What Is MDRA?
MDRA is the Maryland Delaware Rocketry Association, Inc. The MDRA is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) corporation that supports educational and research endeavors associated with the hobby of rocketry. MDRA was incorporated in January 2000. Our mission is to provide a venue for witnessing and participation in the hobby of rocketry and to inspire thought, action, creativity, and challenges for our members. We are dedicated to making these experiences available and accessible to as many members of the community as possible, with an emphasis on reaching and nurturing our children, regardless of gender, race, religion, ability, age or socioeconomic status in the possibilities that exist through their interest in rocketry. We are working partners with various educational, research, and community organizations as well as with our adult members.
What Happened to Maryland Tripoli?
Maryland Tripoli is alive and well. The Tripoli Rocketry Association (TRA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) are the national organizations, and most members of MDRA belong to one or the other or both. We continue to support, register, and certify members for both organizations.
What Procedures Should I Follow to Fly Rockets at an MDRA Launch?
- Register for the launch, by seeing the Treasurer for that launch. You must have completed the waiver (read it and sign it) and have paid the launch fee.
- Once you have registered, you will receive a Membership Card. The Membership Card must be displayed at all times above the waist, in plain view.
- You will also receive flight cards to be completed for each rocket you fly. You must fill them out clearly and completely to fly a rocket.
- Prep your rocket, without the igniter in the motor, and take it to the Rocket Safety Officer (RSO) table with the flight card completed on the front. The RSO will inspect your rocket against a mandatory safety checklist.
- After the RSO table, walk to the designated staging area at the flight line. You will be advised whether it is safe to proceed onto the Range. When the Range is determined safe, you may enter the Range.
- Take your rocket to the appropriate pad. Only at this time may you put your igniter in your rocket motor, after you have set it up on the pad. Should you need help, there is a Pad Manager (PM) to help you. If you need help and the PM is busy, wait for him or her.
- Return and place your Flight Card Board at the LCO Table. Stand behind the flight line and enjoy the show.
- If you are certifying to Level 1, 2, or 3, make sure the Prefect, TAP, or L3CC is watching and the LCO knows it is a certification flight.
- Remember, if there is anything you are not sure of, ask!
Does MDRA Have a Certification Program?
No, all certification is done through either TRA or NAR. The MDRA member must be certified with one of the above listed national organizations to fly HPR at an MDRA launch, which means flying H motors and above. Since MDRA supports and certifies both TRA and NAR members at our launches, we comply with their certification criteria and motor-power limitations.
Do You Have Project and/or Motor Limitations at an MDRA Launch?
Typically not; however, if you have a large project planned, you must submit it through the MDRA Big Project Page for consideration and approval. It should be well thought-out and should be thrust-to-weight proportional for the field size and the associated waiver. Remember that we have a couple of fields that have their share of trees, and they don’t like giving up those hard-earned rockets.
How Many Fields Does MDRA Have?
MDRA launches primarily from two different fields. The main “winter” field is Higgs Farm. This field is used during the period when there are no crops present, typically from mid-to-late October through May. The main “summer” field is the Central Sod Farm, which is used when Higgs Farm is not available due to crops. Typically this field is used between late May through mid-October.
What Are the Waivers on the Different Fields?
Central Sod Farm has a waiver of 16,900 feet AGL. The suggested maximum altitude is 4,000’ AGL due to the proximity of the trees.
Higgs Farm has a waiver of 16,900 feet AGL. Plan accordingly; Wind conditions may require MDRA to lower the waiver. This is to protect you, our land owner and ultimately the field.
Are Visitors Welcome?
Yes. Rockets never fail to put a smile on your face. If you have any questions, please contact us through the MDRA e-mail link posted on the front web page.
Can I Launch a Rocket as a Spectator at MDRA?
Yes, we encourage everyone to launch rockets. It is a rocket launch, after all. We have a “Bucket of Rockets” available for spectators and their children to use. MDRA supplies the rocket, the motor, the field, and the launch system. All we ask you to do is have fun.
Do You Ever Cancel Launches Due to Weather?
