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Rocket Hobbyists Prevail Over Feds In Court Case

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the up-up-and-away dept.

Space 546

Ellis D. Tripp writes "DC District Court judge Reggie Walton has finally ruled in the 9-year old court case pitting the model rocketry community against the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ruling is a 'slam dunk' for the rocketry community, stating that the BATFE ignored scientific evidence and overstepped its bounds by classifying ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) as an 'explosive.' Effective immediately, the BATFE has no legal jurisdiction over hobby rocket motors, and a federal Low Explosives User's Permit will no longer be needed in order to purchase APCP motors. The full text of the Judge's decision is reproduced at the link."

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No Sausage Needed (5, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218617)

This next season of Mythbusters is gonna be AWESOME!!

Congrats! (5, Insightful)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218641)

For most of my adult life it felt like we were constantly taking steps backward. It's nice to see freedom win over "safety," for a change. May this be the first of many rulings that empower people and encourage the academic spirit.

Re:Congrats! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27218727)

You are the sole reason the terrorists have already won! Who will weep on the day a "hobby" rocket topples a skyscraper in New York?

Re:Congrats! (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218857)

I very much doubt someone will hijack the space shuttle to take out the Empire State building. If someone did build an extra-large rocket [geocities.com] , the government will be harassing them anyway.

Re:Congrats! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219333)

The government has already removed your link.

Re:Congrats! (1)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219637)

It was just a link to "Astronaut Farmer" and common decency took the link away. No, I kid, I kid. It's far worse than that. It was a Andy Griffith space Sanford and Son show.

http://web.archive.org/web/20080108041600/http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Launchpad/9782/salvage1.html [archive.org]

Re:Congrats! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27218917)

Actually, you would be the reason for terrorist attacks... If no one can work on their hobbies (chemistry sets, rocketry, electronics, sound waves), then there will be very little progress made by the backyard / garage inventors who have provided many improvements during the past in many areas of scientific research.

You DO NOT have to be a scientist to love science and want to work with different topics that the government would love to restrict today.

Keep on trying to restrict what we can and can't do, and eventually the terrorist win... America won't have ANY freedoms left.

Dumbass!!!!

Re:Congrats! (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218953)

Yes, but if only it hadn't taken so long. For something that seems like such an obvious ruling (and the judge said so as well), it sure took a long time. Justice that takes 9 years can hardly be called justice.

Re:Congrats! (2, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218961)

Justice that takes 9 years can hardly be called justice.

... just ice?

Re:Congrats! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27218985)

Except the "We Know Best"-ocrats are in charge now. The court just ruled that Congress never gave the BATFE power to regulate that chemical.

So expect a rider in one of the "economic stimulus" bills to be snuck in to given them that authority.

Can't be allowing people the chance to hurt themselves, can we?

Re:Congrats! (0, Offtopic)

32771 (906153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219153)

I had a few glasses of wine, but let me remind you that we are a long way off from freedom over safety, unless we indulge in the academic spirit our ancestors had so much off:

http://www.lateralscience.co.uk/Fluorine/Fluorine.html [lateralscience.co.uk]

Check out this part at the end,

"My own experience with fluorine has been solely with its compounds. In particular, natural calcium fluoride crystals (fluorite or fluorspar). Also hydrofluoric acid, during a highly ill-advised "experiment" conducted in the clean room of a semiconductor manufacturer unwise enough to employ me.... "

Pretty contermporary I must say.

So are you going to scold me when I wonder which rocketry amateur is ever going to use Flourine as a part of rocket fuel?

Well maybe there is a middle ground somewhere we all can enjoy in relative safety, like how about ozone as an oxidizer?

Still pretty explosive I would say.

I for one am glad for all of us just having ammonium perchlorate for now. I suppose that is why you put safety in apostrophes. Maybe you should have put freedom in apostrophes instead?

Re:Congrats! (1)

JesseL (107722) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219491)

I was going to moderate your reply, but there is no option is the moderation box for "rambling and incoherent".

