also mentioned the ATFE tests at Hill AFB with hobby rockets and summarized the contention by hobbyists that their activities are not dangerous to the nation. He also mentioned in the article that some hobbyists are turning to amateur rocketry with home made motors to escape ATFE permit requirements.

The Wall Street Journal article reveals the attitude of some federal law enforcement officials towards the hobbyist with a quote. "Most of the people involved in these activities are harmless fanatics and nerds," says one federal law-enforcement official. "But since 9/11, we have a responsibility to make sure the nerds are not terrorists."


US Court Says Fully Assembled APCP
Sport Rocketry Motors Are PADs

updated.gif - 0.2 KApril 27, 2004 - A hearing was held on April 22nd on the summary judgement issued by Judge Reggie B. Walton of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In March, he issued a summary judgement on two counts in the case brought by NAR and TRA against the ATFE. (See related story) During the hearing, lawyers for NAR and TRA presented the position that the propellant-actuated devices (PAD) ruling by Judge Walton includes all fully assembled sport rocketry motors regardless of propellant weight. The ATFE position was that only motors containing 62.5 grams or less were exempt from ATFE permit requirements via the PAD exemption. However, the 62.5 gram propellant weight exemption first appears in ATFE written correspondence, which Judge Walton ruled was not legally binding. The original ATFE statute giving sport rocketry motors an exemption from ATFE permits did not contain an exemption limit based on propellant weight. Since the ATFE has not issued new regulations via the legal procedure of "comment and rulemaking", the original PAD exemption with no weight limits is the current law.

Ironically, the exemption from ATFE permits only applies to fully assembled sport rocketry motors. APCP propellant reloads are not exempt except when the propellant weight is 62.5 grams or less. There is still some debate as to whether this is 62.5 grams per cartridge or fully assembled motor weight. The ATFE has taken the position that this is fully assembled motor weight.

While the ruling may be of limited use to hobbyists buying commercial motors and reloads, it promises more substanctial relief to amateurs making their own APCP rocket motors and reloads. Amateurs can make APCP propellant and reloads without an ATFE permit. The requirement for a permit arises when the APCP is transported off the property the APCP was made on. Under the new ruling, amateurs can make APCP reloads and simply assemble the reload motor before transporting it off the property. Once the reload motor is assembled with propellant, it is exempt as a PAD.

A letter was sent to the ATFE by the NAR and TRA lawyers stating their interpretation of Judge Walton's ruling. A copy of the letter may be viewed by clicking on the link below.

Click here to view in PDF format the lawyer's letter to ATFE.


ATFE Completes Hobby Rocket Tests
ATFE "Not Dangerous To Planes - Dangerous To Ground Targets"

updated.gif - 0.2 KMay 7, 2004 - A reporter for the Wall Street Journal newspaper has informed ARSA that the ATFE has completed its tests at Hill AFB using hobby rockets (See related story by clicking here). This information is based on an interview the reporter conducted with an ATFE spokesman The ATFE and its contractor, Applied Research Associates, had purchased high power rocket motors, rocket kits, launch rails, electrical launchers and other items to conduct tests at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The purpose of the tests was to provide proof that high power rockets can be used to shoot down commercial aircraft during landings and takeoffs. ATFE Agent Shatzer was leading the testing program and had been traveling across the country purchasing high power rocket supplies using the cover story that he was a high power rocket hobbyist.

The ATFE spokesman said the ATFE is no longer going to claim that hobby rockets could be used to shoot down commercial airliners or aircraft. The test results showed the ATFE that this was not feasible. The ATFE spokesman also denied that the van used in the tests caught fire. The van fire story was initally revealed by Bruce Kelly of the Tripoli Rocketry Association to its members. The ARSA newsletter reported this story and later confirmed it based on eyewitness accounts and physical evidence. (See story by clicking here).

