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  1. #1
    Join Date
    18th January 2009

    World Spacemodeling Championships

    I recently sent the report below to the NAR Board (and to the other members of the 31-person US Team) with my thoughts about our recent adventure in Russia at the 16th World Spacemodeling Championships.

    There is a team-selection flyoff to pick the 2008 US Team on the
    first weekend of NARAM-49. It would be good (and it is the NAR's
    desire) to get a strong turnout for this flyoff, including for the
    Junior team, so that we can send an even better team overseas next time. I'd be happy to work with anyone who would like to try their hand at FAI modeling, and I am sure that most of my teammates would as well.

    We have a long way to go in most events to reach the level of
    competition modeling skill and consistency that the best of the
    European fliers have reached, so that we can do better in the medals in future WSMC. It is not just about FAI flying, I learned things in the last year of doing this that will make me a better modeler in NAR flying as well. This is an experience worth trying if you're a contest flier looking for an extreme modeling challenge.

    Trip Barber

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    The US/NAR Spacemodeling Team is back from Russia. John Langford
    did a superb job as Team Manger, Bill Stine did a great job as a
    coach for the Juniors, and Ed Pearson was great as the first US
    member of the 3-person FAI contest jury in many years. Our team
    worked together very well and made a very favorable impression as
    representatives of the US and the NAR. However except in R/C RG,
    where our fliers are really world-class, we were totally outflown by
    the Europeans and Chinese and a team Bronze in S8 (R/C RG) was our
    only medal. Our lack of access to European motors over here to
    regularly practice with (for PD, SD, B/G, Helo, and Altitude) and
    our inability to get our own specialty motors for Scale, Scale
    Altitude, and R/C RG shipped overseas to compete with this time were
    real killers to team performance. The fact that we are the only
    country that does not routinely fly local competition with models
    using FAI designs and rules is also a major factor inhibiting
    success. I'll leave it to John to lay out a plan for how to make
    all this better, he has one.

    Our kids were our best ambassadors, and Vern and Gleda Estes were
    real "rock stars". The President of the Japan Association of
    Rocketry broke down in tears of joy when he met Vern, and Vern and
    Gleda received special recognition at every ceremonial event. We
    did not have any incidents of personal behavior of any kind
    embarassing to the US, and every member of the team was a great and
    supportive teammate to every other and representative of the US. In
    a country where alcoholism is out of control and there is no minimum
    drinking age, and at an event where there were teams buying and
    drinking beer from the launch site concession by 9 AM, we were the
    most sober team there. We were also the friendliest team; I think
    we (especially the kids) made a great impression on many people who
    literally never see Americans. The Aurora employee/interpreter,
    Grigoriy Vislobidov, who John brought with us was probably the best
    ambassador of the US among us. He is a naturalized US citizen, wore
    the US/NAR Team uniform, and quickly became the interpreter of
    choice for the Russian organizers for all their major events --
    imagine a US Team member, in our uniform, standing in front of a
    stadium full of 10,000 Russians translating for the mayor of
    Baikonur and a Russian general from their Space Center! English is
    not widely spoken in Russia and we would have had a nightmare of a
    time dealing with routine minor issues every day without Grigoriy.

    The whole trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, truly
    spectacular. The Russians, especially the city of Baikonur and the
    Russian Federal Space Agency (their NASA equivalent), pulled out all
    the stops and spared no expense in terms of on-site logistic
    arrangements, hospitality, etc. The WSMC was the biggest event in a
    long time in that unique walled-off limited-access Russian city of
    65,000 people sitting out in the middle of the Kazakhstan desert.
    The opening and closing ceremonies involved Olympic-style march-ins
    by all 25 national teams in front of an audience of 10,000 locals in
    their soccer stadium, followed by choreographed dance performances
    by hundreds of local school students in elaborate costumes. Russian
    and Kazakh kids mobbed us all two weeks for autographs. We traveled
    the 20 or so miles from town to the launch site each day (departing
    before dawn, returning after dark, you're on the bus or you miss the
    day) in a convoy of 20+ busses with police escort vehicles and with
    police on every bus. The Russian police and Army provided extensive
    launch site crowd control and security. This was very much a
    government-sponsored/funded event intended to one-up every country
    that has ever previously held a WSMC. There is no way we could ever
    do something on this scale in the US. Even holding a basic WSMC to
    current standards here would probably take $500K of corporate
    sponsorship funds at a minimum.

