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General Experimental Rocketry Safety

This is an incomplete guide. If you find any errors or omissions, E-mail Ray ASAP! Additionally, in no way does anybody condone your unsafe activities. You are responsible for your own safety. You are also responsible for the safety of any others that may be affected by your activities. Always act to minimize risk.

Also read the SAFETY CODE FOR EXPERIMENTAL SOLID-PROPELLANT PREPARATION AND MOTOR CONSTRUCTION.

Murphy's laws are especially applicable to rocketry! It is very likely that rocketeers invented them.

Expermental Rocketry can be very safe! If you take the REQUIRED precautions. It can be very unsafe if you do not.

First of all, propellants are highly energetic materials. Anything that can loft your airframe into the sky (or beyond), fighting against gravity the whole time, can also propel sharp, hot pieces of your rocket very fast in all directions. Always realize they only need a slight motivation to ignite unexpectedly.

When working with propellants, always maintain good material control. Use the smallest amount of material the experiment requires. Remove all flammable materials not required for the experment. Do not allow powders or vapors to be spread about. Powders and vapors are especially dangerous, they have a large exposed surface area for reactions. Keep all surfaces clean.

Propellant fires are very difficult to extinguish, water often makes the fire worse, by spreading materials about (sometimes accompanied by an explosive steam burst) or even providing oxygen to the mix in extreme cases. Research your materials, know their reactions. Plan for an emergency in advance. Keep plenty of clean utensils for your experiments. Never use the same utensils for both oxidizers and fuels without a very good cleaning.

When working with larger amounts of materials, develop remote solutions. This can be as simple as a ball mill on an extension cord, or as complex as a robotic casting station.

Static test prior to flight testing. Testing should be done remotely, and with good containment. Direct viewing should always be avoided. Many rocketeers have been killed or maimed when their rocket suddenly exploded. Use mirrors, a periscope or closed circuit TV to view the test firing of motors, and have plenty of shielding and distance between yourself and the motor being tested.

Flight test only after you have a proven design. This means adequate preparation. Achieve several successful static tests. Run performance simulations to ensure your rocket has enough thrust to become stable prior to leaving the launch tower. Check the stability of your vehicle with at least two different methods. Ensure your airframe will be strong enough to handle flight stresses. Distance and a solid object between you and the rocket are your keys to safety during flight testing. A bunker is the safest option, at least hide behind a truck. Use a very long electical ignition system.

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