It was earlier reported that the ATFE tests were focused just on the issue of shooting down aircraft with hobby rockets. However, the ATFE revealed that they conducted a wide variety of tests with hobby rockets and ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP). These additional tests included using hobby rockets against ground targets and making bombs with APCP. While the ATFE has backed off on the claim that hobby rockets could be a potential threat to aircraft, they are going to make the following claims based on their tests at Hill Air Force Base:

  1. Hobby rockets can be used to land warheads in the general area of targets on the ground. They will claim that these rockets could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons against ground targets such as the Capital Mall area in Washington, D.C.
  2. APCP can be used to make a bomb. While no details were provided, it is assumed that APCP grains were put inside a sealed, cast iron pipe and ignited. The over pressurization of the pipe caused it to fragment, which sent pieces flying through the air.
  3. APCP can be used to initiate a high explosive material. No details were provided on this as APCP used by the hobby does not detonate. Detonation is usually used to initiate another explosive. It is possible the APCP was ignited, which in turn ignited a high explosive that then detonated.

At this time, it is not know when or how the ATFE will release the details of their tests. It is possible, the results will be used in a reply to Senator Mike Enzi's letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft. (See story by clicking here).


US Court Rules APCP Is An Explosive
ATFE Acted Improperly Revoking
PAD Status For Rocket Motors

April 26, 2004 - Judge Reggie B. Walton of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a summary judgement on two counts in the case brought by NAR and TRA against the ATFE on March 19th. The court ruled in favor of the ATFE in that ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) was properly placed on the ATFE Explosives List. Judge Walton decided the court did not have the technical and scientific expertise to decide whether APCP was actually an explosive and deferred to the expertise of the ATFE. Instead, the court focused on the narrow issue of whether the ATFE had acting within the legal boundaries set by Congress in placing an item on the Explosives List. He decided that the ATFE had followed proper procedures.

The court found that Congress opened the door to the ATFE placing materials that deflagrate on the Explosives List when Congress specifically listed deflagrating materials, such as black powder, on the Explosives List. NAR and TRA lawyers had argued that Congress had not meant for deflagrating materials to be on the Explosives List. They also argued that APCP does not deflagrate, but simply burns. The court deferred to the judgement of the ATFE on this matter stating, "a court should review scientific judgments of an agency not as the chemist, biologist or statistician that we are qualified neither by training nor experience to be, but as a reviewing court exercising our narrowly defined duty of holding agencies to certain minimal standards of rationality. This is because courts are ill equipped to second-guess the expertise of agencies that are charged with making such scientific judgments." Judge Walton noted that the US Army and the NFPA agreed with the ATFE that APCP does deflagrate and is an explosive. The opinion of the NFPA was cited specifically by the court. "The NFPA [d]efin[es a] ‘propellant’ as ‘an explosive material which normally functions by deflagrating (burning) and [which] is used for propelling purposes’ and categorize[es] ‘low explosives or propellants’ as ‘explosive materials,’ . . . [and] indicate[s] that low explosives/propellants ‘. . . are used primarily for propulsion purposes . . . [and] normally function by burning rather than detonation, [but that] many propellants are susceptible to detonation.’ . . . [T]he NFPA [also] states that ‘[b]lack powder, smokeless powder, and solid rocket fuels fall into th[e] category [of low explosives/propellants] . . . ." Since the ATFE, US Army and NFPA stated that APCP deflagrates and is an explosive, Judge Walton did not dispute it.

The court ruled in favor of NAR and TRA on the issue of the ATFE's decision to reclassify model rocket motors from propellant-actuated devices (PADs) to non-PAD status. The ATFE had issued to conflicting letters on the applicability of the PAD exemption to model rocket motors. Judge Walton noted that in April 1994, the ATFE stated that "[t]he exemption at 27 CFR Part 55, section 141(a)(8), includes propellant-actuated 'devices.' The term 'device' is interpreted to mean a contrivance manufactured for a specific purpose. Under this definition, a fully assembled rocket motor would be exempt." He notes that in December 2000, the ATFE took an entirely different position stating in a letter that "[b]ecause the high-power sport rocket motor is, in essence, simply the propellant that actuates the high-power sport rocket, the motor itself cannot be construed to constitute a propellant actuated device." The ATFE asserted that its December 2000 letter should be given deference because it is an interpretative rule. Judge Walton stated that this was an attempt by the ATFE to dodge notice and comment rulemaking procedures. He states, " It is obvious why the ATF wishes to classify its December 22, 2000 pronouncement that sport rocket motors are not PADs as a interpretative rule, rather than a legislative rule, because doing so exempts it from engaging in notice and comment procedures." He concludes that "Thus, before the ATF could altered its earlier interpretation of the applicability of the PAD exemption, it was required to undertake notice-and-comment rulemaking as required by the APA and the OCCA. Because the ATF failed to do so, the Court concludes that its December 22, 2000 pronouncement regarding the applicability of the PAD exemption to sport model rockets was not in compliance with the OCCA and the APA." Consequently the court ruled that fully assembled sport rocket motors are PADs and exempt from the ATFE permit requirements.

