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The History of the Canadian Association of Rocketry

by Bill Morgan (CAR# S274), Past Treasurer
The Canadian Association of Rocketry (CAR) has had a long history. Although model rocketry has it's origins dating back to the early 1950's in the United States, organized model rocketry did not become a reality in Canada until the mid 1960's. The organization we now know as the CAR has gone through a great number of changes in the last 34 years. The following article is a brief history of our organization.

The history from the early 1960's to the early 1980's comes from an article written by Peter W. Cook titled, "History of Canadian Model Rocketry", published in 1982 in "Space Modeller". In some cases I have condensed the article and in others I have taken from his text verbatim. The history subsequent to the period covered by Peter's article came from a review of CAR headquarters files, and correspondence with Garth Illerbrun, the CAR chairman from 1993 to 1998.

Many of you are aware of the exciting changes happening in all facets of our hobby, be it model or high power rocketry, and even amateur rocketry. After reading through the history of CAR, you will see that CAR's past has always been one of change and adaptation, all of which have been to the benefit of the hobby.

Model rocketry dates its origins to back to 1954 when a shoe store owner in Nebraska, Orville H. Carlisle, and his brother Robert, developed the "Rock-A-Chute Mark I". He obtained a U.S. Patent in 1958 for his design, which contained all the elements of a typical model rocket in use today, including a pre-manufactured and ready-to-use rocket motor. A history of Carlisle's development of the model rocket and the rocket motor appeared in an article by G. Harry Stine, "The Roots of Model Rocketry", published in the January/February 1998 edition of Sport Rocketry.

With the launch of Sputnik atop an A-1 rocket in October 1957, and the subsequent interest in the "space race" of the late 1950's and early 1960's, model rocketry quickly established itself in the United States. In Canada however, under the Explosives Act, rocketry was a banned activity for all but the professional. Model rocket kits and accessories were available, however the model rocket motors could not be imported. By the middle of 1963, pressure mounted on the Federal Government from rocket enthusiasts to legalize model rocketry activities.

In 1964, the Federal Government and the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute approached the Royal Canadian Flying Clubs Association (RCFCA) to undertake the organization of model rocketry on a national basis. In 1965 the RCFCA formed the Canadian Association of Rocketry (CAR). At the same time, the RCFCA prepared the "Approved Regulations for Rocketry by Amateurs in Canada". These regulations were to define the conditions that would make model rocketry legal in Canada. The CAR was successfully incorporated as a distinct entity in October 1965, although it remained under the sponsorship of the RCFCA.

In April 1966, legislation was passed which made model rocketry legal in Canada, subject to a number of restrictions. These restrictions were as follows:
  • rockets may be launched only in the presence of a Licensed Firing Supervisor on established military ranges or other sites approved by the local municipal government;
  • rockets could only be launched at least 10 miles from an airport to a maximum altitude of 1200 feet;
  • motors may only be obtained by Licensed Firing Supervisors; and,
  • all rocketeers must be members of the CAR.

To become a Licensed Firing Supervisor one had to be a Senior CAR member (21 years or older) and pass a written examination that covered everything from safety standards, to motor operation, and even first aid.

The popularity of model rocketry grew tremendously in the United States, and even internationally, in the late 1960's. However, the restrictions imposed in Canada on model rocketry severely limited its growth here. Although model rocketry was becoming a popular international sport, the RCFCA/CAR did not have the resources to encourage and sponsor competition in Canada.

Out of frustration with the existing regulations governing the hobby, and the lack of active sponsorship from the RCFCA/CAR, a group of rocketeers established the Youth Aeronautic and Aerospace of Canada (YAAC). The YAAC was established to "create more interest among the youth towards rocket and aerospace sciences, and build up a large strong organization of such, so that we may hope to change some of the strict rules pertaining to model rocketry in Canada". The YAAC had divisions from British Columbia to Ontario and even developed its own sporting code. However, as anyone participating in model rocketry still had to be a member of CAR, it remained the national rocketry body.

In June 1970, the YAAC met with Energy, Mines and Resources, the Department of Transport, and the RCFCA in an attempt to ease some of the restrictions governing model rocketry. Changes to resulting from that meeting included an understanding by the Government as to the distinction between amateur and model rocketry, and an easing of the 10 mile limit to 5 miles. Subsequent to the meeting, the YAAC came to the decision that the CAR was the best vehicle to serve rocketeers. The YAAC decided to disband and work towards the promotion of the CAR.

In 1971, the Youth Science Foundation (YSF) was approached by the RCFCA to manage the CAR. The YSF was well suited for the task as it had similar objectives to CAR but with a broad science scope. Conducting national science fairs, the YSF had the manpower and resources to support the CAR. As part of the re-organization, various technical subcommittees were organized, and a regular newsletter "EARTHRISE" was published.

Model rocketry became a popular international sport, and in 1972 the First World Space Modeling Championships was held in Vrsac, Yugoslavia. Canadian rocketeers competed in this event on the international stage. The following year, the CAR published its own Sporting Code, based in part on the older YAAC code. It held it's first national meet and competition, CARNAT-1, in Edmonton.

