Meet The LUNAR Launch Coordination Officers


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LUNAR launches are coordinated by eight people designated as the Range Safety Officer (RSO), Launch Control Officer (LCO), Low-power and high-power Safety Check Officers (LP-SCO and HP-SCO), Pad Assignment Director (PAD), two Launch Pad Supervisors (LPS), and Registration Manager (RM). You can tell these people by the cool colored vests they wear. We all take turns manning these positions during a launch to spread the burden of making the launches run smoothly. As compensation for spending time as one of these officers (see Helping Out), you get to wear a fancy colored vest with the LUNAR logo on it and your officer title (no, you don't get to take them home with you). We also pass out Go to the Front of the Line Gold Cards to everyone who participates. While the vests are really cool, the Gold Cards are well worth it on a busy day as you may well get in more launches after spending an hour working than you would just standing in line.


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Meet The Range Safety Officer (RSO)(Red Vest)

Prerequisites: The RSO is an adult 18 years or older, an experienced rocketeer, and is generally one of the senior club members.

The Range Safety Officer has overall responsibility for the safety of the range and can shutdown flying if he deems it necessary. Most often though he depends on the LCO to make good decisions about range safety for each individual launch. The RSO has the final say about the flyability of any model or engine combination.

The RSO usually makes the decision when to switch the "swing" pads (Rack 3) from low power to high power and vice versa, although the LCO can also decide this, based on the relative length of the lines.


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Meet The Launch Control Officer (LCO)(Yellow Vest)

Prerequisites: The LCO is an adult 18 years or older and experienced in club operations.

The Launch Control Officer is responsible for supervising each individual launch and seeing that conditions are safe to do so. This means making sure that pads are not and cannot be armed when people are close by them. It also means looking and listening for aircraft and not launching any rockets when any are within our FAA exclusion zone (currently a cylinder 2 miles in radius and 4,500 feet high).

When the area around a rack of pads is clear, the LCO announces that the "Rack is closed." No one may go near the pads after they have been closed. At this point, the LCO removes the plastic switch protector and tests for continuity by arming one pad at a time and pressing the foot switch. If the beeper beeps, the continuity is good. When launching Rack 4 he must plug the phone plug on the back of the plastic switch protector into the phone jack just above the arming switches before checking for continuity. This begins charging the remote launch controller which takes about 30 seconds, and while he should not try to launch until it is fully charged he can immediately start checking for continuity.

The pads should all be disarmed when the LCO finishes this test. If any of the pads do not have continuity, the LCO opens the Rack by placing the plastic protector back on the switches and tells the owner of the problem rocket to see if he can fix it. When the continuity problem is fixed, the LCO closes the rack again and redoes the continuity test for that rocket.

The LCO is given a clipboard by the Pad Assignment Director or the High-Power Safety Check Officer containing the launch cards for each of the rockets on the rack being launched. The cards contain information about each of the rockets that the LCO uses when announcing the rocket. He next announces the rocket, taking special pains to make everyone aware of any flights labeled as "heads up." He determines if he or the owner is to "push the button" from a check box on the launch card. If you like doing count downs and pushing the button, this is the job for you as most of the rocketeers want to be down range a little to be ready for recovery.

When the button pusher (if any) is in place and it is safe to do so, the LCO arms the correct pad, checks for nearby aircraft and people in the launch pad area. He makes the statement "The range is clear and the sky is clear," listens for anyone yelling "Airplane!" and gives the go-ahead to the button pusher to do the countdown and launch the rocket. When the countdown reaches 2 he steps on the foot switch enabling the launch button which is pressed at 0. Keep the foot switch down until until the rocket fires or fizzles. The launch controller contains a relay that latches closed when the launch button is pressed to continue supplying power to the rocket until the foot switch is released, even if the launch button is released.

If the rocket flies, the LCO observes the flight and watches for proper operation of the recovery system; if anything goes wrong he calls "heads-up" and turns on the alert siren to make everyone aware of the possible danger.