Click here to view a PDF file of the court's ruling. (24k)

Click here to view a PDF file of the court's supporting arguments on its ruling. (126K)

The Court Rulings Are Shown Below

ORDERED that the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the claim regarding its classification of Ammonium perchlorate composite propellant ("APCP") as an explosive is GRANTED.

It is FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment regarding the permissibility of the defendant's December 22, 2000 pronouncement that sport motor rockets do not fall under an exemption for a propellant actuated device ("PAD") is GRANTED, as the defendant's interpretation failed to comply with notice-and-comment rulemaking.

It is FURTHER ORDERED that the Court will defer a ruling on counts four and five of the plaintiffs' amended complaint pending the completion of previously initiated notice-and-comment rulemaking.

It is FURTHER ORDERED that the defendant shall immediately notify this Court at the completion of the previously initiated notice-and-comment rulemaking.

It is FURTHER ORDERED that a status hearing shall be held on April 22, 2004 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 5 at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001.


ATFE Confirms A LEMP Is Not Required
By Amateurs Making APCP Motors

March 3, 2004 - The ATFE has confirmed that a Low Explosives Manufacturing Permit (LEMP) is not required by amateurs making APCP rocket motors for their own use. There had been some speculation as to whether a LEMP was required based on comments made by different ATFE field offices and agents.

Mr. Michael Yamamoto requested a clarification of this issue from the ATFE and received a reply from Mr. Carson Carrol, Chief of the Arsons and Explosives Programs Division. Mr. Carrol stated in his response that "because you are manufacturing propellant for your own personal use and do not intend to sell or otherwise distribute, a manufacturer's license is not required." The letter from Mr. Carrol was dated December 2, 2003. Click here to view scanned ATFE letter in jpeg format.

Letter From Mr. Carrol (ATFE)

Dear Mr. Yamamoto:

This is in response to your e-mail dated November 12, 2003, in which you requested a determination as to whether your manufacturing of rocket propellant (ammonium perchlorate in rubber/poly butadiene) for your own use is allowed under the Limited Explosives User Permit 27 CFR, Part 555.

You indicated in a telephone call that you would be manufacturing propellants from their individual ingredients and using them in model rocket motors. According to 27 CFR 555.11, a manufacturer's license is needed in order "to engage in the business of manufacturing explosive materials for purpose of sale or distribution or for his own business use".

Because you are manufacturing propellant for your own personal use and do not intend to sell or otherwise distribute, a manufacturer's license is not required.

We trust that the foregoing has been responsive to your request. Please feel free to contact the Public Safety Branch at 202 - 927 - 2310 if you have any additional questions.

Sincerely yours,

Carson Carrol
Chief, Arson and Explosives
Programs Division


Did The ATFE Accidently
"Torch" Their Van? Yes!

February 20, 2004 - By December 2003, rumors had been circulating through the rocketry community for over a month that the ATFE had accidently "torched" their van when trying to launch a high power rocket out of it. According to the story, the ATFE and their contractor Applied Research Associates were conducting tests on November 3rd, 2003 to provide proof that high power rockets could be used to shoot down commercial aircraft during landings and takeoffs. (See related story by clicking here.) Apparently, one of the motors failed upon ignition sending a burning propellant grain into a box inside the van. The box contained several propellant grains for further tests that day. The propellant grains inside the box ignited. This resulted in the entire van being destroyed in a roaring inferno as ATFE agents and Applied Research Associate employees stood by and watched. Also, according to the story, video was taken of the test and the resulting fire. To complicate matters further for the ATFE, the van was believed to have been a rental.

ARSA has been trying to confirm this story. Today, we can announce that the story is true based on eyewitness accounts and other evidence. We also learned that the van was hauled to a hanger at Hill Air Force Base and put inside for temporary storage.