We try not to, due to the constantly changing weather on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Typically the weather at our launch sites will change drastically during the course of the day after a front has moved through. The prevailing winds are usually light and out of the southwest. But, if a weather front does come through, the winds are typically quite strong and will come out of the northwest. Watch the website; we have two weather links and will post a cancellation if it is determined before the launch that it is not reasonable to fly. We do launch in the cold, with snow on the ground. Our recommendation is to watch the website, and plan accordingly. Use common sense. If there is no cancellation posted, consider the launch on.
Do You Have Equipment for Static-Testing EX Motors?
Yes; however, if you want to do any testing with MDRA equipment, contact us through the web site. If you just want to fire the motor, we have two test stands. The smaller stand will accommodate up to a 98mm motor. The larger stand will accommodate up to a 114mm motor. We typically have the smaller stand at both the Central Sod Farm and at Higgs Farm. The larger stand is typically only used at Higgs Farm.
I am a NAR Member and Would Like to Make Research Motors. Can I Fly Them at a MDRA Launch?
Yes, you can. We don’t discriminate. We do require that you be certified at the level of the research motor you are making, whether it is static-tested or flown.
It Seems that MDRA Launches Many Large Projects. What about the Smaller Estes-type of Rockets?
MDRA welcomes fliers of all ages, abilities, and certification levels. Check out the photo galleries on our web site; the pictures and the video are worth a thousand words.
Do You Have Ground Support Equipment for Hybrid Motors and Similar Systems?
No, you will have to make your own arrangements for the ground support equipment for any type of hybrid motor.
Should I Attend the Monthly Meetings?
It is not a requirement; however, it proves to be an excellent forum to catch up on the latest news, launch information, technical discussions, and guest speakers, and to “talk shop” with other rocketeers and to have some face time with the MDRA Board of Directors, to discuss any issues or concerns. The schedule is posted on the opening page of the MDRA web site. We welcome both members and potential new members. The dates and directions are on the web site.
Can I Help at the Launches?
Yes, sign up on the web site or see us at the launch. Many hands make the going light, and we want all the members to be involved. It is your club.
How Do I Retrieve My Rocket If It Lands off the Launch Landowner’s Property?
Come and see one of the MDRA BOD members, the RSO, or the LCO. Each neighbor at the different launch sites will be dealt with differently, for a variety of reasons, and you will receive different retrieval directions, depending where your rocket landed. Typically, a MDRA BOD Member will accompany you to the neighbor’s property. Never go knocking on the neighbor’s door with MDRA permission. There is a reason many of these folks live out in the country. Trust us; we know the drill and the best way to get your rocket back. Never enter any of the adjacent properties without approval and guidance from an MDRA BOD member and/or launch-field landowner. MDRA will get your rocket back, provided you follow the rules and work with us. No individual’s rocket is so important that MDRA loses a flying field for the entire membership.
What will it Cost to get my Rocket back?
It could cost as much as $300.00 or more to recovery your rocket. Many of the neighbors will only let one designated Tree Climber onto their property. He sets the price due to the difficulty and the number of rockets he needs to recover. He is your only hope of seeing the rocket again, if it ends up in the trees. You need to work with MDRA, so we can work with you.
That sounds Expensive, how to I minimize the potential of putting my Rocket in the Tress?
Over the years MDRA has strongly suggested flying only to about 4,000’ at the Central Sod Farm, our summer field. Most people have listened and fly accordingly. Higgs Farm is another story. Traditionally this is where the big, high flying projects are launched to the extent of our 17,000’ waiver. Over the years we have put more and more rockets in the trees mainly due to either high upper level winds, early deployment of the main parachute or a combination of both.
MDRA fliers are some of the best in the country and are very proficient in recovering their rockets. However, do not let go fever dictate how you will fly. Use common sense when the conditions are not perfect. Have a Plan B where you can fly a big motor in a big rocket. There is nothing wrong with keeping it “low and slow”.
If conditions are adversely affecting your recovery efforts, the MDRA BOD will lower the waiver. This is to protect you and to protect the field. We can not fly with unhappy neighbors.
Do You Have a Regular Vendor on Site?