Re:Congrats! (5, Funny)

gornzilla (793897) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219683)

Yes, what happened to the old slashdot where you could moderate someone with a +1 for "Like the time I caught the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for m'shoe. So I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt. Which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. Gimme five bees for a quarter, you'd say. Now where was I... oh yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the style at the time. You couldn't get white onions, because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones... "

Re:Congrats! (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219357)

One of many of those steps forward, among the hundreds of steps backward between each. Sorry, I'm a pessimist in this regard. The bad guys have more resources, and will keep pushing their agenda until it sticks.

To the moon Alice! (1)

Ottair (1270536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218677)

Kapow!

Re:To the moon Alice! (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218893)

That was my very first thought on reading this.

Bang, zoom, straight to the moon of Omicron Persei eight!

These have to be said.... (1, Funny)

SIR_Taco (467460) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218699)

I hope this verdict doesn't back-fire on them.

OR

It seems ATF's case just blew-up in their face.

In other news (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27218737)

The ATF announced that they are going to refocus on conducting raids on wacky religious leader's compounds... Because they are much better at doing that.

Re:In other news (1, Troll)

StevenMaurer (115071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219169)

You know, I'm pretty sure if those wacky religious leaders weren't breaking the law, they'd be left alone. It's not as if we have any lack of wacky religions in this country, and until recently most of their leaders weren't merely being left alone - they were mostly running it. So don't go blaming the ATF for the suicidal things nutballs do when the cops come to say no you can't have dozens of 12 year old "wives".

Because if you think we should just let people willing to kill themselves be a law unto themselves, pretty soon you'll have a society where it's perfectly acceptable to fly airplanes into buildings. And I kind of have a problem with that.

Re:In other news (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219493)

The point is they (the ATF) are a bunch of bungling fools.

Re:In other news (5, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219535)

You know, I'm pretty sure if those wacky religious leaders weren't breaking the law, they'd be left alone.

You know, the Branch Davidians had a large number of weapons, all LEGAL, and were involved in firearms sales WITH A FEDERAL FIREARMS DEALER PERMIT. The Sheriff knew Koresh personally, and was positive that if ATF had simply asked him to meet with them, he would have shown up. As it was, Koresh was talking to the ATF agents, unarmed, in front of his building when ATF let loose and Koresh was injured.

So don't go blaming the ATF for the suicidal things nutballs do when the cops come to say no you can't have dozens of 12 year old "wives".

ATF has nothing to do with "12 year old wives". They are Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Their search warrant had nothing to do with "12 year old wives", it was based on an allegation already dealt with by the local sheriff that someone had heard "automatic gunfire" coming from the compound. The Sheriff had investigated and determined that nothing illegal was involved. The ATF didn't tell the court this when they got their warrant. In other words, ATF lied.

Yes, I think it is quite reasonable to blame ATF for shooting someone who is unarmed and standing on their front porch talking to them. It is also reasonable to blame ATF for trying to entrap someone into building them a cut-off shotgun, and to then shoot that person's wife for no cause. (Ruby Ridge)

Because if you think we should just let people willing to kill themselves be a law unto themselves,

If you call following federal regulations regarding gun ownership and sales to be "a law unto themselves" because you don't like someone, pretty soon we'll have a society run by your wants and fears instead of the one run by rule of law. I'd say that you were "a law unto yourself" in that case. I know which one I prefer.

Re:In other news (5, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219577)

no, the Waco Siege pretty much proved that lies and unsubstantiated rumors about non-existent full-automatic weapons and underage brides can summon a mass-murderer like Janet Reno with homicidal goons to use incendiaries to start fires and gun down those that try to flee.

second amendment rights (5, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218773)

People obsess over their right to bear arms, and I do no dispute the inherent importance of killing an animal or blowing off the head of your fellow person, but how long has it been since such primitive weapons as promoted by the NRA has actually really defended a country. The Iraqis defended themselves with IED. The Israeli's depend on missiles. In both cases an understanding of explosives is important, and in the later case the people must understand rocketry. sure, in some sense the NRA is right. If there is enough cannon fodder around with simple to use guns, of the type they support, battles can be won. This is proved by the weapons smuggled into Mexico from the US and used against the Mexican legal authorities. But really, such things are toys and the people who obsess over them are just playing games. The real action is rocketry, and anyone who infringes on our right to practice rocketry is risking the security of the free state.