    The WSMC launch site was built in the middle of the desert by paving
    a large area with concrete that became a "city" with a double row of
    elaborate furnished and wood-floored "tents" for each team,
    concessions stands, a dining hall, a row of 25 flagpoles,
    etc. "Main Street" down the middle of the team row was constantly
    thronged with fliers of all nations, hundreds of locals out to look
    at the foreigners, etc. It was like that scene on the planet
    Tatoowinie in Star Wars, with aliens of every type mingling and
    bartering. There were two 25-position launch ranges (one position
    for each country's Seniors, another for its Juniors) with separate
    staffs. The launch site extended for several hundred miles in each
    direction of barren Kazakh desert, populated with wild camels. From
    the range you could see the huge antennas of a Russian space launch
    tracking station, the tops of a Soyuz launch complex, a Kazakh
    Muslim cemetery, and nothing else -- forever. The weather was
    perfect, deep blue clear skies, warm (once the sun came up), minimal

    The tour of the Russian Space Center at Baikonur was unbelievable,
    they held nothing back. We saw and walked directly on the launch
    pad where Yuri Gagarin began manned spaceflight -- and which was
    used the day before we arrived in Baikonur to fly the 120th or so
    manned flight out of there. We walked down the production line
    where Soyuz launch vehicles are assembled, a vast building with
    several dozen launch vehicle sections lined up in flight readiness.
    We went in the building where the Soyuz capsules are checked out and
    certified for flight and were given a tour by the no-nonsense
    Russian engineer who runs it today and has the final go/no-go on
    each manned Soyuz or unmanned Progress flight. We saw the ruins of
    the Energia/Buran assembly and launch complex and saw a Buran
    shuttle. We saw the memorial and mass grave of 70 Soviets who died
    in a launch vehicle on-pad accident in 1960. We saw the little
    house where Yuri Gagarin and the early cosmonauts spent the night
    before launch and some of us got to see the hotel and conference
    facility where the cosmonauts stay today. It goes on and on --
    things tourists and Russian citizens have never seen. We also saw
    the Kremlin and Red Square in a tour on the way into the country
    through Moscow. This was truly a great personal experience!

    The Russian organizers produced a DVD with video coverage of every
    aspect of the whole event, and a CD with 3000 professionally-done
    photos from throughout the event. This was made available to each
    team on the day of departure; the Russian Federal Space Agency put
    it all together and produced it within 24 hours of the closing
    ceremony. John has our team copy. In addition James Duffy will be
    putting together a CD with the best 1000 or so of the pictures than
    any of us on the US team took.

    The level of skill, craftsmanship, and advance-preparation at a WSMC
    is extraordinarily far above anything we have in the US, much more
    so than when I last competed internationally 20 years ago. Except
    in Scale, DQ's are rare and any team that has any member DQ in any
    duration-event flight is not a team medal contender. In a duration
    event, anyone who cannot achieve a "max" in all three rounds, even
    in near-zero thermal conditions, is not an individual medal
    contender. In an altitude event, anyone who does not have a
    European-style piston launcher (far beyond US technology levels) is
    not a medal contender. The optimum designs for the flight vehicles
    in most FAI events bear little resemblance to the designs that are
    optimal for similarly-named events under the much-different US Pink
    Book rules. Even in the couple of events where FAI rules do not
    drive major design differences, the intense level of model rocket
    competition in Europe has advanced the state of the art in
    competition rocket and launcher design (except in R/C RG) far beyond
    anything in the US. We are far behind the power curve in
    competition model rocket design and reliability and it will take a
    very focused long-term effort to regain competitive status for a US
    Team in most events. Our current process of picking a new team a
    year in advance with little competition in the selection process,
    and having them start from near-scratch with each person doing a
    different design will not work. Having team members show up at a
    WSMC with unfinished rockets and no advance flight testing (which
    happened in a few cases this year) will not work. Having a team
    show up and try to fly with engines not available to them in the US
    that they have never seen before, and not be able to get delivery of
    the special US engines they tried to ship over (which happened this
    year) will not work. No amount of great on-scene teamwork and
    mutual support (which we had this year) can compensate for these
    disadvantages given the level of competition we face. Rebuilding
    the US program is going to take a number of dedicated long-term
    volunteers and fliers several years to achieve.