When all rockets have been launched, the LCO makes sure all switches are off, places the plastic protector over them and announces that the Rack is open for loading or removal if a rocket did not fly. People with failed launches get one chance to fix the problem and try again. If they fail a second time they must remove their rocket from the pads so others can fly. The LCO tells the Pad Assignment Director to return their flight cards so they can fix the problem "off line" and get a new pad assignment.

Note that if things are relatively slow, the LCO may let the owner of a failed rocket in to quickly inspect his rocket and, if it is an easy fix, launch it immediately before letting the next rack in.

The LCO returns the clipboard to the Pad Assignment Director or the High-Power Safety Check Officer depending on who gave it to him.

The LCO also watches the barrier strings and is the only person who may authorize anyone to walk inside the barrier strings (such as to recover a rocket). He needs to watch carefully, especially for our younger members who tend to not see barriers or wires when chasing after their rockets.


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Meet The Low-Power Safety Check Officer (LP-SCO) (Orange Vest)

Prerequisites: The LP-SCO does not need to be an experienced rocketeer but should be at least high-school age, 15 years or more, and have built and flown two or three rockets. If you have never done this job before you can be trained in about 5 minutes.

The LP-SCO inspects all low-power rockets prior to flight to determine if they are safe to fly. If they are judged safe, LP-SCO initials the flight card and gives it back to the rocketeer who then proceeds to the pad assignment line. If we are not busy, the LP-SCO may pass the card directly to the Pad Assignment Director or may do the pad assignments himself if we are short handed.

Low power rockets are any rocket with less than 80 Newton-seconds of impulse. Rockets with A, B, C, D, or E engines qualify as low power and may fly from our low power pads. Rocketeers with larger engines (F, G, or H) must go through the high-power safety check. If, in the opinion of the LP-SCO, the rocket is not safe to fly, he will tell the owner what the problem is and help them out if we are not busy. We have a "fix it" box of glue, tape, and common repair items at the safety check table to use to fix small problems. If we are busy, you can almost always find an experienced rocketeer standing in line who is willing to help the person out. If you are unsure about the safety of a rocket, ask one of the more experienced rocketeers, especially the RSO or the HP-SCO. If the rocketeer disagrees with the LP-SCO's judgment, the RSO has the ultimate authority.

For most rockets the inspection process is fairly simple. The LP-SCO checks to see that the fins and launch lug are securely fastened to the body tube. He checks that the engine is properly installed (i.e. that it is not hanging half out of the rocket because the glue on the engine block set too soon, or that it is not in backwards) and it is secure from either moving forward when thrusting or being ejected during recovery (unless it is supposed to be ejected). While at the engine it is also a good idea to check to see if the igniter wires are possibly shorted together.

Check for a functional recovery system. This can be no more than checking that the nose cone is not too tight or too loose, asking the owner if the recovery system is present, and if he remembered the recovery wadding.

The flight cards of any large rocket which is not rejected but is somewhat questionable in the eyes of the LP-SCO is marked as a "heads up" flight so everyone else will be made aware of the potential for a problem. All scratch built rockets (those not from a kit) on their first flight should be marked as "heads up" flights. Check that the rocket is not too heavy. If it feels heavy, check it on the scale at the HP-SCO table and compare the weight with the maximum allowed for the engine. A table of maximum weights for different engine sizes is at the HP_SCO table.

If the LP-SCO or the owner are still concerned about a questionable, "heads up", low-power rocket they may request that it be flown from the high-power pads to get it farther from the crowd. To do this, pass the flight card to the HP-SCO and ask him to assign it to a high-power pad.


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Meet The Pad Assignment Director (PAD) (Orange Vest)

Prerequisites: The PAD is an ideal job for our youngest members as they can be supervised by the LP-SCO.

The pad assignment director is a relatively easy job that is well suited for our younger members. The PAD makes the launch pad assignments for the low power pads. When a rack of pads has been launched, the PAD gets the clipboard from the LCO, removes the cards for the launched rockets and puts them in the "Used Flight Cards" box. If a rocket did not fly and the LCO is going to give them another chance, leave the card on the clipboard. If the rocketeer has to remove his rocket to try again later, give him his card back. Take the clipboard back to the low power table and assign all the available pads by clipping the rocketeer's launch card on the clip that corresponds to the assigned pad. Be sure the launch card has been initialed by the LP-SCO before assigning a pad.

