Interesting conversation about motor certifications...

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luke strawwalker
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#1 Interesting conversation about motor certifications...

Post by luke strawwalker » Fri, 10 Nov 17, 06:07 am

This is a subject that comes up from time to time, but never seems to get resolved (like most things relating to NAR and rocketry in general-- so much just seems to be 'sacred cows' that CANNOT be changed because "that's how it was ALWAYS done!" and therefore has gone from being an idea to method to practice to habit to ritual to dogma to sacrament to commandment to Holy Word from on High, as so many things tend to do, especially when driven by "institutional inertia" and overseen by a set of "wise old men" who serve a very well-entrenched system and a well-established hierarchy of "VIPs" that make up a tiny subset of the general rocketry hobbyists, and whose influence FAR exceeds their numbers... "but that's the way it's always been done!" So therefore, change is UNTHINKABLE...

At least that's been MY experience... in many things in life-- so I guess rocketry should be no different...

Here's a few select responses in the thread in question over on YORF...
ghrocketman
I only have a handful of the old Centuri 13mm B's left....wish I had a bagful.

I'm of the opinion that ONCE a motor is certified it should NEVER lose certification for age/out of production.
Motors should ONLY lose certification if for safety reasons.

Better yet, DUMP the certification process all together and ELIMINATE it's requirement.
It's as moronic as requiring blends of R/C glow fuel be 'certified'.

uke strawwalker

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghrocketman
I only have a handful of the old Centuri 13mm B's left....wish I had a bagful.

I'm of the opinion that ONCE a motor is certified it should NEVER lose certification for age/out of production.
Motors should ONLY lose certification if for safety reasons.

Better yet, DUMP the certification process all together and ELIMINATE it's requirement.
It's as moronic as requiring blends of R/C glow fuel be 'certified'.


Exactly... I've thought the same thing for YEARS...

If you're talking about "contest certified" I can see the purpose of wanting a 'readily available" motor, but then you're talking about an "approved motor list" which is not the same thing as "safety certified".

Contest certified is really only applicable to the tiny minority of rocketeers that actually engage in contest flying... (which if that's your bag, more power to you, but the "average rocketeer" could really care less...) Like I said, that being the case, then have an "approved motor list" for contest flying, and remove motors that have been out of production or that aren't readily available for contest flying, and leave it at that.

Safety certification, once obtained for a given motor and issued, should NEVER be revoked unless it's statistically proven that a given motor is unsafe, ie prone to go "BOOM" or have some other sort of failure at a statistically unacceptable rate.

The fact that motor certifications are removed once a motor becomes "too hard to get" for contest use is really an inconvenience to the vast majority of the rocketry community not engaged in competition. If it were merely an inconvenience, it wouldn't be so bad, however, flying "uncertified" rocket motors is grounds for refusal to pay the claim should anything happen during a rocket flight causing an injury or damage on the ground, exposing the rocketeer and club/launch site to undue liability, which is why flying "uncertified" motors is usually discouraged or not allowed. It's foolish, but it's how "the system" works.

It's a system that needs to be changed.

Later! OL J R
Royatl
As I recall, the original Safety and Contest certifications had certain performance parameters, like Safety was within 15% of stated thrust and impulse, and Contest was 5% within some amount of standard deviation.

Those went away sometime while I wasn't paying attention. Apparently, DuPont's black powder, which Estes depended on, suffered varied quality and efficiency in the 70's and 80's and Estes found it difficult to hold its motors to the same performance parameters as before.

So NAR certification simply meant they were consistent, worked properly and the company that made them could provide customer support (and a liability chain). Contest certification then became essentially the subset of motors that were commercially available to most competitors.

The liability chain is, apparently, the sticking point to making initial certification permanent.

Date codes on motor labels is probably another problem. If you say, we certify the Jones A7-5 motors made between 5-2003 and 8-2008, but no others, you've got to have the date stamped indelibly somewhere on the motor. But motor manufacturers have been inconsistent about that at best. Estes went to that 1970=A, etc system for years, then for awhile a code probably based on which Mabel it was made on, and marketing says some people think of the date as an expiry date. Aerotech had some octal system or some such, and for a long time they were printed on the ejection charge cap, so you couldn't tell anything about the motor after operation. And that's ignoring the whole reload situation.


