The Saskatoon Rocketry Society hosted Fall Fire – a high powered rocket launch near Kitscoty last Saturday.
The launch included flights of both models and high powered rockets.
“The bigger they are, the nicer they are,” said Jason Andersen, local Range Safety Officer (RSO).
Spectators travelled for hours because due to a combination of land owner permission and acceptable air space, there are only four places to fly high powered rockets in Alberta.
Andersen has been flying rockets for the past 20 years, and is one of only 10 – 12 RSO’s in Canada. Secretary of the Saskatoon Rocketry Society, Brad Wall, was the other RSO on site manning the control switches. They said there are only approximately 175 active flyers in Canada.
The launch was regulated by the Canadian Association of Rocketry (CAR) as well as Transport Canada and RSO’s conducted visual inspections of each rocket before they were launched.
Flyers were are all certified from level 1 – 4, and the group notified neighbouring farmers and had a water tank on site for safety.
Rockets are sized in letter categories each doubling in power as they increase, some travelling thousands of feet into the air.
“Everything varies in size and shape – some have hybrid motors with nitrous oxide and plastic for fuel, while others have composite similar to space shuttle rocket boosters,” said Andersen.
“Some motors create a lot of sparks, some create blue or green flames, and others create black or white smoke.”
He said rocketry can get as complex as a person wants. It can be inexpensive starting with a $2 model motor with the kit available from any hobby store, or become extreme and expensive with a small M motor running from $350 – $1,000 and kits only available from a few private manufacturers in the country.
There can be a cluster of three motors in one rocket, and all high powered rockets (H-O) have to be run through CAR certification. Andersen is likely the only amateur in Canada who has flown a two-stage hybrid motor powered rocket and he said that to be successful, a lot of factors had to happen in the right sequence.
“It’s a fringe hobby with some rockets going upward of $3,000 for only a three second flight,” said Andersen.
All of the equipment is reusable except the motors, and parachutes allow them to land safely.
With harvests being too late they haven’t flown at this location for the past three years but have hosted at least 10 launches over the past 17 years.
Fall Fire had a two by three mile launch area and hope to double that for next year. On this site, they were able to fly rockets to 20,000 feet, but can potentially fly them to 50,000 feet. They are restricted from flying into any clouds, and need less than 30 kilometre winds. Andersen said rockets are always flown into the wind.
Other area participants included Dale Madu from Viking, and his brother, Lyle Madu, from Edmonton. Seven-year-old Connor McCaffrey from Edmonton enjoyed learning the different parts of the rockets and said on a one out of 10 scale, he was 11 excited to see them fly.
Wall said he launched his first rocket around that age and was hooked pretty quickly. McCaffrey along with his dad, Jacob, are interested in taking their first certification in the near future.