ATFE Forces Aerotech To Provide Motors
For ATFE Anti-Rocketry Video

December 20, 2003 - Since the publication by ARSA of the ATFE's attempt to produce an anti-rocketry video on the dangers of hobby rockets to commercial aircraft, vendors and manufacturers have refused to sell to the ATFE. This resulted in a letter from the ATFE to the president of Aerotech, Gary Rosenfield demanding that they deliver 40 G80 motors to the ATFE. The ATFE letter claimed the hobby rocket motors were needed in the interest of national security under the Homeland Security Act - 18 U.S.C. 843(i). The letter claimed Aerotech had no other option under the law and the motors were to be delivered to ATFE agent David Shatzer no latter than December 9, 2003.

The text of the letter appears below. A scan copy of the letter can be viewed in Adobe Acrobat PDF format by clicking here.


Dear Mr. Rosenfield:

As you may be aware, Federal law provides that, when required by letter issued by the Attorney General, manufacturers of explosive materials must furnish samples of the explosive materials they manufacture. See 18 U.S.C. 843(i). The authority to administer all provisions of the Federal explosives laws, including section 843(i), has been delegated to the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). See Attorney General Order No. 2650-2003, 68 Fed. Reg. 4923 (January 31, 2003), codified at 28 C.F.R. Part 0, Subpart W. The Director has delegated to me the authority to require samples pursuant to section 843(i). Accordingly, by this letter, I am requiring that you furnish ATFE with the following:

Forty (40) AeroTech G-80 ammonium perchlorate composite propellant rocket motors - any delay.

It is required that you make the above-described items available for pick-up by ATF no latter than December 9, 2003.

ATF will reimburse AeroTech for the fair market value of the samples provided. Accordingly, if you would be so kind as to provide us with a listing of the retail price for the items listed above, we will have your reimbursement available on the date the items are transferred to ATF. In this regard, and to make arrangements to transfer the listed items to ATF, please contact David Shatzer ATF Explosives Research and Development Branch, at 202-494-8265.

We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely yours,
John P. Malone
Assistant Director
(Firearms, Explosives and Arson)


Kettering University Terminates Rocket Club
Due To Homeland Security Act

November 6, 2003 - Kettering University in Michigan has decided to discontinue their on-campus, student-run rocketry club due to the expenses of ATFE licensing and associated liability issues for the University. The decision made earlier in the school year was a major disappointment to students. Kettering University has its origins in the General Motors Institute. For almost 80 years, it has maintained close ties with General Motors who is a corporate partner with the University. Kettering uses a unique system of co-op education that combines classroom studies with professional work experiences. The university recently opened a $40 million Engineering and Science Center that will house the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry.


ATFE Conducts Tests To "Prove" High Power
Rockets Are Dangerous To Commercial Aircraft

November 5, 2003 - The ATFE and its contractor, Applied Research Associates, have been purchasing high power rocket motors, rocket kits, launch rails, electrical launchers and other items to conduct tests at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The purpose of the tests is to provide proof that high power rockets can be used to shoot down commercial aircraft during landings and takeoffs. The tests will be documented by videotape. It is expected that the video tape will be released during a press conference for maximum media exposure.

The ATFE plans were first discovered by a high power rocket vendor who recognized the name of ATFE agent, David Shatzer, as he purchased launch rail equipment. Mr. Shatzer has been traveling across the country purchasing other high power rocket supplies using the cover story that he is a high power rocket hobbyist. He changes the story with respect to who he will be flying with depending on his geographical location. Applied Research Associates has purchased at least 40 J350 rocket motors and large numbers of rocket kits from different suppliers. All of the J350 motors sold were manufactured by Ellis Mountain under license from Aerotech.

ARSA has received additional information that G80 motors were also purchased for the tests. The motors were initially sent via Federal Express on Friday (Oct. 31st), but the scheduled delivery time was not soon enough for the test. Apparently, ATFE agents intercepted the Federal Express truck on the road and took possession of the motors at the highway stop. The agents then took the motors directly to Utah for the tests./p>

It was reported to ARSA that Applied Research Associates employees along with ATFE agents were to conduct tests on Monday (Nov. 3rd) at Hill Air Force Base's Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) using a target drone to simulate a commercial aircraft.. The range is often used for live fire ordnance training of military aircraft. It is located on the west side of the Great Salt Lake and on both sides of I-80. The high power rockets were to be launched out of a parked van. The rockets were going to be launched one at a time at the drone as well as several at a time. The rockets did not contain explosive warheads. It is not known whether the drone was rigged to simulate an explosion as a high power rocket passed by.