    The next WSMC is in Spain in 2008. The site is Liepada, about 100
    miles north of Barcelona. The hotels and food (which were
    distinctly NOT the highlight of the Russian WSMC) will certainly be
    much better, the duration of the event will be less, and access to
    the event will be easier. I doubt much of the rest of the
    organization will be nearly as good as the 2006 or other recent
    WSMC; the Spanish organization is quite small. They plan to hold
    the 2008 WSMC in late August, so not as many Junior team members of
    all nations will have to miss school to attend. The FAI CIAM has
    decreed for whatever reason that future WSMC, starting with the one
    in 2008, may have only 5 events rather than the customary 8, leaving
    the choice of which 5 of the 8 up to the organizer each time. There
    is a CIAM meeting in December (in Muncie) where this issue of 5
    events may be appealed (no one in the world spacemodeling community
    likes it), but I suspect it will stand due to pressure from the
    model aircraft people. The Spanish WSMC organizers will pick which
    5 of the events they will hold after this CIAM meeting, but maybe
    not before next summer. This will complicate our getting a head
    start on flight vehicle design and coaching of new fliers to compete
    for team slots, since we do not know which events to focus our
    efforts on.

    I'm glad I went and glad I flew. Our team represented the US and
    the NAR very well, and I am proud to have been part of it.

    Trip Barber
    NAR VP and 2006 US Team Member

  2. #2
    Join Date
    18th January 2009
    Woodstock, IL
    My thank to John Langford for the extensive planning and organization that went into the 2006 US World Spacemodeling Championships Team. He deserves the thanks and praise of every NAR member for his support to the NAR and the hobby.

    My thanks also to the hardworking US Team members who put in their own sacrifices getting ready for and flying a rocket contest literally half way around the globe.

    For those of you who have not looked at them, these FAI model are quite interesting, and certainly a challenge to get to perform well. I urge those whose competitive fire may have been stoked by Trip's report to contact him directly and learn more about FAI flying.

    A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But high above the quiet streets on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions. Guy Noir, Private Eye.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    3rd January 2004

    I read your report with great interest. I don't participate in competitive rocketry of any form, but as an engineer, I like to understand the technology and methods of that part of the sport. Much the same as I don't participate in F1 car racing, but I love to learn about the technology of the sport. Back when the Estes Sprint was a "new" model, it immediately captured my attention as to why it worked.

    Of course, the state of the art has advanced manifold since the Sprint, but you could hardly tell that by the sorts of things done by most of us participating in rocketry here in the US. We tend to view "high performance" as using a bigger motor in an even bigger airframe. That's not performance, but consumerism. The emphasis in performance of ABC-class rockets is nearly non-existant outside of a few clubs.

    It seems the home field advantage the Europeans have is quite significant. If we can't reasonably procure engines, that is a huge handicap.

    Again, as an outside observer, I have one significant comment to make: Even with the proliferation of rocketry information on the internet, it is surprisingly difficult to find hard, technical data on what represents the state of the art for competition rockets and support systems. There's lots of anecdotal "hints", poorly described terminology and probably a lot of misinformation out there. Websites dedicated to "competitive" rocketry exist, but they are generally lacking in hard-core technical information, are disjoint and difficult from which to glean much exact information- it is hardly what would be called a great body of knowledge.

    Without easy access to the basic knowledge and understanding of the technology and skills, your goal to get competitive will be very difficult. To address this basic knowlege gap, there needs to be an easy to access source, a central repository, that covers competitive rocketry. I bet a small percentage of those involved in competitive rocketry here in the US have much idea of what our non-US counterparts are doing. Relative to the non-US crowd, we need to know their exact materials, the specific construction techniques, and most importantly, why those materials and techniques make them competitive. Same for support systems (launchers).

    As importantly, as you do the research and gain this information, it needs to widely dispersed in as public a fashion as possible. NO SECRETS held to small pockets of a few individuals or clubs here and there. Make the current state of the art "open source". Broadly spreading the knowledge of the current state-of-the art is needed to level the playing field. Once that is achieved, the innovators among us can then effectively find new ways to push the limits further (and those ideas can be kept secret!). However, if we're constantly trying to play catch-up, we'll never get the point of being able to explore new ideas (simply copying other will bring parity, at best).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    18th January 2009
    I agree that we need a fully-open exchange of design and construction information in this area to boost our performance. Unfortunately, the Europeans that are good at this stuff are pretty secretive about their designs, but most of us who were there came back with some observations of what the top competitors were doing that we are not.

    There is a fair amount of basic information on FAI design and construction on the USA Spacemodeling website, and this is where I went to get started in my preparations for this year. I found that every veteran US FAI flier who I asked for information beyond this shared everything without hesitation, but most were too busy to bother documenting what they knew in some formal way.