During slow periods pad assignments are done by the LP-SCO after he finishes checking a rocket.

The PAD is also available to help out the other officers in the launch area, depending on where the need is. If the PAD must leave the LP-SCO table to run an errand, the LP-SCO takes over pad assignments.

NOTE: When a large group of young children, such as Cub Scouts or 4-H, comes up, suggest to their supervisor that we write the pad assignment on the back of the child's hand with a pen. This makes it much easier to remember which pad they are supposed to be on.

As mentioned above, the PAD job is ideal for our younger members as they can be supervised by the LP-SCO. A parent and child can sign up for the LP-SCO and PAD positions for the same hour and work together to do the safety checks and pad assignments (I did it when my daughter was 10 years old and she thought it was great fun).


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Meet The High-Power Safety Check Officer (HP-SCO)(Blue Vest)

Prerequisites: The HP-SCO is an adult, 18 years old or older, with several years of experience and with at least a level 1 certification.

The High-Power Safety Check Officer examines all mid- and high-power rockets, certifies them to fly, and assigns them a pad. Mid-power rockets normally fly from Rack 3 (pads 13 through 18) and high-power rockets from Rack 4 (pads 19 through 24). Note that Rack 3 is the swing rack which can be used for both low-, mid-, and high-power launches at the discretion of the RSO or LCO.

The mid-power rules apply to any rocket carrying a total impulse of 40 Newton-seconds but less than 120 Newton-seconds. This applies to all F and G motors, or clusters of smaller motors whose total impulse totals more than 40 but less than 120 N-s.

The high-power rules apply for any engine or combination of engines that is greater than 120 N-s (H).

The mid- and high-power flight cards have check-offs for all the following inspections.

Structure Check

The HP-SCO first checks the structural integrity of the rocket, including:

  • Attachment of the fins
  • Attachment of the engine mount
  • Recovery system attachments to nose cone and rocket
  • Packing of the parachute
  • Fit of the nose cone.

Stability Check

The next step is to check the stability of the rocket. If the rocket is a kit, we will accept that the rocket is stable if built to the kit's specifications. If the rocket is not a kit, the flier will have to present some sort of documentation to show the location of the center of pressure (CP) so it can be compared to the location of the center of gravity (CG). The CG should be at least one caliber (body tube diameter) ahead of the CP to assure good stability. Rockets that do not conform to this rule will need compelling evidence, such as overlarge fins, to convince the HP-SCO that they are stable.

Engine Check

The next step is to insure that the engine is safe and appropriate for the high-power model being flown. The HP-SCO checks the type of engine and verifies that it is on the list of NAR certified engines. Only engines certified by the California Fire Marshal are allowed at club launches. The HP-SCO weighs the rocket and compares the launch weight to the recommended maximum weight for the engine. The HP-SCO uses an altitude chart to compare the maximum altitude and the appropriateness of the delay.

The altitude charts are in the Appendix. The charts plot the maximum altitude and time to maximum altitude and delay to maximum altitude (time minus propellant burn time) versus launch weight for different engines.

Electronics Check

For high powered rockets with electronic initiation of upper stages or of the recovery system, the HP-SCO checks the electronics to see that they are in good order. Specifically, the HP-SCO checks the condition of the:

  • Altimeter
  • Recovery system electronics
  • Batteries
  • Staging electronics

Pad Assignment

When all safety checks are complete, check off the appropriate boxes on the launch card and assign the rocket a pad by placing the launch card on the clipboard under the clip for the pad number assigned to the rocket. When the clipboard is full, give it to the LCO to be launched. When the rack is launched, the LCO gives back the clipboard. Note any rockets that are being given a second chance to launch and leave their launch cards on the clipboard. Remove any other launch cards and place them in the "Used Flight Cards" box.


