Rocketry Clubs? Who Needs ‘Em?

A recent discussion in an online rocketry forum turned into a debate on the merits of joining and participating in local rocket clubs. Surprisingly, most of the comments were in support of the tenuous contention that clubs are a good thing. How these posters came to the conclusion that rocketry clubs serve some useful purpose is hard to comprehend.

Historically, model rocketry has been a solo activity.  A committee isn’t formed to build an Estes Alpha III.  You sit alone in your living room or garage and you build the rocket by yourself. You don’t need a club. 

A couple of times a year, you hunt through all the stuff in the garage for your launch pad and controllers then you dig through the kitchen drawer for some batteries.  You lug all the stuff to the local school and, assuming you didn’t forget something like the launch rod, you launch the rocket a couple of times before it lands in the schoolyard’s retention pond.

Contrast this to attending a club launch where you are forced, every month, to watch dozens of rockets flown by others before you even get the chance to use the club’s fancy, schmancy launch pad and controller to fly your rocket.  Since the field is larger, you’ll probably have to walk and recover your rocket instead of abandoning it to the rocket gods.

At every club launch there’s always people who just want to prove that they are smarter than you.  They are always trying to tell you how you can do things better. Just because they have more experience or have discovered some interesting tip or trick is no reason for them to go out of their way to tell me about it!

Oh … and the kids!  There are always kids at club launches.  Shouldn’t they be home watching re-runs of TeleTubbies or Hanna Montana instead of running to recover an Estes rocket?

Before I was coerced into joining a couple of local rocket clubs, I managed just fine. I launched a rocket two or three times a year.  Now, I trudge out to the club launches two or three times a month!  Instead of watching my rocket go “whoosh … pop” a few times, I have to watch a wide range of rockets flown by a lot of other people.  How would anyone imagine that sitting in a folding chair in the middle of large sod farm watching a 12-foot tall rocket tear into the sky propelled by an M motor could be interesting? Why would I want to watch some little kid get excited as his first rocket floats back to earth under a bright-colored parachute when I could be at home cleaning cobwebs out of the garage?

Don’t get me started about the costs!

Launch fees and dues can total $60 or $70 a year!  And for what? Insurance?  A nice field where you can fly rockets safely and legally? Launch equipment that actually works?  Other than all that, just what are you getting for your money?

5 comments to Rocketry Clubs? Who Needs ‘Em?

  • Daddyisabar

    I like how your post both blasts and then defends clubs in a sarcastic way. There are a number of pros and cons to both solo launching and club launching, you just have to find your own individual way way. I mostly launch with clubs but I happen to live close to a number of very good ones. But when it is time to launch my barely stable exotic stuff on some home made motors it is time for the solo rouge launch!

    • roger

      I hope it’s clear that I really enjoy participating in club launches. We’re fortunate here in Central Florida to have four or five active clubs within driving distance. Even when I don’t have anything to fly, I make an effort to attend the launches.

  • Cgraski

    I’ve been going back-and-forth on this for a couple of months now. As a college professor and mountain biker, I needed something to relieve the pain from the migraines I get from grading loads of essays undeserving of a pass. Or, if there’s a downpour and I can’t get out and ride, I will descend into my basement and open one of my many kits (I seem to acquire at least one per hardware store visit) and build it. Once completed, the stress is gone. Now, more importantly, when it’s time for me to do a bit of launching, I have only two options. They’re good options, one being a slightly larger field than the other and a fair distance away (20 minutes – so not exactly an odyssey). When I go is typically 6:30 a.m., and I can launch and recover anywhere from 5 to 10 rockets in a matter of 30 minutes (setup and tear-down included). Posts like these just remind me that I still have the $72 that I’d have to shell out if I decided to join the nearest rocket club (plus NAR fees). The nitpickers also dissuade me from joining a club. I have fun building a kit, I launch the rocket, and most of the time I am able to recover it. I don’t care if my launch lug is .25 degrees off from center. I don’t care if the way I fold my parachutes is different from yours. I think the point of these clubs (RC airplane clubs included) is to let the gents come out and show how big their rocket/plane/golf balls are. I often take a colleague of mine with me to launch. It’s very casual. We make good conversation. My inner child shines for a few moments, prolonging my lifespan by a fraction of a minute, and then I go home. Sometimes I remark, “I might join one of those rocket clubs.” To which my colleague replies, “What would you want to do that for? You know full well there would be nothing but the equivalent to the ‘know-it-all’ student who won’t just shut up and appreciate the process. It would quickly become a chore. Plus, I need a way to get out of the house for a bit. I wouldn’t want to drive over 45 minutes to see some rockets go up, no offense.” Seconded.

  • Mark II

    “Launch fees and dues can total $60 or $70 a year!”
    Actually that does sound kind of high. Typically around here annual club dues are more like $10-$20. Launch fees? Never heard of such a thing. What would it pay for? There are two rocket clubs in my region. Each is approximately 2.5 hours drive each way, but they are in different directions. One of them is in another state. It is well worth the trip to attend each one’s monthly launches.

  • I run a local Low and Mid Power NAR Section here is South Florida and I think that Rocket clubs are definitely a necessity in current days. And for some of the following reasons:

    1)Try to go fly in your local park. Before you know it some local Park Ranger will tell you to pack up and leave.
    2)The costs of Ground Support Equipment.
    3)Most parks require Liability Insurance which we get from being a NAR Section.
    4)And finally, who wants to fly alone?

    The fun in Model, Mid and HPR Rocketry is sharing it with others. I have never had an issue about “who is smarter”. I love having the “old timers” with the group. We all help out everyone who asks. And we do it with a smile. And the kids and parents “eat it up!”

    Our club does not charge a regular fee, I have been covering most of the equipment expenses personally but I do ask for donations and we even give away model rocket kits when our flyers throw us some dollars to help out with support and permit fees. And for those who can’t give, they are still welcome!

    We love having the Cub/Boy scouts and other local groups and schools join us. There is nothing better than watching the face of some 7 old kid press the Big Red Button we have on our Launch Console as his rocket flys off the pad.

    This is what Rocketry is all about!

    Marc Schlesinger
    NAR 21632 L2
    Broward Area Rocketry Society
    Secretary, Tripoli South Florida #111
    TRA 12176 L2

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