Let the toy soldiers wear their camouflage underwear and play with their guns. Those of us in the know see the key in chemistry, physics, and the willingness to build a gadget that will solve the problem. For better or worse.

Re:second amendment rights (5, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218911)

how long has it been since such primitive weapons as promoted by the NRA has actually really defended a country. .... The Israeli's depend on missiles

Take away the Israel's rifles, and I guarantee that the terrorists will stop resorting to bombs. They'll just get the rifles, and make sort work of anyone who gets in their way.

A rifle is used EVERY DAY to defend a country. It's only one tool in the box, but it's an important one. I wager that, still, more battles were won by rifles in Iraq or Afghanistan than were won by missile strikes.

Re:second amendment rights (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219001)

Why? A sniper could do a lot of damage before being stopped even if everyone was armed. There haven't been many terror attacks with guns even in countries with extremely low gun ownership.

Re:second amendment rights (-1, Troll)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219095)

Well, there are a few reasons. Most terrorists today who commit attacks are Islamic, they wish to die in the attacks, by sniping you give yourself ample time to run away, and even if you are caught you will most likely be brought to prison where you will serve out a term, not the going down in a blaze of glory that they so desire. If you run into a crowded street with explosives, there is a good chance you will die in the explosion. If you drive a car filled with explosives into a building, you will probably die in the explosion.

Re:second amendment rights (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219511)

Far more soldiers are lost to snipers (and automatic rifle fire) than IEDs and suicide bombers combined.

As the older brother of 2 soldiers serving in the Gulf, not only do I find your ignorance offensive, but I wish I was a member here so I could moderate you -1 for "dumbass"

Re:second amendment rights (5, Informative)

Ortega-Starfire (930563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219363)

No. Read up on Thailand and Israel, where either teachers have guns or armed guards patrol the schools.

The solution to criminals with guns is citizens with guns.

Re:second amendment rights (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219593)

Who in the hell was talking about Israel? This is the United States and United States law.

Re:second amendment rights (4, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218921)

The 2nd amendment guarantees your right to a militia. What's needed is a new amendment to guarantee your right to a strategic arms program.

Re:second amendment rights (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219251)

As a mad scientist, I wholeheartedly agree!

Re:second amendment rights (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218933)

Rockets don't end wars. Soldiers storming into a Hezbollah or Hamas stronghold will. Rockets are great for starting wars, but only soldiers on the ground can end them.

Re:second amendment rights (0, Offtopic)

cortesoft (1150075) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219329)

I hate to say this, but it probably depends on how big your rockets are.......

Re:second amendment rights (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219361)

Just like Japan in WWII. Remember when the U.S. stormed Tokyo...

Re:second amendment rights (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219231)

The real action is in biology, though it isn't as sexy as a rocket. One person with a petri dish of bugs can cause a lot more damage than a group of rocketeers. Actually, you don't even need the bugs, given the blind panic which will be caused by any white powder.

Re:second amendment rights (1)

ethicalBob (1023525) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219557)

Actually, you don't even need the bugs, given the blind panic which will be caused by any white powder.

You're so right... Cocaine makes me super-paraniod!

Re:second amendment rights (5, Informative)

MrSteve007 (1000823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219235)

My good friend is a Stryker brigade C/O. He told me that they deal with and are hit by IED's on a frequent basis, and their APC's take it quite well. He's lost far more guys from snipers. When doing house-to-house searches nothing tips him off more than a quality SKS with a scope.

Because of snipers using these weapons, they have to essentially 'corral' their strykers, and shoot smoke in the air when they 'mount and dismount.' The main personal hatch is at the rear. Without these tactics, they're picked off one-by-one when exiting. He said they only made that mistake once.

