National Association of Rocketry
National Association of Rocketry
Educator's Newsletter
 October 2019
In this issue
200 and Growing

In Homer Hickam's memoir "Rocket Boys," (made into the movie "October Sky") he writes of how he and his friends in 1959 wanted to build a rocket, so the first thing they did was form a rocket club. The boys called it the Big Creek Missile Agency (BCMA) after the Army Ballistic Missile Agency that had launched Explorer-1, America's first satellite.  The BCMA had many successful launches; but, it mainly propelled the boys into college and careers unlikely for kids from their small West Virginia town. 

Rocket clubs have been doing this for decades, helping young people set their STEM course to the stars. NAR has set a record this year for having over 200 active sections nationally, with many of them formed around a school class. Your class can easily become a NAR section and be a rocket club with local launches and TARC teams. Help your students to have a life changing "Rocket Boys" experience with the fun and enrichment of having a club.
Aim high!

Vince Huegele
NAR Education Chairman
2020 The American Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Competition

 The American Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is an aerospace design and engineering event for teams of US secondary school students (6th through 12th grades) run by the NAR and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). Teams can be sponsored by schools or by non-profit youth organizations such as Scouts, 4-H, or Civil Air Patrol (but not the NAR or other rocketry organizations). The goal of TARC is to motivate students to pursue aerospace as an exciting career field, and it is co-sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers, Estes Industries, the Department of Defense, and NASA.
Are you ready to accept the challenge?  

TARC registration is open  to the first 1000 teams  submitting a completed application, including payment, postmarked between now and December 1, 2019!

Key elements of the challenge are:
  • 800 feet, 40 - 43 seconds for qualification flights
  • 1 egg, any orientation
  • All parts must recover connected, using a parachute
  • No specifications for body diameter or parachute size
  • Still have to be painted at the Finals, but no Saturn 5 resemblance event
  • FIRST flight at the Finals will be 25 feet higher or lower than 800 feet based on coin flip Friday night, SECOND flight will be the other - no flights at the Finals will have 800 feet as the goal.  Durations adjusted by 1 sec tracking the altitude.
Engineering Notebook Competition:
You can read the rules here and see the notebooks from the best teams from previous years. Even if you don't submit your notebook for the contest, we encourage you to keep one. Building an engineering notebook will help you keep organized and analyze your data. All of the work needed to ensure success in TARC, and at the International Rocketry Competition, is the same as the work needed to make a great engineering notebook. Entries will be judged by engineers from TARC sponsor companies and the winning team will be awarded a cash prize.
Team Outreach Competition:
The competition provides an opportunity to show off your team's work getting others involved with rocketry and STEM. The team with the best TARC Outreach Competition score that submitted a valid set of qualifying flights (sorry DQs do not count), but did not make the top 100 teams by flight score, will earn a spot to compete in the National Finals and will be eligible to compete for prize money just like all the other teams. We will also award a prize at the National Finals to the team with the best overall outreach program. Teams in the top 100 are eligible for this award too. You can read full details here.
Social Media
If you want to stay up to date on what's happening with TARC 2020, follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @RocketContest, like us on Facebook, and keep in touch!

Selection for the Finals will be based on the sum of the best two of up to three qualification flight reports a team submits by April 6.

TARC gives students opportunities to apply their math and science skills to a real world project outside of the classroom.  For many students, this experience yields their first significant personal realization of how what they are learning in school is relevant to the fun and challenging endeavors representative of potentially future career pathways.  

Through TARC, students have discovered they enjoy solving math and science problems in the context of resolving difficult and complex design issues.  Often TARC is also their first exposure to the aerospace industry.  They learn what aerospace engineers and skilled technical workers do and what it takes to become one of those professionals. 

Take the challenge!

NAR 4322
NAR TARC Manager 

NAR Robert L. Cannon Award and Extracurricular Activity Grant Awards
Did you know that if you are NAR member between the ages of 17 and 22 attending college or a vocational school that you may be eligible to receive a scholarship?

Are you a teacher or educator who uses model rocketry in the classroom?  You are welcome to apply for a $500 grant to use in your program.