The latter half of the 1970's saw a number of significant regulatory changes that had a positive impact on model rocketry. The requirement for a Licensed Firing Supervisor was lifted, and in co-operation with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, a manual detailing all safety requirements by which the rocketeer was to abide by was developed. The sale of model rocket motors was simplified by easing the restrictions on retailers. As a result, model rockets and motors become accessible through more retail outlets. Things were finally going in the right direction.

CAR established a National Committee that included provincial-based representation. CARNAT-2 was held in Olds, Alberta, followed by CARNAT-79 in Toronto. Model rocketry was popular and accessible to all. However, despite the increased popularity in model rocketry, membership in the CAR plunged from approximately 2,500 members to 200. Due to the relaxation of the regulations, membership was no longer a requirement to fly model rockets. In addition, interest in model rocketry waned along with the decline in manned space programs.

In the early 1980's a small group of hard core enthusiasts kept the flame alive and began a re-organization of the CAR. The emphasis was now on competition. The CAR revised the Canadian Model Rocket Sporting Code, and established and maintained the Canadian Model Rocket Performance Records. A five-man team participated once again in international competition at the 1980 World Space Modeling Championships held at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Once again the CAR held a national meet and competition, CARNAT-81, again in Olds, Alberta. Subsequent CARNATs were held in CFB Valcartier, Quebec, and at Keswick, Ontario, in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

Things were pretty bleak for the CAR for the next several years, with the membership being virtually non-existent. As of January 1987, the CAR was no longer associated with the YSF. The CAR became a totally independent association, and had to rely solely on its own members for funding, which was down to less than 20. The last issue of EARTHRISE was published in July 1987. With reorganization of the CAR, the newsletter was revived in late 1987, initially titled "True North'. The newsletter was subsequently changed to "Trajectory" after discovering the name was copyrighted by the Canadian entry in the 1987 America's Cup Yacht Race! By 1990, the 25th anniversary of the CAR, membership had "grown" to approximately 50 members. Something would have to happen for the membership to grow. That was to be High Power Rocketry.

While these events were unfolding in Canada, high power rocketry was being developed within the United States, allowing adult modelers and post secondary institutions access to commercially manufactured high power rocket motors.

The CAR, through the efforts of the Calgary Rocketry Association (CRA), began lobbying Energy, Mines and Resources in early 1989 to allow the import of composite rocket motors. In addition, they lobbied to change the existing safety code to allow rockets of up to 2,500 gm in weight and motors of up to 640 n/s of power.

By 1993, Energy, Mines and Resources had the first Draft High Power Rocketry Regulations in place. In September 1993, the first CAR sanctioned high power rocket launch was held at Sullivan Lake, Alberta. Memberships in CAR grew as high power rocketry increased in popularity.

Under the High Power Rocketry Regulations, access to high power rocket motors was restricted to senior members of CAR (18 years of age or older) who have completed the CAR High Power User Certification Program. The program was controlled by the Explosives Branch of Natural Resources Canada (formerly Energy, Mines and Resources) and the rules, regulations, and statutes for the program were set forth in the " The Control of Advance High Power Rocketry in Canada".

Subsequent to 1993, the CAR has worked closely with NRC to continue to revise and update the Model and High Power Rocketry regulations and safety codes. NRC prepared draft legislation released during the summer of 1998 incorporating many of the CAR's recommendations. One of the more significant changes to come about as a result of the CAR's lobbying efforts was to have "G" class rocket motors classified as a model rocket motor.

Transport Canada, the other major federal department controlling our activities, continues to show support and direct assistance in locating launch areas throughout the nation were our activities can be conducted safely with no conflict or danger to civilian or commercial air traffic.

High power rocketry is expected to grow in popularity, and the CAR and its affiliate clubs will continue to be at the forefront. Along with the six successful Sullivan Lake launches hosted by the CRA, High Power Rocket launches have been held at other venues in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. We expect that during the later half of the decade other groups including the A3MaQ in Quebec, the Toronto Rocket Club, and the Saskatchewan Rocketry Association, to name a few, will also be hosting high power events on a routine basis.

The CAR is also working on reciprocal agreements with our sister organizations within the United States (NAR, and Tripoli) for recognition of CAR's high power certification process. When finalized, certified CAR members will have access to American high power launches.

I hope the history of the CAR that I've presented has captured most of the highlights of the organization's 34 year history. Obviously the CAR would not be the organization that it is without the help of volunteers. The number of people who have made significant contributions to the CAR in the past is great, however a special thanks should go to those who volunteered to hold the CAR Chairman position: William Paris; Peter Cook; Roger Lufkin; Taras Tataryn; Fritz Gnass; Garth Illerbrun, and Vince Chichak (I hope I got them all!)

Bill Morgan (CAR# S274), Past Treasurer

January 16, 1999
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