I'm not downplaying the dangers of IED's but don't disregard the danger of one quality shooter, with a 60 year-old weapon.

Re:second amendment rights (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219261)

One addendum to your point. Back in the day, when the Clinton administration was pushing clipper and crypto regulation, there was not a peep from the NRA. Janet Fricken' Reno said that NIST and the Department of the Treasury were going to be escrow keyholders for all encrypted communications in the US. Seriously. And, IIRC, crypto was already regulated as a munition at the time.

Just think about that. Janet Reno said that the Department of the Treasury would have its grubby hands all over something that was classified as a munition, and the NRA didn't utter a word, even on general "we hate the Clinton administration" principal. It is undeniably the case that guns are very effective tools; but the 2nd amendment lobby is, I think, rather myopic. They get admirably worked up about specifically gun related stuff; but are oddly passive on relevant ancillary issues. Without encryption, that "well regulated militia" isn't going to last long against the Feds.

Re:second amendment rights (4, Informative)

uncqual (836337) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219645)

Perhaps you didn't notice what "NRA" stands for - it stands for National Rifle Association (not, for example, National Rights Association). Why are you surprised that they don't spend their members' money on issues outside their charter? Other organizations like the ACLU defend a broader range of rights (why, however, the ACLU generally pretends the second amendment doesn't exist perplexes me).

Re:second amendment rights (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219689)

true, but no doubt a lot of the techie libertarians who are part of the NRA, are also part of the EFF. The NRA is one organization, focused on the 2nd. The EFF is another, focused on the 1st and 4th. No organization can spread themselves thin, defending every single right.

Re:second amendment rights (0, Troll)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219393)

While I support this move and people's rights to model rocketry, what you and your friends can cook up in your basement will never match my M-4. I can snipe from hundreds of yards or clear a house or shoot from the window of my car. I can also carry it slung tight in front with both hands free and carry hundreds of rounds quite easily. Meanwhile DoD has spent millions trying to get missiles to work properly. Good luck trying to get that to work on your own. And when you do, I'll kick down your door and take it from you. Just because it's new doesn't make it better.

Re:second amendment rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219623)

While I support this move and people's rights to model rocketry, what you and your friends can cook up in your basement will never match my M-4. I can snipe from hundreds of yards or clear a house or shoot from the window of my car. I can also carry it slung tight in front with both hands free and carry hundreds of rounds quite easily. Meanwhile DoD has spent millions trying to get missiles to work properly. Good luck trying to get that to work on your own. And when you do, I'll kick down your door and take it from you. Just because it's new doesn't make it better.

Aren't you a great big badass. Why, I bet your dick must be at least sixteen inches long. When flaccid!

Re:second amendment rights (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219661)

While I support this move and people's rights to amateur firearms, what you can take down to the firing range will never match my katana. I can sneak up behind you in your house, or decapitate you as you round a corner. I can also carry it in at my side or slung over my back for ease of movement. It never runs out of ammunition. Meanwhile, DoD has spent millions trying to stop soldiers shooting the wrong people. Good luck trying to get that to work on your own. And when you do, I'll sneak into your house and take it from you. Just because it's new doesn't make it better.

terrorists? (1)

thenewguy001 (1290738) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218777)

I'm surprised the feds didn't cite terrorist concerns over the deregulation of this rocket propellant. Oh well, I'm sure they'll just lobby to have the laws changed/enacted to bring this propellant under federal regulation. Doesn't anyone else think it's irresponsible to allow anyone to buy powerful rocket motors without a license? Who needs a suicide patsy when you can just set up a rocket? Maybe I'm just being paranoid.

Re:terrorists? (3, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218855)

How about we just realize that life is dangerous and grow the fuck up.

Otherwise we should ban cars, liquor, cigarettes, saturated fat, and the jonas brothers... cause these have caused far more strife, suffering, and death, than the terrorists could ever hope for.