In 2001, the NAR's scholarship and Robert L. Cannon educational awards were inaugurated.  Three NAR members received scholarships and two educators received Cannon awards.  Over the years the number of award winners have grown.  In 2015, a new program, the NAR Extracurricular Activity Grant (EAG) was initiated to provide up to ten $500 grants for after-school activities, such as rocket clubs, scout, Civil Air Patrol, 4-H, or NAR section programs involving model rocketry.  TARC teams are not eligible for these awards.  This year we awarded ten $2000 scholarships, six $1000 scholarships, six Cannon $500 grants, and one Extracurricular Activity Grant (EAG).    
The deadline is June 1st of each year.
These programs are ongoing.  See for details on how to apply.  If you have questions concerning either program, please contact Claude Maina via for the Cannon/EAG Awards or Mark Wise via for the Scholarship program.

National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education (NCASE)
Do you know of an outstanding organization or individual who has illustrated noteworthy achievement and contributions to aviation or space education, or perhaps an accomplished educator who deserves to be recognized?  We invite you to nominate one or more of these special candidates for NCASE's Dr. Mervin K. Strickler Jr. Aerospace Education Leadership Award, or the Crown Circle Award.  The nomination deadline for the 2020 Awards is October 31, 2019.  The Awards Ceremony will be held in the coming spring.  For additional information, please visit:

Rocketry Organization of California (Section 539)
Annually, Rocketry Organization of California (Section 538) has a launch focused on education and youth flyers.  Many of the kids coming to the ROCtober launch bring smaller rockets and watch the larger rockets.  To many of these kids, there is a desire to launch larger and more complex rockets but they have been presented with a simple way to take small steps into high powered rocketry.  Exacerbating the problem has been  their parents  misunderstanding of high powered rocketry, particularly from a cost and safety standpoint. 

Consequently, there will be a  Jr Level 1 Push  to help bridge between low power and high power for young flyers.  T he program is pretty portable; so, if you're interested, take a look at the web site and contact them.  

The Solar System Ambassadors Program
The Solar System Ambassadors Program is a public outreach program designed to work with motivated volunteers across the nation. These volunteers communicate the excitement of JPL's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in their local communities.
The Solar System Ambassadors Program builds on and expands the outstanding efforts undertaken by the Galileo mission since 1997. Because of the success of the original Galileo Ambassadors program, JPL missions exploring Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Asteroids, Comets, Earth, the Sun and the Universe now come together to expand the program's scope to the Solar System and beyond.
To arrange for a Solar System Ambassador event in your community, click on Meet the Ambassador, select your state or territory and review the entries. Ambassadors furnish short biographical statements for the purpose of detailing their areas of interest and expertise. Following the biography is a list of past events conducted by the Ambassador to further aid in decision making. Inquiries about an Ambassador's availability should be made by sending an email directly to the individual.
Check the "Calendar of Events" section as well to see if an Ambassador event will be occurring in your local community. For a listing of Solar System Ambassadors by name, visit the Directory of Ambassadors.
Rockets and the Maker Movement
Have you heard of the Maker movement? If you haven't, just imagine a classroom where students learn by doing hands-on experimentation and design with trial and error, building and launching model rockets and creating miniature houses with working electricity. Picture an environment where a kid's natural instinct to explore our world and solve problems is supported through invention and play. 
The Maker movement was inspired by MAKE Magazine's annual Maker Faire. The Maker Faire is the "world's largest show and tell." Since the first Faire, this movement has spread through communities, businesses and into education. 10 high schools created "makerspaces" in a pilot program in California, offering students a chance to try welding, woodworking, machining, rockets and robotics among other Maker skills.
Is the Maker movement just another trend or is it here to stay? Is it just a fancy label for what teachers already know - that kids learn better through hands-on, self-directed learning? Most teachers are already using some Maker elements in their classrooms when their students build models, rockets and volcanoes, or make puppets for putting on puppet shows. These types of activities have gone on for many years in schools, and the Maker movement is a perfect fit for these activities.
And here's another thought: by encouraging people to make things by hand, the Maker movement may be one of the most important ways to improve STEM education in the U.S. Why? Because it works outside of the realm of standardized testing and everything associated with it. The movement behind Maker Faires and MAKE Magazine should be one of the keys to helping kids discover science, technology, engineering and math in an exciting hands-on way.
How do model rockets fit into the Maker movement and STEM? Model rockets are a perfect fit, because you're building a model rocket (making it by hand with hands-on learning), launching it and conducting lots of experiments with it. Building, experimenting and playing are powerful ways to learn - and whether building and launching rockets are done at school or in youth groups, kids need lots more of this. 
Favorite Maker resources:
Maker Faire Education Outreach: Learn how to start a Maker Faire at you school.
Makerspace: Explains how to set up a "makerspace" in your school. Website where young Makers can share what they have created and meet other Makers. An invention kit that lets students play video games with Play-Doh, make music with bananas and more.
Sally Ride Online STEM Professional Development Program
To help educators effectively teach a STEM-based curriculum in the classroom, the Sally Ride Science Academy launched an online professional development training program.
The convenient, affordable online format provides elementary teachers of grades 3-8 and school counselors with online STEM training in background preparation, classroom activities, and teaching strategies, and lets them progress through the same key topics with discussions and project-based work moderated by course instructors at the traditional academy.
The online training program includes real-time tools allow users to interact with the instructor and to collaborate with other teachers. The program also features a notification tool to remind teachers about class discussions and assignments and an interface designed to provide easy access to online sessions, including videos, e-books, integrated media recordings, and virtual labs. 
"We know most students are engaged and curious about science and math in the early elementary grades," said Sally Ride Science CEO Sheryle Bolton. "But too many students -- particularly girls and under -- represented minorities -- lose interest in those disciplines by the end of middle school. Economists tell us that more than 80 percent of all jobs in the coming decades will require some kind of STEM background, so it is essential for our nation's future that we help prepare students to seize this opportunity."
School districts in Alaska, Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. have access to this new program. Check with your district to see if it is available for you.
Youth Scientists Impacting the Future
4-H youth are winning international rocketry competitions. Their hands-on programs empower youth and provide them with opportunities to grow, learn, and become confident kids.