So, what about doing away with certification totally? Well then, how do you count on anything the manufacturer tells you? You might trust Estes, but why? Why would you trust Aerotech? CTI? So you build or buy your own test stand and check them yourself, but that's usually impractical when you're talking about a K motor or larger, unless you've got money to... well, you know.
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astronwolf

Back in the day, they needed something to distinguish model rocket motors from fire crackers. IMHO, we still do today. So we enjoy the benefit of having a certification process.
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Wolf noted: "Back in the day, they needed something to distinguish model rocket motors from fire crackers. IMHO, we still do today. So we enjoy the benefit of having a certification process."

Oh Wolf, you say the nicest things. Seriously, it is what the G. Harry, the Model Missile Association, Estes and others had as an uphill battle to change or revise fireworks restrictions to allow model rockets to be flown. The MMA became the NAR and testing standards were established to certify motors to convince fire authorities to allow model rockets.
In my home state of Ohio, in my home town we had a fire marshal, Fred Long, who became a model rocketeer and advocate, supporting the NAR and the Columbus Society for the Advancement of Rocketry. I served on the NAR Standard and Testing Committee in the late '60s and early '70s (then in the Air Force much bigger motors).
Motor certification is what keeps the authorities in check along with the Safety Code. There are those who think they should be allowed to do anything they want, but we are always one "Oops" away from additional restrictions. At the least, bad press. We had a saying in the Strategic Air Command that you could have all the "Atta Boys" in the world, but it only takes one "Ah Sh*t" to wipe them all out.

Certification is what keeps the wolves away... Sorry Astrowolf...

Chas

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#2 Re: Interesting conversation about motor certifications...

Post by luke strawwalker » Fri, 10 Nov 17, 06:39 am

So the conversation takes some strange twists into "liability chains" and such-- which basically makes no sense-- the product was produced (in some cases DECADES AGO and still remains "out there in the public" since most of them were sold at some point (or are in the hands of collectors and rocket hobbyists) and remain quite capable of being fired, despite the fact that their "original production company" may have long since gone the way of the dodo...

It's sorta like saying, "You can't drive an antique Packard, because who will be liable if the brakes fail on it or something since Packard is long since defunct??" It makes no sense and defies logic.

Then of course the conversation devolves to "here's my resume and this is what we've ALWAYS done and to think it should be changed or modified is sacrosanct... and only a misinformed heretic of the unwashed masses would think otherwise" sort of stuff, which I've grown to expect from my dealings with NAR... which is why I'm not a member... Seems to me they've always been first and foremost about pleasing a very distinct small subset of people near the top, and everybody else is just 'along for the ride' and change is only grudgingly made when it's forced upon them by too many people going "off the reservation" and doing things their own way, making NAR seem irrelevant... I know from what I learned about the NAR's original and longstanding opposition to HPR, even to the point they were talking about drumming out NAR members (don't know if they ever did) who participated in HPR activities since they were "willfully violating the safety code" at that time with respect to rocket launch weights and impulse limitations (which used to be ridiculously small). Only when lots of members started dropping NAR and flocking to the newly minted Tripoli, to the point it was bleeding off some of the big cheeses and sacred cows who had flown HPR for years as "mavericks" outside the NAR restrictions in "secret" did the NAR FINALLY acknowledge that if they DIDN'T embrace HPR in some form or fashion that they would soon become completely irrelevant, and so they grudgingly did so, mirroring what Tripoli was doing. Just a bit of history for those who might not be aware of it... all this transpired in the late 80's/early 90's, right after I graduated high school and left rocketry for a number of years; it was just getting into full swing when I quit... I learned the backstory about it when I got back into rocketry about 15 years ago...

SO, just to make the point clear, I posted this...

luke strawwalker
Good points, but there could be REVISIONS to the certification process... IOW, not "decertifying" a motor simply because it goes out of production for such and such a time.

As can be seen in other threads, there can literally be thousands of them still floating around in people's personal storage, on dusty shelves in hobby shops, and in collections being swapped about in various ways. And of course there are also lots of people (on this forum and elsewhere, probably mostly elsewhere) that love to fly some of those old motors when they have the chance.