The use of hobby rockets to shoot down commerical or military aircraft is not feasible. Click here for a detailed report.


ARSA Publishes Reports To Dispel Myths
On Dangers Of Rocketry By
Department of Justice and ATFE

August 24, 2003 - The Amateur Rocketry Society of America continues to publish on their web site reports that put a spotlight on the lies and propaganda being spread by the Department of Justice and ATFE on the dangers of rocketry in America. The first report dealt with the feasibility of using amateur or high power rockets to shoot down military or civilian aircraft. The analysis clearly showed that amateur and high power rockets would miss their intended targets even if fired at planes on final approach to an airport.

The second report shows how useless amateur and high power rocketry components would be in making weapons against armored vehicles. The report also details how ridiculous the claim by the Department of Justice and ATFE is that a terrorist can "tinker" together an anti-tank weapon with a 5 mile range. The best the US military can do is only 3.1 miles.

Click here to read the ARSA report on rockets and aircraft.

Click here to read the ARSA report on anti-tank weapons.


MSNBC & Fox News Report On The
Current Status Of American Rocketry

July 5, 2003 - MSNBC and Fox News have written stories for their web sites on the current situation of rocketry in America. The MSNBC story combined its coverage of how the Safe Explosives Act affected rocketry with its affect on fireworks. Their story further documented the financial ruin facing small businesses due to ATFE regulations. Both news organizations pointed out the inadequacy of the Hatch-Kohl amendment to Senate bill S724. Fox News reported on how ridiculous the ATFE claims were of using rockets as terrorists weapons.

Click here for Fox News story on American rocketry

Click here for MSNBC story on American rocketry


ATFE Requires Storage For APCP Motors &
Reloads Under 62.5 Grams

May 14, 2003 - The ATFE is apparently not observing their self proclaimed exemption for APCP motors and reloads under 62.5 grams. While the 62.5 gram exemption is not law, the ATFE in their public statements has claimed that they always have and are continuing to exempt APCP motors and reloads under 62.5 grams from ATFE permit and storage requirements.

Mr. Drake Damerau, NEPRA president (NAR Section 614) found out the hard way that the ATFE is not observing the 62.5 gram exemption. Mr. Damerau applied for an ATFE permit and when the ATFE agent came over to his house to go over the paperwork, Mr. Damerau showed the agent his APCP motors including an Aerotech "Easy Access" J350. The ATFE agent discussed Mr. Damerau's motors with other ATFE agents and the agent told Mr. Damerau that the weight of the propellant does not matter. APCP is on the ATFE Explosives List and all APCP motors and reloads have to be in an approved storage magazine regardless of propellant weight. Mr. Damerau was told by the ATFE to make immediate arrangements to put his motors in a storage magazine or the ATFE would confiscate them.


Most Bombing Making Materials Exempt From
Homeland Security Act According To ATFE Report

April 20, 2003 - Many model rocketeers are asking why the ATFE is determined to regulate and control APCP rocket motors. Perhaps, the ATFE should ask themselves the same question. According to the 1996 ATFE Selected Explosive Incidents Report, most incendiary and explosive bombs are fueled by materials that are exempt by law from the Homeland Security Act. These materials are black powder, smokeless powder, gasoline, kerosene and other flammable liquids. They account for 52% of all the materials used to fuel bombs. The list of materials goes down to even the smallest percentage of common materials such as 1.7% for matchheads and 0.3% for blasting agents such an ANFO. APCP is not listed in the 1996 report of incidents, which covers 1992 through 1996.

Click For The ATFE Report

Bombmat.gif - 11.0 K


Safe Explosives Act Affects Majority
Of Solid Rocket Motor Models

April 19, 2003 - Even with ATFE's proposed 62.5 gram propellant weight exemption, approximately 56% of the solid rocket motor models sold to consumers will require an ATFE permit on May 24th of this year. ARSA used the combined certified motor lists from the Tripoli Rocketry Association and National Association of Rocketry to determine the number of different solid rocket motor models that would require an ATFE permit for purchase and use. There are approximately 230 solid rocket motor models sold to consumers. About 129 of those models will require an ATFE permit for purchase and use.

motor.gif - 6.8 K

While the ATFE is telling congressional members and staff that the Homeland Security Act has virtually no influence on the hobby, this does not appear to be the case. Unless Senate Bill S724 becomes law, consumers will be required to have ATFE permits to purchase most of the solid rocket models manufactured for the hobby.