Model Rocketry Classes Begin!
We are gearing up for another year of Beginner Model Rocketry Classes.   Colorado Springs Rocket Society  (COSROCS), a National Association of Rocketry (NAR) sectioned club, and Colorado's 4-H Model Rocketry Program; both organizations are non-profit and instruction is provided by skilled volunteers in the field of model rocketry. 

Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly
2017 Sacknoff Prize for Space History
First awarded in 2011, the annual prize is designed to encourage students to perform original research and submit papers with history of spaceflight themes. Open to undergraduate and graduate level students enrolled at an accredited college or university working toward a degree, the winner receives:
  • A $300 cash prize
  • A trophy 
  • Publication in the journal, "Quest: The History of Spaceflight"
  • An invitation to present at the annual conference for the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT). 
Submissions must be postmarked by 17 November 2017, with the winners announced in December. Manuscripts should not exceed 10,000 words, be written in English, and emphasize in-depth research, with adequate citations of the sources utilized.  Originality of ideas is important. Diagrams, graphs, images, or photographs may be included. The prize committee will  include the editor of "Quest: The History of Spaceflight" and members of the Society for the History of Technology / Aerospace Committee (SHOT/Albatross).
Although works must be historical in character, they can draw on disciplines other than history, eg. cultural studies, literature, communications, economics, engineering, science, etc. Comparative or international studies of the history of spaceflight are encouraged. Possible subjects include, but are not limited to, historical aspects of space companies and their leaders; the social effects of spaceflight; space technology development; the space environment; space systems design, engineering, and safety; and the regulation of the space business, financial, and economic aspects of the space industry. 
If you have any questions, please send them an email.

Sacknoff Prize for Space History
PO Box 5752
Bethesda, MD 20824-5752 USA



NAR Instructional Video

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Several years ago the NAR and Aerospace Industries Association produced a one-hour instructional video "How to Build and Fly a Model Rocket" in support of student teams in the Team America Rocketry Challenge student rocket contest.  Originally only available in DVD format, this useful resource and much more are now available.

TIP--Planning Considerations: 

While model rocketry offers a rich set of learning experiences, teachers should keep a few items in mind as they plan and conduct lessons.