    Part of the program that the NAR is going to try to get rolling in support of future US Teams is collaborative development of optimum designs for FAI events, and improved information sharing among those who are (or want to be) part of this activity.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    22nd January 2009
    Minneapolis, MN
    Who from the team is coming to NARCON next spring? I'd love to have a panel discussion. Or maybe two: One on the experience (a travelogue-style slide show, perhaps.) The other could be on the technology.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    23rd January 2009
    Is there any way that we mere mortals can obtain copies of the DVD's/CD-ROM's of the 2006 WSMC?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    18th January 2009
    I plan to attend NARCON and do a picture/video presentation there on the World Spacemodeling Championships. Team member James Duffy is working on a multimedia DVD combining the best of team member and Russian "official" videos and photos. I'm sure we'll make this available when it's done but it will be a while. The basic 3-hour documentary video that the Russians made has 2.5+ hours of stuff no one would be interested in, and no narration (just recorded conversations, almost all in Russian), so it is not worth anyone trying to get since James has a better product underway.

    Trip Barber

  8. #8
    Join Date
    23rd January 2009
    Thanks for that info Trip! I subscribe to the scaleroc group, which James Duffy is active on, so I'll keep an eye out for it. Those meticulously constructed Vostok/Soyuz models are particularly fascinating to look at, and I have always wanted to see a launch video.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    20th January 2009
    Washington State

    World Space-modeling and American Space-modeling Archives

    It is a shame that there are not an archive of past WSMC or American Spacemodling articles anywhere for someone to learn from the past.

    AMA offers an archive of every issue to their paying members. Why doesn't NAR of Tripoli offer the same????

  10. #10
    Join Date
    19th January 2009
    I know you can order them through NARTS and get an entire year of Sport Rocketry on CD going back to 2000. Some older issues of AmSpam are available too.

    As to why they aren't available in the member resources section (like the 2 years of Model Rocketeer that are there today) I don't know. I can ask if anyone on the BOT knows.

    There is an entire section of the NAR website devoted to FAI Spacemodeling and that has distilled quite a bit of the recent experience of US team members. What sort of information would you like to see in addition to what is provided?

    Last edited by kjohnson; 27th September 2017 at 04:53 PM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    19th February 2009
    Auburn, WA USA
    Quote Originally Posted by rocketaholic View Post
    It is a shame that there are not an archive of past WSMC or American Spacemodling articles anywhere for someone to learn from the past.

    AMA offers an archive of every issue to their paying members. Why doesn't NAR of Tripoli offer the same????
    I suspect that if you contact NAR HQ with an offer to do the scanning and organizing for them they will be happy to accept. The NAR is a tiny organization compared to the AMA, both in membership and staff, and therefore resources.

    I have no idea about Tripoli.
    Bernard Cawley
    NAR 89040 L1
    AMA 42160

  12. #12
    Join Date
    19th January 2009
    So to answer the question as to why there aren't more back issues in the members section of the NAR website-
    The plan was to start with the oldest stuff first, and after the first two years were scanned assembled and posted, there were issues with finding complete runs of the older volumes.
    Since we do have complete back issues to 2000 already digitized, we will work on getting those issues added (from 2000-2015, the last 2 years available from NARTS).

    That's what I found out.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    18th January 2009
    Homewood, AL
    Quote Originally Posted by kjohnson View Post
    So to answer the question as to why there aren't more back issues in the members section of the NAR website-
    The plan was to start with the oldest stuff first, and after the first two years were scanned assembled and posted, there were issues with finding complete runs of the older volumes.
    Since we do have complete back issues to 2000 already digitized, we will work on getting those issues added (from 2000-2015, the last 2 years available from NARTS).

    That's what I found out.


    Sounds like the 1972 and 1973 issues were scanned then due to lack of complete 1974 issues it all stopped? Or whatever years?

    Perhaps the missing issues can be identified among a large number of longtime NAR members who may have those issues and may be willing to scan them or whatever. And the ones doing the original effort can scan the remaining years of complete issues in the meantime (It literally sounds like it all stopped despite other complete years probably being available. But I realize that it may be something else).

    And if others get involved scanning their copies, criteria could be posted for preferred scan resolution.

    As for coverage of a previous WSMC, here is a pdf file of the 2008 WSMC article I wrote for LAUNCH Magazine:

    Also, beginning in 2010, Chris Taylor began doing a WSMClive version of his NARAMlive web pages. With photos and brief reports on what happened at the WSMC's, submitted mostly by members of the US Team. The link below goes to an archive that includes the 2010 thru 2016 WSMC's, among other non-NARAM launches.

    And recently, the 2016 WSMC in Ukraine.

    First, a link to a very large PDF file which includes coverage of the 2016 WSMC in Sport Rocketry Magazine (it is a free sample on the NAR website):

    And this 2016 video by James Duffy of Rocket Aero:

    Last edited by georgegassaway; 8th October 2017 at 07:39 AM.

    Contest flying, Sport flying, it's all good.....
    2016 Bike Mileage total: 1843 miles. 5 Miles a day for the year!

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