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Meet The Launch Pad Supervisors (LPS) (Light Blue Vest)

Prerequisites: The LPS is a great job for our younger members. The LPS must have some experience setting up rockets on our launch pads and using our launch equipment.

The Launch Pad Supervisor (affectionately known as a "Pad Mother") is a good position for our experienced junior members. There are two LPSs, one for each of the two low power racks. One person can handle both racks, but there is a lot of walking involved as you must walk around the outside of the barrier string to get from one rack to the other. You must not climb over the barrier string and walk across the high power extension cords to get between the racks. Only the LCO may authorize anyone to walk inside the barrier strings.

The LPS basically hangs out around the pads looking cool in his light blue vest. He communicates with the LCO and other LPS using the club-supplied FRS radio (which is issued with the vest and is turned back at the end of shift). Whenever someone needs help or appears to be having problems, the LPS steps in and helps them out. The most common problems are not knowing how to change a launch rod and how to connect the igniter clips to an igniter.

When helping with an igniter, this is a good time to show new rocketeers how to bend the igniters into two rabbit-ears so the clip can grab across two pieces of wire instead of just one.

One thing to keep in mind as an LPS; show the new rocketeers how to do it but then let them do it. For example, clip one igniter clip on but let them do the other.

When all rockets are ready to go on a rack, the LPS should make a quick check of each rocket to insure that the igniter clips are connected correctly, that the rocket is not sitting flat on the blast deflector and that the rockets do not appear to be ready to hang up on anything. He then lets the LCO know that the Rack is ready to be closed and launched.

During a night launch, the LPS job becomes more important as the LCO cannot see the pad area in the dark. It is the job of the LPS to make sure people stay out of the pad area when it is closed and to let the LCO know about any problems or special cases, such as a rocketeer needing to turn on his lights prior to a launch (this is where the FRS radio really comes in handy). The LPS gets one of the lanterns during the night launch and uses it to give the rocketeers more light while they are attaching their igniter clips. They are very appreciated when they do this as it is very difficult to hold a flashlight and connect an igniter clip at the same time. LPSs should not forget to turn off the lantern when the Rack is closed and the rockets are being launched.

The LPS job can be done by any rocketeer who has launched a few rockets at LUNAR. He needs to know how to change the launch rod and igniter clips on the LUNAR pads and how to put a rocket on a pad and attach the clips to the igniter. While not being a particularly difficult job, the LPS job saves us a lot of time by helping new rocketeers get their rockets on the pad more quickly and by decreasing the number of igniter failures. Also, while specifically intended as a helper to low power fliers, the LPS can also help out at the high power pads as well. While the HP fliers are not, by definition, beginners, they may be new to LUNAR, and unfamiliar with the equipment.


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Meet The Registration Manager (RM) (Green Vest)

Prerequisites: The RM needs to be high-school age at least 15 years old or older who understands how lunar operates. You can be trained for this position in about 5 minutes and the HP-SCO is there next to you if you have questions.

The Registration Manager watches over the launch sign in sheet, sells flight cards, hands out and receives membership applications, and answers questions about the club. When money is received for flight cards or as membership dues the RM makes change as necessary and records it on a transaction log.

Membership cards, applications, Flight Cards and other information are in the file box. Money and Flight Cards are in the cash box.

When members sign in, the RM stamps their hand with our special "rocket" stamp. When nonmembers present a Free First Day of Flying card the RM cancels the card by putting their name and date on the card and then stamps their hand. They get to keep the card as a souvenir. Nonmembers who pay the $5.00 walk on fee also get their hands stamped. Flight cards should only be sold to members or nonmembers who have their hands stamped.

The LUNAR fee schedule for launching and dues is as follows:

The RM should generally be at least high school age as they must handle money. The RM needs to know how LUNAR operates and how to launch rockets with LUNAR as they tend to be the first person a new rocketeer gets to talk to. If you cannot answer a question about LUNAR, the HP-SCO (who is at the adjacent table) is generally well versed in the operation of the club and can help you out.


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Last modified on Tuesday, 31-Mar-2009 17:00:00 PDT