Construction Safety

Be aware that many children have never used an X-acto knife or equivalent.  It is best to hold a separate learning session on knife safety rather than during a model building session.  Another alternative for untrained youth is to completely eliminate the need for a hobby knife during the build or have an adult pre-cut parts needing a hobby knife before the session begins.  If you do choose to have students use hobby knives, limit the number being used at any given time and closely supervise their use.

Launch Safety

Model rocketry was created in the late 1950's as a means by which non-professional individuals could build and fly their own rocket powered models.  The hobby was structured to safely pursue an activity that has a potential for personal injury and property damage.  The use of manufactured motors to minimize the mixing and handling of propellants was a major factor in model rocketry's safety success.  Safety procedures for the construction and operation of the models, based on aerospace industry practices, were another factor in this excellent safety record.

The primary safety officers are the Range Safety Officer (RSO) and the safety check-in officer.  The RSO is responsible for safe operation of the rocketry range. The safety check-in officer is responsible for verification of the vehicle flight-worthiness.  He will inspect the vehicles for structural integrity, systems condition (e.g. recovery system, motor restraint), motor certification, and dynamic properties (e.g. center of gravity, center of pressure). 

NAR Sections all over the country hold numerous sport launches each year, at which you are welcome to come fly.  The Section takes care of providing the permits, field, launch equipment, and range organization and safety; just bring your rockets, motors, and flight supplies and join in the fun!  With sport launches accounting for over twelve million rocket flights every year nationwide, the NAR offers a number of services for the sport modeler. 

Civil Air Patrol   
Aerospace Education Library
If you enjoy learning about aviation and aircraft or launch vehicles and spacecraft as well as the science behind all of this.  Take a look at all the available educational resources on their site!  Want more?  Check this one out!!
Space History

4 October 1957--The Soviet Union inaugurates the "Space Age" with its launch of Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite. The spacecraft, named Sputnik after the Russian word for "satellite," was launched at 10:29 p.m. Moscow time from the Tyuratam launch base in the Kazakh Republic. 

Sputnik had a diameter of 22 inches and weighed 184 pounds and circled Earth once every hour and 36 minutes. Traveling at 18,000 miles an hour, its elliptical orbit had an apogee (farthest point from Earth) of 584 miles and a perigee (nearest point) of 143 miles. Visible with binoculars before sunrise or after sunset, Sputnik transmitted radio signals back to Earth strong enough to be picked up by amateur radio operators. Those in the United States with access to such equipment tuned in and listened in awe as the beeping Soviet spacecraft passed over America several times a day. In January 1958, Sputnik's orbit deteriorated, as expected, and the spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere.

Officially, Sputnik was launched to correspond with the International Geophysical Year, a solar period that the International Council of Scientific Unions declared would be ideal for the launching of artificial satellites to study Earth and the solar system. However, many Americans feared more sinister uses of the Soviets' new rocket and satellite technology, which was apparently strides ahead of the U.S. space effort. Sputnik was some 10 times the size of the first planned U.S. satellite, which was not scheduled to be launched until the next year. The U.S. government, military, and scientific community were caught off guard by the Soviet technological achievement, and their united efforts to catch up with the Soviets heralded the beginning of the "Space Race."

7 November 1967 -- Surveyor 6 was the sixth lunar lander of the
American unmanned  Surveyor program to reach the surface of the  Moon.
  • Launched November 7, 1967, it landed on November 10, 1967.  Surveyor 6 landed on the Sinus Medii. Mass on landing: 299.6 kg (660.5 lb). A total of 30,027 images were transmitted to Earth.
This spacecraft was the fourth of the Surveyor series to successfully achieve a soft landing on the moon, obtain post landing television pictures, determine the abundance of the chemical elements in the lunar soil, obtain touchdown dynamics data, obtain thermal and radar reflectivity data, and conduct a Vernier engine erosion experiment.

Virtually identical to Surveyor 5, this spacecraft carried a television camera, a small bar magnet attached to one footpad, and an alpha-scattering instrument as well as the necessary engineering equipment. 

It landed on November 10, 1967, in Sinus Medii, 0.49 degree in latitude and 1.40 degree w longitude ( selenographic coordinates ) - the center of the moon's visible hemisphere. This spacecraft accomplished all planned objectives. The successful completion of this mission satisfied the Surveyor program's obligation to the Apollo project. On November 24, 1967, the spacecraft was shut down for the 2 week lunar night. Contact was made on December 14, 1967, but no useful data were obtained.