Homeland Security Wants Names and Addresses
For Rocketeers and R/C Airplane Owners

March 25, 2003 - For the last few weeks, ARSA has received reports of local or state law enforcement going into hobby stores requesting a list of names and addresses of buyers of rockets, rocket motors and R/C airplanes. These reports have come from various states and local hobby stores as well as national hobby store chains. The law enforcement officials to our knowledge have not received a list of names and addresses. However, they did tell the store owners to start a list.

A law enforcement official who does not want his name publicly disclosed stated that he had received a letter from a US government agency requesting that local law enforcement start collecting information about buyers of consumer rockets and RC airplanes. He also refused to identify the US government agency. The Quad-City Times newspaper in Davenport, Iowa recently reported that the local Sheriff had gone into a hobby store to find out about buyers of these products. The article by reporter Craig Cooper quotes John Dittmer, owner of a local Hobbytown USA store, as saying that not only is local law enforcement examining buyers of rocket motors, but also RC aircraft. "A few months ago, someone from the Scott County sheriff's office came in and was asking questions. He (the officer) was asking about the small box (payload)," Dittmer said. "They talked to me about keeping track of who was buying what and asked me to get a license number if I suspected anything."

Terry Glandon, the chief deputy of the Scott County Sheriff's Department claimed he had no knowledge of their department going to Dittmer's store. He did state that their department is a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and in this capacity his department is occasionally asked to get information related to domestic security. No law enforcement agency has publicly admitted to attempting to collect information on buyers of consumer rockets and RC airplanes. However, Bob Wilke, a senior vice president for Hobbytown, headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., stated that he has been informed by owners of Hobbytown franchisees across the country that local law enforcement authorities have in fact come into their stores and attempted to collect this information. There are no federal laws requiring the collection of this type of data and hobby stores have a legal right to refuse.


Homeland Security Act Hurts
Aerospace/Defense Industry

March 22, 2003 - The Homeland Security Act puts severe restrictions on American aerospace companies with respect to the hiring of foreign engineers and technicians. The Safe Explosives Act, which is part of the Homeland Security Act, prohibits nonimmigrant aliens from possessing explosives. Virtually all aerospace companies hire foreign engineers and technicians with a nonimmigrant visa, H-1B. During the course of their work assignment, these engineers and technicians would normally be around and in "possession" of explosives. One of these "explosives" is ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) as it is on the ATFE Explosives List. The ATFE's proposed 62.5 gram exemption is not going to help American aerospace companies who produce rocket boosters and other pyrotechnics with weights well over 62.5 grams.

American aerospace companies use foreign engineers and technicians due to a shortage of American aerospace engineers and technicians. Since the cutback of NASA's space program and the reduction of defense strategic missile R & D, engineering students have gone into more promising industries such as software and electronics. A recent US Air Force Space Command briefing on the development of a Spaceplane seriously questioned whether the United States had the quality and number of aerospace engineers and technicians to develop this new vehicle.

Recognizing the disastrous consequences for the United States, government agencies and aerospace industries have been working with American universities to encourage engineering and technical students to consider a career in aerospace. As part of this effort, universities have developed "hands-on" rocketry courses to produce more and higher quality engineers and technicians. The Safe Explosives Act delivers a "One - Two" punch to this effort by threatening the future existence of these "hands-on" programs (Click here for related story) and simultaneously making the shortage of engineers and technicians worse by severely restricting the use of foreign nationals.


Safe Explosives Act's "Prohibited"
Persons - Nonimmigrant Aliens

March 22, 2003 - The Safe Explosives Act prohibits nonimmigrant aliens from possessing explosives except under very special circumstances such as when they are members of the foreign military, law enforcement or working for select US government agencies. This prohibited category of persons has caused major problems with respect to the shipment of explosives (Click here for related story), "hands-on" rocketry programs (Click here for related story) and even national defense (Click here for related story). Many people have ask ARSA, "What visas would put a foreign national in the prohibited category?" If a foreign national has a visa listed below and does not fit into one of the special circumstances above, they are in the prohibited category.

