Guide to NAR Contest Rocketry Information for Beginners
Your first introduction to NAR-sanctioned competition rocketry can be
daunting -- Pink Book this, Contest Certified that, acronyms up the
wazoo -- what does it all mean?!?
I've created this web page to try to ease the beginner's entry into
the hobby/sport and to point you towards informational and material
resources to get you up to speed quickly. The listings below should
help you learn what you need to know to enter and enjoy contest
flying. Good luck!
(And a special thanks to all of those who have created these resources
that I have linked to.)
Jeff Vincent, NAR Northeast Regional Contest Board Chairman
Table of Contents
What is NAR-Sanctioned Contest Rocketry?
The National Association of Rocketry
is a national organization of hobbyists in the United States who are
interested in sport rocketry (building and flying model or high-power
rockets which use pre-manufactured motors and models of safe,
Recognizing the benefits of competition, both to the individual
and the hobby as a whole, the NAR sanctions organized competitions.
The competitions are divided into age divisions (7-13, 14-18, and 19+,
as well as a team division) to better match the skills of the competitors.
NAR clubs ("sections") host contests ("meets") that NAR members can
Each meet consists of several events -- these may be duration events
(trying to achieve the maximum flight time), altitude events
(trying to achieve the maximum altitude), or craftsmanship events
(building models which are judged on craftsmanship, scale accuracy,
and flight performance). Competition events are further classified
by various tasks they require (Parachute Duration, Eggloft Altitude,
etc.) and most events are flown in specific motor classes (1/2A
Streamer Duration, B Boost/Glider Duration, etc.).
At each meet, contestants earn points for their performance in every
event they fly. Every summer (usually the first week of August)
the NAR holds NARAM (the NAR Annual Meet) somewhere in the country.
At NARAM, contestants fly against people from around the country
and earn more points. At the end of the week, the points are tallied
and the National Champions are recognized.
For more general information on NAR competition, visit the
Competition Rocketry section of the NAR's website (and be sure to
check the "Contest Flying" links in the left-side navigation panel,
since it contains some links not available from the main competition
What About TARC?
TARC (the Team America Rocketry Challenge) is a contest for middle and high
school student teams that attempt to fly a model rocket and perform a
mission (the most recent event required lofting an egg and recovering it
successfully, while coming as close as possible to a pre-determined
maximum altitude and total flight duration time).
While the NAR offers substantial educational and manpower resources to
this annual event, this is NOT a "NAR-sanctioned competition"
as we know it. While some of the resources here might offer some ideas
on design, construction, and/or materials for models applicable to that
task, most of the information does not apply.
For more information on TARC, visit the
- The United States Model Rocket Sporting Code (aka "The Pink Book")
The official rule book for all NAR-sanctioned competitions.
- GCCC - Guide to Competition for the Casual Competitor
Subtitled: Pink Book for Newbies (or, if I had my say, "Pink Book Lite" :).
If you find the Pink Book a bit hard to digest, this guide gives
you an event-by-event breakdown on the rules and tips for beginners.
- General Rules for the Casual Competitor (GRCC)
This is my summary of the general rules of competition (not all of these
are covered in GCCC, so this document compliments GCCC). It is intended
to explain "just enough" of the rules for a new flyer to get started flying
his or her first few meets
- NAR Certified Motor List
Any motor used in NAR competition must have NAR Contest Certification.
Here's where you can look up the certification status (and other
information) for model rocket motors.
Finding a Meet
Flying Your First Meet
Designs and Plans
There are a zillion contest rocketry plans available (or so it seems :).
But first a few caveats:
OK, with that out of the way, here are some sources for designs and plans.
- Availability - Plans are available, but they may not be available
on the Internet (boo hoo! :). Some of the references that I'll list
here may require you to dig a bit, but it will be worthwhile.
- Verbosity - The majority of contest "plans" are written by contest
flyers for other contest flyers, so they assume a certain level of
knowledge and experience and do not explain some of the fine points
of construction. A lot of plans are just a single page drawing of
the model with no instructions, so it's up to you to figure out how
to build the thing on your own.