Lunar soil surveys were completed using photographic and  alpha particle back- scattering methods. A similar instruments, the  APXS, was used onboard several Mars missions. 

In a further test of space technology Surveyor 6's engines were restarted and burned for 2.5 seconds in the first Lunar liftoff on November 17 at 10:32 UTC. This created 150 lbf (700 N) of thrust and lifted the vehicle 12 feet (4 m) from the Lunar surface. After moving west 8 ft (2.5 m) the spacecraft was once again successfully soft landed. The spacecraft continued functioning as designed.

16 November 1973--Skylab 4 was the last Skylab mission.


Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson arrived aboard Skylab to find that they had company - three figures dressed in flight suits. Upon closer inspection, they found their companions were three dummies, complete with Skylab 4 mission emblems and name tags which had been left there by Al Bean, Jack Lousma, and Owen Garriott at the end of Skylab 3.


The all-rookie astronaut crew had problems adjusting to the same workload level as their predecessors when activating the workshop. Things got off to a bad start after the crew attempted to hide one astronaut's early space sickness from flight surgeons, a fact discovered by mission controllers after downloading onboard voice recordings. The crew's initial task of unloading and stowing the thousands of items needed for their lengthy mission also proved to be overwhelming. The schedule for the activation sequence dictated lengthy work periods with a large variety of tasks to be performed, and the crew soon found themselves tired and behind schedule.


As the activation of Skylab progressed, the astronauts complained of being pushed too hard. Ground crews disagreed; they felt that the astronauts were not working long enough or hard enough. During the course of the mission, this culminated in a radio conference to air frustrations. Following this, the workload schedule was modified, and by the end of their mission the crew had completed even more work than had been planned before launch. The experiences of the crew and ground controllers provided important lessons in planning subsequent manned spaceflight work schedules.


On Thanksgiving Day, Gibson and Pogue accomplished a 6 and a half hour spacewalk. The first part of their spacewalk was spent replacing film in the solar observatory. The remainder of the time was used to repair a malfunctioning antenna.

The crew reported that the food was good, but slightly bland. The crew would have preferred to use more condiments to enhance the taste of the food. The amount of salt they could use was restricted for medical purposes. The quantity and type of food consumed was rigidly controlled because of their strict diet.


Seven days into their mission, a problem developed in the Skylab attitude control gyroscope system, which threatened to bring an early end to the mission. Skylab depended upon three large gyroscopes, sized so that any two of them could provide sufficient control and maneuver Skylab as desired. The third acted as a backup in the event of failure of one of the others. The gyroscope failure was attributed to insufficient lubrication. Later in the mission, a second gyroscope showed similar problems, but special temperature control and load reduction procedures kept the second one operating, and no further problems occurred.


The crew spent many hours studying the Earth. Carr and Pogue alternately manned controls, operating the sensing devices which measured and photographed selected features on the Earth's surface. The crew also made solar observations, recording about 75,000 new telescopic images of the Sun. Images were taken in the X-ray, ultraviolet, and visible portions of the spectrum.

As the end of their mission drew closer, Gibson continued his watch of the solar surface. On January 21, 1974, an active region on the Sun's surface formed a bright spot which intensified and grew. Gibson quickly began filming the sequence as the bright spot erupted. This film was the first recording from space of the birth of a solar flare.

On December 13, the crew sighted Comet Kohoutek and trained the solar observatory and hand-held cameras on it. They gathered spectra on it using the Far Ultraviolet Camera /Spectrograph. They continued to photograph it as it approached the Sun. On December 30, as it swept out from behind the Sun, Carr and Gibson spotted it as they were performing a spacewalk.

The crew also photographed the Earth from orbit. Despite instructions not to do so, the crew (perhaps inadvertently) photographed Area 51, causing a minor dispute between various government agencies as to whether the photographs showing this secret facility should be released. In the end, the picture was published along with all others in NASA's Skylab image archive, but remained unnoticed for years.

Skylab 4 completed 1,214 Earth orbits and four EVAs totaling 22 hours, 13 minutes. They traveled 34.5 million miles (55,500,000 km) in 84 days, 1 hour and 16 minutes in space.

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