As I said, the certification process serves two purposes, or at least it should-- 1) to certify that the motor "as designed and built" is statistically safe (through verification test firings of a statistically significant number of motors to obtain the data) and 2) to verify that the performance and delay, etc. on the test stand is within an acceptable range of the specifications stated "on the label" (though strangely enough that's not usually the case-- ie the "long burn" Quest C motors, which are labeled a "C6" but actually are more like a "C3", yet are still labeled and marketed as a C6-- but anybody who's flown them knows (often through bitter experience) NOT to try them in heavy or draggy rockets, as they don't give enough "oomf" off the pad and usually ends in a lawn dart or ground kissing parachute deployments... But that's another pet peeve that I think should be addressed... perhaps NAR should assign the motor specification as part of the certification AFTER the firing tests based on the averages obtained, rather than allow the manufacturer to label it as "anything he wants so long as it's somewhere in the ballpark" just so he can market something to compete "head to head" with an established similar product by another manufacturer... but that's another story).

Of course there's a need to demonstrate to the public safety officials and regulators that there does exist a testing and verification procedure and "certification" to verify the safety and performance of the rocket motors offered for sale to the public, and to differentiate model rocket motors from their "fireworks cousins" (though of course that line has been blurred beyond belief by the love affair that a lot of folks have with sparky motors, which is basically a "firework effect" that has NO beneficial impact on the motor performance, in fact usually a deleterious effect on thrust and performance, merely for an "ooh-ahh" visual/auditory effect, IOW, FIREWORKS...) That battle is largely over-- and where it still rages on in certain "nanny state" areas it will likely never change anyway. I don't think anybody actually says that certification is a BAD thing or should necessarily go away (well, maybe GH here on the forum...)

The point is, the "safety certification" part of the motor certification should be divorced from the contest certification process... It's ridiculous that thousands of motors that have been sold to people and reside in their hands are magically "okay" to fly one day, and "not" the next based on the capricious process of deciding if it's widely available enough to be used for "contest" flying, which is a TINY portion of the model rocket hobby (and rocketry hobbyists). I get it, there exists a need to establish which motors are acceptable for flying in contests and which are not, but that process (based on the same data set) should be separate from the safety testing and performance verification part of the motor certification process-- basically it should be an "approved motor list".

Then, to top it all off, while one can sit on a collection of motors for decades that are no longer "certified" and thus cannot be flown at NAR insured launches because they went out of production and were no longer widely available enough for easy access for contest flying, not because of any statistical testing verified safety problems (like the well known catos or nozzle spitting of certain different motor types over the years), with the 'wave of a magic wand' and filling out some paperwork and genuflection to the right NAR official and receiving the "blessing", these same motors can be flown under the "old motor test flight program" (whatever it's called that the name escapes me at the moment)... IOW another capricious process that says "you cannot 'legally' fly the mass produced formerly certified motors that you own unless *we* say you can". Oy vay...

But of course, even the suggestion of change seems to not sit well in certain quarters, particularly with those who sit "at the top" in charge of such things... I'm sure my comments will be met with all sorts of criticisms and rather haughty remarks that "I just don't understand" or whatever. SO be it; I've come to expect nothing more...

Why I'm not a NAR member... I've found it to be nonresponsive and very protective of a certain small percentage of the rocketry hobbyists interests, and only changes when basically FORCED to because too many people go "off the reservation" and do what they want to do anyway, risking making NAR irrelevant... (ie the long battle over allowing HPR certification within NAR, which USED to be a "verboten" activity long ago, for those who don't remember... and remained so while NAR membership dwindled with people flocking to TRA to get HPR certified, and NAR FINALLY grudgingly accepted HPR and came up with their own reciprocal cert program). I'd suppose this "old motor testing program" (whatever it's called; can't recall the name ATM-- thinking MESS but that's the motor problem reporting program... anyway you guys know what I'm talking about...) was NAR's "grudging" way to allow people who would have flown their old "decertified" motors on their own as "mavericks" without NAR's permission or consent if they HADN'T come up with some way to do it "legally"... IOW, a band-aid on a broken process of deciding where and when motors are "certified" or "not certified" based solely on it's widespread availability for contest flying...