Re:terrorists? (2, Funny)

thenewguy001 (1290738) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219125)

But those things have far more uses than just destructive activities. Not much use for rocket engines than to deliver a malignant payload. Do amateur rocketeers really need more powerful rockets to shoot into the sky just for kicks? Do they do anything close to scientific research, or is it just "haha lookit my rockit go!"?

Re:terrorists? (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219177)

When has regulating anything done anything to stop potential terrorist or other criminal activity? Almost never. When has regulating made it an absolute pain to do something? Always.

We should not regulate or ban things just because they have potential destructive uses. Heck, even if someone just wants to see a rocket shoot up into the air very fast, let them. Most useful scientific research doesn't happen from lab technicians in sterile environments doing everything exactly to the scientific method, it comes from people who just wonder "What if....".

Re:terrorists? (2, Funny)

HBI (604924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219575)

Most useful scientific research doesn't happen from lab technicians in sterile environments doing everything exactly to the scientific method, it comes from people who just wonder "What if....".

It's also how most Darwin Awards happen.

Re:terrorists? (1)

tylerni7 (944579) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219271)

It's painfully obvious from your post that you are not interested in science.
Do people really need cigarettes and liquor just for kicks? Or is it just "haha lookit me do drugs!"?

Most of the model rocketeers that would be using these engines would send up scientific payloads (temperature and pressure data, video telemetry, etc). Sure, they aren't doing the latest and most breaking scientific discoveries, but you'd be hard pressed to find people building model rockets with warheads in them, although I'm sure some do.
Besides, and probably most importantly: terrorists will always have the tools they need to do what they need to do. If they need to break the law to blow up a building, that's not going to stop them, it's only going to mean the hobbyists need to break the law or find a new hobby.

Re:terrorists? (2, Interesting)

TechWrite (1172477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219283)

Why in the world is "haha lookit my rockit go!" not a valid purpose? I would wager that for many a future engineer, physicist, astronomer, etc model rocketry is what set the hook of their interest in their future profession. I guess if we want everyone to be writers (and not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm one) we don't need to encourage private experimentation and exploration and the sciences. But if we ever aspire to be more than that, we sure better encourage more kids to "haha lookit my rockit go!"

Re:terrorists? (2, Interesting)

JustJonK (1502135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219537)

Actually, yes we do something "close to scientific research." The rocketry club I am with launches a large rocket every year which carries experiments devised by middle and high school students. They've done everything from testing the durability of common electronic devices to studying the effects of acceleration on non-Newtonian fluids.

Re:terrorists? (3, Insightful)

lenester (625236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219221)

My girlfriend (cue +5 Funny reply) told me about her home state of Virginia moving the fences along the freeways back to 50 feet, because they were concerned about kids climbing over them on a dare. Since they didn't figure they could stop this behavior, they decided to make it safe ("over the fence" is no longer a traffic zone).

Then and now, I don't see why they have fences in the first place. Without fences, a kid will die... and then everyone will know the story about the kid who died, and the idiocy will be stopped cold for at least five years (i.e. one high school rotation).

With fences in place, in the public eye it's the fault of the fence-builders for building insecure fences, not the kid for winning a Darwin. It's an outrage, not a lesson. And due to a false sense of safety, people get just as hurt just as often.

I'll take a stab at it.... (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219373)

Virginia huh?

when you were like 9 did you perchance refer to this same person as your sister?

Re:terrorists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27218919)

You are being paranoid. I can build a high power rocket motor out of stuff that you have in the common kitchen.

Re:terrorists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27218949)

Time to ban kitchens and lockup any A-Team, MacGyver wannabes!

Re:terrorists? (1)

pitterpatter (1397479) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219121)

According to TFA, all they have to do to make this stuff illegal to own again is to rewrite their regulation. I think I'm being paranoid too, in thinking they'll rewrite.

I dinked around with model rocketry some 30 years ago, and at that time the size motor you could buy without some serious paperwork was really tiny. In fact, that was the main reason I didn't pursue it further.

Anyway, I don't think "anyone" can buy a "powerful rocket motor" without sending up flags everywhere. Also, building a guidance system is not a trivial exercise, even with GPS.