Yes and no. There is no guarantee who will be present at any launch. Check with the MDRA Wed Site for any particular launch and your favorite vendors. Plan way ahead for your needs, and be responsible to yourself. Do not wait until the last minute, or you may be sorely disappointed.
What Is the Key to MDRA’s Success?
The key to our success and the success of any hobby rocketry organization is the people. Their passion and their commitment to the hobby is what will get us through the tough times. It is important that each person be conscientious and fly within their limits. It may be common sense, but our safety record is our most valuable asset. It is every member’s responsibility to keep it intact. Each member needs to think out the project that he or she is involved with. If you have questions, there is no shortage of people at either a launch or at your fingertips who are willing to help. You need to see the big picture. These are not the easiest times to engage in the activities that we hold so dear. It is our intent to satisfy all the requirements of our landowners and their neighbors, and of course local, state, and federal agencies. We are an open book; we have nothing to hide. This philosophy should help us as continue to move forward as an organization. Following the rules and flying safely are crucial to continued success. Nothing is carved in stone, and we will be flexible to future change and regulatory issues.
Does the TRA or NAR Insurance Cover Us at an MDRA Launch?
Yes and No. The insurance landscape continues to evolve. TRA and NAR are reciprocal organizations in many ways, and MDRA does not have reciprocation agreements at this time. MDRA supports both the TRA and NAR recruitment and certification policies. Their insurance is specific to their members at either their sanctioned launches, (TRA), or launches whose safety codes comply with the NAR Safety Code, (NAR).
On 12-17-2011 the following e-mail was distributed by NAR President Trip Barber, confirming the NAR Member flying at MDRA and compliant with the NAR safety Code would be covered by the NAR Insurance Program, consistent with their written policy.
Dear NAR Member,
I have had an unusual number of inquiries recently about details of what the NAR’s insurance does and does not cover. My first response to these is almost always “this is answered in one of the 28 insurance Frequently Asked Questions on the NAR website”. These FAQ’s were developed in cooperation with our insurance agent, Bob Blomster, and represent the best single resource for information about how industry standard practices implement and interpret the legalisms of our policy. The most common question recently has been “does NAR insurance cover me when I fly at a TRA (or MDRA, or whatever) launch”, and the answer to that is yes, NAR members are covered at all times and places in the US and Canada for their own flights when these flights are made in accordance with NAR safety codes. Whether NAR members may fly at such launches is up to the hosting organization.
We have had great response to registration for the 2012 Team America Rocketry Challenge. The postmark deadline of December 13 is past and the last few applications are still trickling in, but so far we have 634 student team entries, up quite a bit from last year, and coming from 48 states plus DC and the Virgin Islands. The list of teams is posted on the TARC website. Please support these teams as they learn how to be successful rocketeers, by welcoming them to your section launch site and/or by volunteering as a NAR TARC Mentor to become a rocketry advisor to a team that needs to learn rocketry skills and safety. Please contact me if you are an adult NAR member who would like to become a TARC Mentor.
Best wishes to all of you for a happy holiday season and a great 2012.
Be safe, have fun, and pay forward.
Does MDRA Have Insurance?
Yes, MDRA currently has a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy. To be clear; bodily injury and property damage to anyone arising from rocketry activity are excluded.
What Does That Mean?
After much discussion and review of the national organizations’ policies, we have come to the realization that the rocketeer is primarily responsible for his or her actions if there is a major accident caused by the rocket. We suggest that each individual review the TRA insurance, the NAR insurance, their individual home and umbrella insurance to make their own judgments. That is the bad news; the good news is that we as a group—TRA, NAR and MDRA—have an excellent safety record. A major part of that is attributed to the fact that we launch in the middle of nowhere, and there is little or nothing to damage, other than our egos. Vehicles are insured, people are insured, and property is insured. We ask you to use common sense and understand what the risks are specific to your own personal situation.
