Frequently asked questions about MARS launches:
1. How high do rockets fly at a MARS launch?
The limit as granted in a waiver from the FAA is 12,000 feet. This maximum is determined by the size of the site and proximity of inhabited buildings and the SUNY Geneseo college campus. However, the average height of most high power rockets (those flown on H or larger motors) flown at MARS is between 2,000 and 5,000 feet. Low power rockets flown on Estes black powder motors fly between a couple hundred feet and 2,000 at the high end- usually for staged models.
2. Is a rocket launch safe?
MARS runs launches following the National Association of Rocketry safety code along with all national, state and local rules. These guidelines have been used for several decades of rocketry in the US and the hobby has a stellar safety record. That being said, it is important that everyone attending a launch pays close attention messages broadcast from the launch control officer as to the rockets in the air. No activity is without risk but at MARS we strive to mitigate the risk as much as possible.
3. Are there: Shelter, Food, Facilities available?
Mars does not provide shelter or food service. We do arrange for portable toilets to be at every launch. We suggest you bring water, sun screen, snacks if you wish (Geneseo is very close by), extra clothing, more water, folding chairs, sun glasses…. the list can go on. The weather can vary from morning to afternoon; some days start off cool and damp and by 3pm it’s sunny and 80 degrees. Plan for everything including a passing shower. Many members use “Easy-up” style shade canopies as these provide affordable shelter.
4. Health and Safety?
MARS has a basic first aid kit available. Be sure to bring water, at least one bottle per person per 2 hours if the weather is hot and sunny. It is very easy to get dehydrated out in the sun for a few hours. If you have a long walk to retrieve a rocket please take a phone and water with you. The launch field is not far from emergency services in case of a serious medical issue.
5. I’m new at this, are you friendly?
Every single member of MARS was new at this at one time or another. We are excited to have people come out to see what the hobby is all about. Everyone is willing to help a “newbie” with a rocket: how to prep it for flight, how our launch system works, and how to best find it again if you lose track of it.
Feel free to bring your family and friends, but it’s best your pets stay at home as the high power motors are loud, and harm pets hearing. Everyone flying low power (motors, size A-E) is welcome to fly free to “try out” the club and its facilities. If you wish to fly at another launch, we encourage you to join the club which helps us maintain the equipment and field costs.
6. Can I bring my kids?
Of course, but they must be supervised by at all times by you, not us. They will need to follow all the range rules and many children will need adult supervision to do so. They are welcome to fly rockets as long as they have adult help with preparation, loading on the pads, and recovery. Your children are welcome to look, but not touch, other fliers’ rockets. We know that kids are the future of the hobby and hope to encourage them as much as possible to get involved with STEM projects like rockets.
Please be aware very young children are often scared (to tears) by high power rockets, which are very loud. If in doubt, send Mom and Dad to check out a launch first before bringing the little ones.
7. I have a rocket I made out of some old PVC and glued metal fins on it…. can I fly it?
The answer to this is NO. The NAR safety code prohibits construction of rockets using any metal parts. It allows flying rockets made from paper, plastic and wood along with carbon fiber and fiberglass. At safety check the rocket is checked by MARS officers to ensure the materials employed meet NAR requirements.
Additionally, a Range Safety Officer is present during all launch operations. The RSO’s job is to ensure compliance with the NAR safety codes (see link in resources page) along with local fire, and municipality ordinances/regulations. The RSO will ensure safe operation on the range and will inform the pad managers on the angle of the rods and rails the rockets will fly from.
8. What is the flight line? Why are all the rocket camps lined up in a row?
At the MARS flying field we arrange a flight line that is perpendicular to a line drawn from the launch pads to the Museum buildings. The NAR safety code disallows rockets from flying over the fight line towards the spectators, and our local rules don’t allow rockets flying towards the Museum. When rockets are being flown the range is “hot”, and NO-ONE is allowed in front of the flight line except the Launch Controller (LCO), the RSO, and the pad managers. When the LCO announces that the range is “cold”, rockets are done being flown and fliers can then cross the flight line to retrieve their rockets, load new ones on the pads, replace igniters, etc. The flight line insures everyone is at the necessary distance from the pads per safety code requirements.
9. Do you have vendors selling rocketry stuff at your launches?
Yes! Ken Allen with Performance Hobbies attends nearly every MARS launch, Rick Comshaw of Wildman Rocketry is also available 860-882-3247. He carries a full line of everything. Ken has small kits by Estes, Fliskits, Semroc, and more. He also carries mid and high power rocket kits, components, parachutes, rocket motors from A to N by a variety of manufacturers.
10. What should I leave at home?
Alcoholic beverages, 4-wheelers/dirt bikes, and fireworks are not allowed. ATVs are prohibited on the farmer’s fields, using alcohol violates the NAR safety code, and fireworks are illegal to possess in New York State. Pets, as mentioned earlier, should be left home. If you are traveling and have a pet with you, they must be on a leash at all times, and are not allowed on the field.
More questions? Please contact us with the contact link in the menu.