Not knowing what I'm talking about, I feel free to pontificate wildly. Thanks, /.

Re:terrorists? (3, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219291)

In addition to not being a trivial exercise, the Feds tend to view building a guidance system as going beyond model rocketry to building a guided a missile, which they frown on. You might be able to get away with very small ones, but I don't really have a good feel for what the minimum weight you could get for servos, control computer and sensors would be, and what size rocket that would indicate.

We build ~150-lbf thrust hybrid rockets for our senior design projects, and in the past few years its become more and more difficult to do anything interesting because of increased restrictions, from the school administration, the FAA, and Department of Homeland Security. Having a launch site that was pretty near Crawford, TX also made things difficult, had to find a new launch site.

Re:terrorists? (2, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219161)

While APCP is the best choice, common table sugar and potassium nitrate makes a decent propellant as well in a pinch.

If absolutely necessary, potassium nitrate can be had by peeing into straw bales and letting it ferment for a while. Even the ATF isn't stupid enough to try to ban peeing without a license.

APCP is used in rocketry primarily because it is a decent propellant that is safe to ship, store, and use with simple precautions. Plenty of other propellant options are available as well without a license but are considerably more dangerous to handle. I doubt that would stop a terrorist, but it does significantly deter harmless rocket hobbyists trying to get their kids interested in science.

If you still think solid rocket propellant without a license is a problem, you will also want household ammonia and/or bleach and pool chlorine banned. I'm guessing that banning gasoline and diesel is right out of the question, but combined with an oxidizer, they have plenty of power.

Considering that hobbyists have jet propelled r/c planes and helos available these days, the terrorist angle might be a hard sell to the courts.

Re:terrorists? (3, Insightful)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219351)

Even the ATF isn't stupid enough to try to ban peeing without a license.

Don't be too sure about that... Never underestimate the stupidity of a government agency.

Re:terrorists? (1)

uncqual (836337) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219685)

Even the ATF isn't stupid enough to try to ban peeing without a license.

Shush... please don't give them any ideas, I just drank half a pot of coffee.

Re:terrorists? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219473)

While some simple licensing might be in order, in my experience the government is severely, ridiculously restricting model rocketry right now. For our senior design class we build ~150-lbf hybrid rockets that reach a mile in altitude (reasonably limited by the FAA in moderately dense airspace).

We've always had some restrictions, mostly from the school and the FAA. The school doesn't let us build our own solid motors because of safety, and we have to go through a lot of paperwork with the FAA to schedule launches. We had to move from our old launch site because it was pretty close to Crawford, TX. Lately (as I commented before) they've cracked down on guidance systems, which I think is crossing a line, but is at least within the realm of being reasonable.

Just this year, though, Homeland Security has gone to a new level of ridiculous, informing the advisor that the project now fell under International Trade in Arms Restrictions (ITAR). WHat this implies is that we can't tell any foreign nationals what we do... if there's a foreign student on the team they're not allowed to see any of the old classes materials. I was working to post a lot of information on the wiki for a student organization with a lot of chapters that do similar scale rocketry, showing our designs, the design equations, what equipment we've used, testing equipment, etc. Only now, I can't do that because if I did I'm afraid I'd bring legal trouble onto the organization which really doesn't have the resources to deal with it. So instead of being able to work collaboratively we're stuck recreating the wheel most of the time.

Bypassing the fact that ITAR is a noose thats going to tighten on the US space industry eventually, I find it amusing that a project developed by a bunch of undergrads could possibly pose a threat to proliferating missile technology. The rockets that fly out of Gaza on a regular basis seem to able to fly much further than ours, and are probably much more robust, practical designs, since ours tend to go in a 'I wonder if we can do this?' kind of direction. I'm also pretty sure they'd be happy to share their knowledge with plenty of the people we're worried about spreading the technology too.

Re:terrorists? (1)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219687)

Anyone who doesn't understand what "amateur rocketry" is all about really should go someplace where Serious and Constructive discussions of a Serious and Constructive nature take place amongst fellow Serious and Constructive users of Serious and Constructive model rocketry.