The CGL policy we have does cover meetings and non-rocketry accidents which occur to spectators and nonparticipants at a launch site, including the landowner (i.e. someone trips over a wire, or maybe starts a fire with a static test or shavings burn, etc.). Members are covered to the extent they get sued for the above listed examples of accidents, but not for damage they themselves might sustain. What a CGL policy does, by definition, is to exclude bodily injury/property damage to our participating members. As an example, bodily injury to participating members is covered by your own insurance and property damage by your property insurance policy. The CGL would cover bodily injury and property damage to others (in our case spectators and landowners), subject to exclusions of course.
Why Does MDRA Have Separate Insurance?
MDRA has been in operation since the year 2000 and has operated successfully with our Commercial General Liability policy. The members of MDRA understand their responsibilities and fly within their limits. Having our own insurance allows MDRA to develop and enforce common-sense safety policies that do not always synchronize with the national organizations. The major difference with MDRA and the national organizations is specific to the issue of commingling commercial and research motors. As a general overview, think of MDRA as a TRA research launch that welcomes NAR members and entry-level rocketeers. Safety is everyone’s responsibility at MDRA. We have a proven track record since 2000 that supports our position that motors are not a range-safety issue in themselves. We also recognize that member competency and personal responsibility are the keys to a successful operation. Typically vehicles, personnel, and property are insured. MDRA members understand the risk associated with flying rockets and accept the responsibility, should damage or injuries occur.
How Does the Current Insurance Affect Launching Commercial and Research Motors at the Same Event?
It has no effect. Keep in mind that our current insurance is in place to protect the landowner. Over our history we have launched tens of thousands of rockets without even coming close to a potential insurance claim. We believe that, with continuation of the TRA and NAR certification-program requirements and the common-sense approach that MDRA utilizes, we will continue to maintain the same incident-free safety record we have had in the past. It is our belief, which we have confirmed at every launch, that research motors are safe and reliable. Today there is much better and more comprehensive information on research, which is being shared by the interested research groups and has led to the improved safety and reliability of research motors. Conversely, we also believe that, if there was ever a major “incident,” it would most likely result from a recovery failure. The focus on the motors as a potential hazard has long been a subject of debate and controversy. MDRA has put to rest many of the misconceptions related to flying research and commercial at the same event.
Will the MDRA Insurance Ever Cover the Flier?
Possibly, but unlikely. We are continually searching for better and more comprehensive policies to cover the individual members. This is easier said then done. We must keep in mind the insurance efforts and issues experienced by TRA and NAR and the differences in their policies as they exist today. We must also keep in mind that our numbers are relatively small compared to the national organizations, but we are building a positive insurance history that should work in our favor down the road. Issues such as building a positive insurance history take time. This is something that MDRA takes seriously and will continue to work on diligently. As we make improvements, the membership will be advised.
What Would Upgraded Insurance Cost?
We are not sure what costs might be. The effort to upgrade is continual. Our impression is that the costs would be prohibitive. This is based on the known costs associated with the national organizations. The insurance costs are dependant on the number of members. A varying portion of the MDRA membership fee goes to the current insurance policy. The final per-member costs are not known until the year’s end, when we have full membership numbers. If we are able to improve the current policy, there will be additional costs associated with the increase in coverage. The MDRA Board of Directors has to determine what the advantage of a potential new policy would be to the organization before making any commitments.
What Should I Do as a Member to Make Sure I Am Covered?
Many of the MDRA members currently have an “umbrella policy” that covers them from a potential incident resulting from their participation in hobby rocketry. Some of the MDRA members do not have this umbrella policy. Each member has to ask themselves, “What do I have to lose?” If you have significant assets, you should consider calling your homeowner’s insurance company and investigate the costs and coverage associated with an umbrella policy. Each member has to make this decision for themselves; there is not an MDRA requirement. You have to ask yourself what kind of projects you fly today and what you might fly in the future. Once again, keep in mind that we are the safest hobby that ever leaves the ground, but there is an inherent risk associated with what we do.
I’m Confused; What Does MDRA Insurance Cover?
The purpose of our insurance is to provide coverage for the landowner. Our policy covers only nonparticipants from non-rocket related incidents, such as someone tripping over your tent leg and breaking their leg. Any accident must be reported to a member of the MDRA BOD. We can’t help you, if we don’t know about it.