Safe Explosives Act Prohibited Category Visas

  • E - International Traders and Investors
  • H - Temporary Workers
  • L - Intracompany Transferees
  • O - Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
  • P - Entertainers and Athletes
  • Q - Participants in International Exchange Programs
  • R - Religious Workers
  • TN - Canadians and Mexicans Under NAFTA
  • A - Diplomatic and other government officials, and their families and employees.
  • B - Temporary visitors for business or pleasure.
  • F - Academic Students and their families
  • G - Representatives to international organizations and their families and employees.
  • I - Representatives of foreign media and their families
  • J - Exchange Visitors and their families
  • M - Vocational Students and their families
  • N - Parents and children of the people who have been granted special immigrant status because their parents were employed by an international organization in the United States.
  • H-1B Temporary working visa

ATFE "Limited" Permits For Rocketry
Useless Or Unobtainable For Many Hobbyists

March 18, 2003 - Gail Davis, chief of the ATF's public safety branch in Washington, D.C. stated in an article on the Space.Com web site (Click here for story by Space.com) that hobbyists can simply apply for a "Limited" permit that requires a background check, a $25 fee and get finger printed to buy rocket motors using over 62.5 grams of propellant. "There's a process for that and it's not an impossible process," Davis said. While it may be possible for some, it is an impossible process for many and will force them out of the hobby. Second, even if consumers get a "Limited" permit, it is so limited that for most consumers it is useless.

All ATFE permits require the applicant provide storage for explosive materials. This can be an explosive storage facility on the applicants premises or a storage facility belonging to someone else, provided the applicant can prove they can use the other person's explosive storage facility. It has been proven through many tests that ammonium perchlorate composite propellant is not an explosive (Click here for related story), but since the ATFE permit is to buy and use explosives, the ATFE requires permit holders to be able to store explosives. It is reasonable to assume that consumers living in apartments, condominiums and houses in residential areas are going to have difficulty providing their own explosive storage facilities. Their only alternative is to find someone willing to give them permission to store explosives. Most people would agree that this would not be simple or easy. In fact, it would be highly unlikely for someone to find another individual or company willing to let a stranger have access to their storage facility.

For those lucky enough to provide some means of storing explosives, pass the background check and are given an ATFE "Limited" permit, they face a second hard reality. The "Limited" permit only allows the holder to buy from dealers and manufacturers in their state of residence. Most states do not have manufacturers or dealers selling consumer rocket motors with over 62.5 grams of propellant. So even after going through the entire ATFE permit process, the hobbyist cannot find anyone to buy from in their state. For them, the "Limited" permit is useless.


Safe Explosives Act Damages
American Aerospace Engineering Courses

March 8, 2003 - Leading American universities and colleges offering aerospace engineering degrees have developed in recent years "hands on" rocketry classes. In these classes, students make rocket motors or use commercial rocket motors to power rockets they have designed and built themselves. These types of classes are invaluable for aerospace engineering students and the aerospace industry. With this type of educational training, engineering graduates employed by NASA, Department of Defense and industry are able to make productive contributions to their employers. These "hands-on" engineering classes are comprised of both American and foreign students with the percentage of foreign students rising at the post graduate level.

The ATF has put educational institutions on notice that effective May 24, 2003 "it is not permissible for a nonimmigrant alien student at a public or private educational institution to possess explosives (or for the institution to knowingly provide explosives to him) for use in the course of his studies or for other purposes not related to his employment with the public educational institution." As ammonium perchlorate composite rocket propellant (APCP) is on the ATF Explosives List, foreign students could not participate in these classes. Even the proposed 62.5 gram exemption by the ATF will not help as these rocket motors use more than 62.5 grams. The use of rocket motors using propellants not on the explosives list also does not eliminate the problem as the parachute ejection charge on a student's rockets is black powder, which is on the ATF Explosive List.

While American colleges and universities could limit these classes to only American students, this limitation would encourage foreign students to go to non-American schools. Students from Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Australia and other nations will be pushed by the ATF's action to non-American schools for their aerospace engineering degrees. The drop in foreign student enrollment will financially hurt American universities that are already struggling to keep ever rising college tuitions down.

While Section 845 of the Safe Explosives Act would seem to exempt state colleges and universities, the ATF has taken the hard line that the exemption only applies to school employees and the school. For example, the school and its employees will not be required to obtain an ATF permit/license to purchase explosives. For private institutions, like Stanford University, the ATF will require that the university obtain ATF permits/licenses to lawfully receive explosive materials on or after May 24, 2003.