- Obsolescence - Some plans use parts or (even worse) motors
that are no longer available. Some plans are for events that don't exist
any more (Quadrathon, anyone?). These plans may be useful for ideas,
but they will need at least some modification to be useful today.
- Model Rocket Magazines - The hobby has a long and valued
history of magazines with contest plans. The NAR itself has published
a monthly or bi-monthly journal under the names Model Rocketeer,
American Spacemodeling, and Sport Rocketry through the years.
NAR Technical Services (NARTS) - The NAR sells a number of
competition plan books, scale data, research & development reports, and
other technical reports which are useful to competition flyers.
NAR Website Competition Rocketry Plans - The NAR has posted
a number of competition plans for the various events on their website.
George Gassaway's NARAM-46 Event Tips site - This was built
as a site for information for beginners for NARAM-46 (2004), but George
has kept it available since it not only has information on the specific
events held at that NARAM (which, to some degree, applies to all of the
motor classes a given event is held in) but also has a good section on
general competition tips for beginners.
- NAR Section Newsletters - Many NAR sections publish their
own newsletter and many of those contain contest plans. You'll have
to do some searching to find them, but I'll leave you with one link
to my club's online newsletters:
ASTRE Stardust online.
Sources for Kits and Supplies
- Competition Model Kits
QCR - Qualified Competition Rockets - Ken Brown runs
this small company that sells kits for almost every event in the
Pink Book. The kits are basic and inexpensive, the instructions
and sometimes the materials can be rudimentary, but the result
is a model that should perform competently in a given event.
ASP - Aerospace Speciality Products - Andy Jackson's
company offers his own line of competition kits, as well as
reselling kits from Saturn Press (scale kits) and Edmonds
Aerospace (including the contest-oriented Contest Craft line).
He also sells many competition parts and supplies.
Edmonds Aerospace - Rob Edmonds' company specializes
in rocket-boosted gliders of all sorts. A lot of care goes into
the design and manufacturing of these kits, making them easy
Venus Model Rocketry - Mark Petrovich's part-time
company specializes in unique models that are often
- Competition Parts and Supplies - while these companies may
offer few (or no) competition kits, these manufacturers and retailers
carry a variety of supplies for competition rocketry (in alphabetical
BMS - Balsa Machining Services - Bill Saindon's
company's claim to fame is their excellent balsa noses, boat-tails,
and transitions. He also sells body tubes and other supplies.
(He also manufactures and retails the kits for Edmonds
Aerospace [including the Contest Craft line] and Saturn Press
[Peter Alway's scale kits].)
Fliskits - Jim Flis' company offers only a few contest
kits, but he has a wide variety of parts and has partnered with
Quest Aerospace to create and sell kits, parts, and motors for
the Micro Maxx line (1/8A motors).
Pratt Hobbies - Doug Pratt's company has many unique
products, of most interest to competitors is his line of
lightweight vac-u-form plastic noses and egg capsules (similar
to the CMR parts of the '70s and '80s).
Semroc Astronautics Corporation - Carl McLawhorn's
family-run company doesn't have any contest kits, but they have
a wide variety of parts at reasonable prices.
ContestRoc Yahoo! Group
Online forums offer a mixed bag of announcements, hints, tips, (and
the occasional flame war :). Best of all, it gives you an opportunity
to ask questions of the people who are experts in the hobby.
The Yahoo! Groups also provide file and photo areas for sharing
information with other members. ContestRoc is a forum that is
dedicated to NAR competition rocketry. Here are some others which
are peripherally-related to contest rocketry:
NARAM (the NAR's Annual Meet)
NARAM is the big dance of the year for contest rocketeers -- a week-long
opportunity to meet old (and new) friends, fly rockets, buy rocket
supplies, and, incidentally, determine the national champions of the
year. :) This is the permanent website for NARAM.
What it is Like to Attend a NARAM -- A Guide for the Newbie
An article by Tim van Milligan (of Apogee fame) on your first NARAM.
- NARAM Live
A volunteer effort by Chris Taylor to bring you the sights and sounds
of NARAM (even after NARAM is over, he has past NARAMs online).
Page created by jeffvincent at verizon dot net
Last modified August 15, 2012
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