- If you have a rocket-related incident with another participant at a launch, neither you nor the other participant will be covered under anyone’s policy. This includes both the national organizations and MDRA’s insurance. Both participants are there at their own risk.
- If there is a rocket-related incident between you and a nonparticipant, the MDRA insurance will not cover you. Depending on the type of incident, the nonparticipant may be covered under their own insurance. Some examples are as follows:
- You hit a car with your rocket. The nonparticipant’s car insurance should cover the incident. You would have to work out the particulars with the nonparticipant, as you are responsible for your actions.
- You hit a house or building with your rocket. The same principle holds true. The homeowner should be covered with their insurance, and once again you would have to work out the particulars with the homeowner as you are responsible for your actions.
- You hit power lines with your rocket. You are responsible for any costs associated with retrieval and potential damages caused by your actions.
The bottom line is that you are responsible for your actions first and foremost. An umbrella policy will help mitigate the potential costs associated with an incident. It is highly recommended that each member seriously consider this, if you haven’t already.
We Would Like to Start an MDRA-style Rocket Club in Our Part of the Country. What Do We Do and How Do We Get Insurance?
Protect the landowner first. Understand what the landowner’s needs are. Typically the insurance the landowner would require is obtainable and affordable (see above). We are on our third company, as we have continually shopped for a better price. Assess where you fly and what your real needs are. Do you have almost zero potential for doing off-site or owner damage that you might need insurance for? For example, the groups that launch rockets in the desert are less likely to cause damage to others’ property than groups launching in highly congested areas, such as many of the Eastern launch sites. Your requirements will be different.
Consider that if a rocket slams someone’s car on the flight line, the car owners are there at their own risk. No one’s insurance will cover that. That would be a car-insurance issue, and they should be covered if they have comprehensive. If a flier injures another participant, no insurance will cover that. They are there at their own risk, but depending on the extent of the injury, there could be a lawsuit regardless. That would come under the offender’s homeowner policy or umbrella policy. Basically you are covering the owner from being sued as a result of a non-rocket-related incident, such as someone falling in a ditch and breaking their leg.
Secondly, anyone in this hobby that has something to lose should get an umbrella policy through their homeowner’s insurance. Suggest that your fliers have one. This is an individual decision for each flier. The policies run between $200.00 and $300.00 per year, depending on the coverage and area of the country. Needless to say, there is some inherent risk with what we do, and each individual should have themselves covered first and foremost. If you protect the landowner as an organization, you are one giant step toward to becoming an autonomous group like MDRA. The question is, “Where is your comfort level?” Ours is high; we believe that we have a good thing going and are covered to the maximum extent that we and our members can afford. You first have to change your way of looking at insurance. It is not to cover the individual but to protect the landowner. Individual are responsible for protecting themselves.
The third thing is to incorporate your organization. You are volunteers and are providing a service for all those members who simply show up, fly, and then leave. But as we know, someone has to do it. The officers and landowners must be held harmless, and the members have to sign off on that fact.
It is suggested to have someone in your group that is familiar with insurance and speaks the language check with a broker and tell them that you are a hobby rocket group that is looking for insurance to cover your activities. Tell them that you launch once a month or so and have n number of members. At that point, stop talking. Rocketeers are our own worst enemy; we love to talk about rockets, and that can be worrying to people who don’t know Estes rockets from RPGs. Let the insurance expert ask the questions, and you answer them. You are not recruiting new members; don’t scare them off. Let them present something to you. Then you have to decide what your group can live with, based on coverage and price. What we have found is that you need to typically be insured within the state where you fly. Local contacts and friends in the business are a good thing.
What Is the MDRA Position Concerning LEUPs?
On March 16, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton issued a ruling that vacated BATFE’s regulatory oversight of the solid rocket-motor propellant. This means APCP is no longer on the BATFE’s list of explosives. This also means there is not a requirement to have a LEUP to purchase high-powered motors. In the sale of high-powered motors, it is the vendor’s responsibility to ensure you are over 18 years old and are purchasing motors within your certification level. Refer to the BATFE, TRA, and NAR links for additional information to assist you in researching the need for a LEUP.