Later! OL J R
Of course I don't expect anybody to seriously think about what I'm saying. It flies in the face of "established procedure" (and a flawed system designed primarily to cater to the tiny subset of competition flyers, who have been averse to ANY changes that *they* don't like-- then of course they whine and wonder WHY competition is dying out-- the younger generations want to do things differently and a few stodgy "old timers" refuse to hear anything about it and have the power and influence to keep it all "their way" (or the highway) and so the younger generations are responding "well, okay" and then go do something else instead... And I find it infinitely amusing that the passionate arguments about certification being NECESSARY to differentiate between "model rockets" and "FIREWORKS!!" (which I fully acknowledge was a very serious battle in the past to gain acceptance of model rocketry, which was largely seen as "fireworks!" and thus were banned in many localities during the 50's and 60's and even the 70's... But by the 90's, most areas had accepted the premise that model rocketry was a "respectable" hobby quite apart from "FIREWORKS!!" and basically the remaining holdout/highly restricted areas (like California) are mostly "nanny state" areas that will NEVER change their stance, even if given a hundred years of evidence to the contrary... they enjoy regulations and regulating too much!...

So we NEED a strong certification system *AS IT STANDS* (nonsensical "warts and all" of decertifying motors simply due to unavailability in the marketplace, thus making them "too rare and not readily available" for contest flying) to fend off the wolves that would instantly reclassify model rocketry as *EVIL FIREWORKS!!!* and thus ban our hobby forever... unless of course our valiant guardians protect us from this certain fate... BUT OF COURSE then they have NO PROBLEMS with the "muddying of the waters" by certifying SPARKY MOTORS that eject a spray of white-hot molten metal droplets from their burning propellant coming out the nozzle, not for any legitimate performance gain (in fact it's usually performance robbing or a wash at best) but simply for the "OOOH-AAHHH!" "gee-whiz that looks and sounds SO cool" visual/auditory factor... ie a VISUAL DISPLAY which is the sole purpose of those *EVIL FIREWORKS!!!" Oh, but since these sparky motors are in a reusable somewhat (theoretically) frangible recoverable rocket, it's *not* an "evil firework" but a legitimate hobby rocket activity... RRRRIIiiiiiggghhhttt... :roll:
Nevermind the fires that have been started from sparky motors and even the loss of flying fields in some situations... Most of the HPR crowd wants it; they're the ones dropping a ton of money on the hobby (and membership in either TRA or NAR to maintain their HPR certs so they can buy HPR motors) and thus that's what they shall have, even if it FLIES IN THE FACE of what NAR/model rocketry is SUPPOSED to be about and is basically indistinguishable from those *EVIL FIREWORKS!!!* they are trying SO hard to prevent us being classified as... :roll:

At any rate, it's just symptomatic of how most organizations work, given enough time... I see it all the time in "real life" so why should rocketry be any different?? Heck look at NASA-- they're the poster child of doing super-expensive things simply because a small subset of bureaucrats, self-motivated politicians, and powerful and greedy contractors "have ALWAYS done it that way!" and to say or suggest otherwise is *heresy*...

Later! OL J R :)
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#3 Re: Interesting conversation about motor certifications...

Post by Joe Wooten » Sun, 12 Nov 17, 02:34 am

That was an interesting thread.

I have about 30 or so of the Centuri 13 mm B's left, and probably the same amount of Centuri short A's. I still launch them and have not had a problem, except for an occasional very weak ejection charge on the B's.

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#4 Re: Interesting conversation about motor certifications...

Post by luke strawwalker » Mon, 13 Nov 17, 20:05 pm

Joe Wooten wrote:That was an interesting thread.

I have about 30 or so of the Centuri 13 mm B's left, and probably the same amount of Centuri short A's. I still launch them and have not had a problem, except for an occasional very weak ejection charge on the B's.
I thought so, and apparently I struck a nerve, but suddenly it got VERY quiet from the other side... which IMHO is to be expected...

I've had some conversations with some NAR HQ people in the past and it doesn't usually end well... Make a suggestion to improve things and you're met with one of a few responses, that usually go something like "are you volunteering (if not then STFU), or "that would never work; it's a terrible idea because (insert whatever excuses you want to defend the status quo that the "wise old men" have decided they want irregardless of what most other folks want here)."

Why I'm not big on 'organizations', including NAR... and certainly not willing to waste over $60 bucks a year on it... The graybeards want everything their own way-- let them pay for it!

Later! OL J R :)
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