Click here for ATF press release on Safe Explosives Act and educational institutions


New Hampshire State Police Try To
Make APCP Explode & Fail!

March 7, 2003 - When Paul Robinson, CEO of Animal Motor Works, applied to the New Hampshire State Police Explosives License Division for a "state" storage permit for Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant (APCP) propellant cartridges, the State Police found that APCP didn't fit into any of their assigned explosive categories. Consequently, the State Police decided to conduct their own tests to classify the propellant and asked for Robinson's most reactive propellant. He gave the State Police three APCP propellant grains that were each three inches in size.

In the first test, the State Police put a boosted blasting cap in one propellant grain and initiated the cap. There was no explosion besides the blasting cap. The cap simply scattered pieces of APCP in a five to six foot radius.

In the second test, the State Police wrapped an APCP propellant cartridge with detonator cord. The cord was initiated with no explosion or ignition of the APCP grain. The detonator cord simply cut the APCP grain in half. The State Police then took one of the halves and wrapped that half with detonator cord. Again, the detonator cord failed to ignite the APCP or cause it to explode. It simply cut the half into smaller pieces.

Finally, the State Police took the small pieces from the previous tests and threw them into a small fire. The APCP did not explode but simply burned in the fire. The New Hampshire State Police Explosives License Division was completely satisfied that APCP was not an explosive or blasting agent. Consequently, they granted Paul Robinson a storage permit for his APCP propellant cartridges.


Homeland Security Law Targets AP Propellant &
Black Powder Ejection Charges

November, 2002 - The Homeland Security Act signed into law by President Bush imposes new restrictions on amateur and high power rocketry. Consumers need an ATF permit to purchase rocket motors using ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) over the 62.5 gram limit. Amateurs who make their own ammonium perchlorate composite propellants also need an ATF permit to move ammonium perchlorate composite propellant within the state it is made. Prior to this, a permit was only required when amateurs transported APCP out of the state they made the propellant in. Other composite propellants are not currently affected by the law as they are not on the ATF explosives list. Also, black powder commonly used in ejection charges for deploying parachutes cannot be purchased for this purpose without an ATF permit.

This new restriction on APCP and black powder started with different versions of a "Safe Explosives Act" introduced into the Senate and House of Representatives. Both versions had restrictions on the intrastate (within state) purchase and transportation of explosives. The Senate version (S. 1956) came out of committee, but never made it to the floor of the Senate for a vote. The House version (H.R. 4864) was in committee from mid-June until mid-September when it came out of committee in in a revised form. However, this new version never made it to the floor of the House for a vote. Both the Senate and House versions of the "Safe Explosives Act" were never debated by either the Senate or House and never came up for a vote.

This appeared to be the end of the story for the "Safe Explosives" bills. However, President Bush was determined to push through the "lame duck" Senate and House a "Homeland Security" bill. Senators and Representatives knew that any Homeland Security bill passed by the Senate and House would be signed by the President. On November 13th, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (Wisconsin) breathed life back into the Safe Explosives Act by tacking it onto the Homeland Security bill as an amendment. This amendment was written by Sensenbrenner and Senator Herb Kohl (Wisconsin), who was the sponsor of the Senate version of the explosives act. The House passed the bill with the amendment and the Senate did not take the amendment out of the bill. President Bush signed the Homeland Security Bill into law on November 25th. In 12 days, the President and Congress stripped amateur and high power rocketeers of one their freedoms.

Below we have listed the sponsors of the original "Safe Explosives" bills along with their cosponsors. Cosponsors are members of Congress who wish to have their names attached to a bill being presented to Congress. It is a strong measure of support for the bill.

Senate Bill 1956 Cosponsors - Senator Herb Kohl (Sponsor)

  • Senator Cantwell, Maria
  • Senator Durbin, Richard J.
  • Senator Hatch, Orrin G.
  • Senator Schumer, Charles E.

House Bill 4864 Cosponsors - Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Sponsor)

  • Rep. Baldwin, Tammy
  • Rep. Conyers, John Jr.
  • Rep. Gallegly, Elton
  • Rep. Green, Mark
  • Rep. Johnson, Nancy L.
  • Rep. Keller, Ric
  • Rep. Pence, Mike
  • Rep. Schiff, Adam B.
  • Rep. Smith, Lamar