The rest of us are going to LDRS! [ldrs28.org]

Wow (3, Insightful)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218805)

I can't believe this was ever actually up for debate.
Seriously.... model rocket engines..... ya know lets just ban shoes since they could be used for terrorist acts.

Re:Wow (1, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218971)

Some of the motors are 6" in diameter and 5 feet long and weigh a couple hundred pounds and have a thousand pounds of thrust. I generally agree that APCP is not explosive but it's not silly to at least think of some sort of regulation. These aren't black powder 1/2A6-2s from Estes.

        Brett

Re:Wow (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219021)

But similarly, who can afford them? They aren't just sold for $10 at Wal-Mart. And generally those who can afford them and buy them will be the people who know much more about rockets then either you or me. The thought that because these things are regulated will suddenly make them be only in the hands of those who are good is a myth, it will only make getting them a pain. Remember 9/11. The planes weren't hijacked by anything that is regulated (or hopefully will be regulated) they were hijacked by boxcutters, today anyone can go into a hardware store and buy boxcutters, even most bomb attacks were not bought as bombs but as fertilizer or other "non-explosive" compounds.

Re:Wow (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219305)

But similarly, who can afford them? They aren't just sold for $10 at Wal-Mart. And generally those who can afford them and buy them will be the people who know much more about rockets then either you or me.

No, the people who will buy them are the people who can afford them. Being able to afford them is no guarantor of knowledge or common sense. Consider the number of people able to afford GPS navigators - and follow them off into la la land as has been reported here repeatedly on Slashdot. Consider the audiophiles who'll spend hundreds of dollars on wooden knobs for their stereo equipment.
 
 

The thought that because these things are regulated will suddenly make them be only in the hands of those who are good is a myth, it will only make getting them a pain.

The OP didn't claim they should be regulated to keep them out of the hands of terrorists - but to keep them out of the hands of the clueless.

Re:Wow (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219083)

Because something is potentially dangerous it needs to be regulated?

God, I hate that mentality.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219589)

Significantly dangerous to you, and only you? Well, keep it out of the hands of unsupervised small children, but otherwise, whatever. Significantly dangerous to you, your neighbors, and their neighbors... er yeah, there needs to be some kind of agreement about how that risk will be handled. Regulation is a reasonable solution. Consider that the alternative is your neighbors getting out their gun and asking you some hard questions about why you're endangering their lives.

Re:Wow (1)

Jamie's Nightmare (1410247) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219695)

Yeah, screw regulations. Who cares about safety? So what if the wiring in electric blankets and space heaters isn't up to code. I'm not the one who's going to burn. They'll die, I'll live. Where's the problem? Assholes trying to stomp on your freedom. How dare they! Keep fighting the power, bro.

Re:Wow (1)

Gleapsite (713682) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219245)

Except that this is a court case and courts don't legislate regulation. There'll probably be a regulatory bill in congress here shortly.

Re:Wow (2, Insightful)

SpartaChris (609999) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219317)

We already have regulation. We have FAA regulations, NFPA regulations and our own regulations. We don't need any more.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219445)

It'd really hurt if one of those hit you in the chest. Or hit your aeroplane. But taking one of those massive motors and getting it to do either of those things is extraordinarily complicated. Much more complicated than acquiring an RPG or SAM through underground channels. Plus those options have a warhead on, so will do more than just tear a hole through. Billions of your tax dollars have gone into the research to produce effective, reliable, accurate weapons; you don't have to worry about either hobbyists or terrorists spending billions on their own research program.

Re:Wow (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219541)

I have some friends who build these. Notice I said "build," not "buy." I really don't think you can buy P-size motors. The people who are flying these things are making them themselves.

Re:Wow (1, Insightful)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218977)

In all fairness, model rocket engines (above the Estes A-D types) are seriously nothing to play around with. A poorly-made engine could easily explode, and licensing the larger ones in the interest of public safety isn't a bad thing. But still, I think the government has far bigger problems to deal with than mis-labeling a rocket propellant and ruining hobbies.

Re:Wow (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219039)

The large 5 five foot long 6" in diameter rocket motors that you are talking about are only done by professionalsm, are extremely rare, and are generally not for sale to the public. Before launching something of that size, there are other agencies that have to be coordinated with such as the FAA who require distances, maps, trajectories and all sorts of information. I am not up to that level yet, but I'm close to that level. The biggest concern for the rocketry community with this lawsuit is that people were not able to aquire a rocket motor because of the paperwork involved in getting the license. Many people simply couldn't because they lived within 75 feet of a neighbor.
My biggest thrill was watching us give a demonstration to the ATF when they visited us, we lit the rocket motor (or explosive as they refer to it) and then watched all these agents lean forward to look at this thing on the ground that was burning like a road flare.

Re:Wow (4, Interesting)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219391)

Those are not being used by professionals and certainly ARE available for sale to the public. I have been to plenty of HPR launches and "professional" is not part of the equation.

      I am not arguing the BATFE case because I think they were wrong. But with this decision, the only policing to be done will be self-policing by Tripoli and NAR. And my actual point is that the original poster trivialized the entire issue. It's arguable point, but it's not trivial.

        After having seen numerous LMR and HPR models shot through civilian roofs, carports, leave large divots in blacktop, and generally shot into uncontrolled areas and over crowds, with full oversight from the NAR and Tripoli, I really don't think self-policing is viable. I mentioned this on rec.models.rockets a few years ago and nearly got lynched, I briefly exchanged emails with Mark Bundick on the topic, but while several people saw the issue, the LMR/HPR crowd seems bound and determined to keep going until they kill someone, and I wasn't about to tilt at that windmill.

        Brett

BATFE is redundant (5, Informative)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218901)

The BATFE is the most redundant element of the US government. The FBI covers the B, the F and the E. The FDA covers the A and the T. What's left?

Re:BATFE is redundant (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219149)

The BATF (when did they add the E anyway?) was never supposed to be a law enforcement agency. They were created as revenuers, all they were originally supposed to do is make sure the moonshiner's were paying their booze tax.
 

Re:BATFE is redundant (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219359)

The BATFE is the most redundant element of the US government. The FBI covers the B, the F and the E. The FDA covers the A and the T. What's left?

Yeah, as somebody once mentioned, it's much more reasonable to have it as the name of a store rather than the name of a government agency. I'd go there...

Re:BATFE is redundant (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219515)

The BATFE was originally a part of the Dept of Treasury. They're the "revvin'ooers" that pre-prohibition moonshiners used to shoot at. Their charter was originally enforcement of the tax code for items that were notoriously difficult to tax, due to smuggling, etc... However over the years, especially after they were transferred to the Justice Dept during Prohibition, other enforcement responsibility has fallen to them as well... like the enforcement of prohibition laws.

Re:BATFE is redundant (5, Insightful)

PachmanP (881352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219553)

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms should be a convenience store not a government agency.

If only the UK were more sensible (2, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27218989)

We still need an explosives license for APCP here, and it is a lot harder for us. FFS, even the largest estes black powder motors can't be sold because they aren't CE approved

Re:If only the UK were more sensible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219341)

Your information is out of date. You no longer require anything to buy or store up to 5kg of APCP motors (no single motors more than 1kg). You require only a very simple piece of documentation to carry those motors around. Plus even if you do want to store them, although it's not cheap, it's still less onerous than the LEUP and magazine requirements the bATFE have been placing.

In defense of the BATF? (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219077)

This compound is used to fire ejection seats out of aircraft. As well, ammonium perchlorate -- pure, not this compound, is an explosive [osha.gov] according to OSHA. How hard would it be to synthesize ammonium perchlorate from APCP? If it is not overly difficult, the BATF has every reason to be worried that mass distribution of this without licensing could open a channel for acquiring explosives materials domestically and in bulk under the guise of "hobbyist". It wouldn't be the first time -- pseudoephedrine can be readily broken down to ephedrine, which is one of the components needed for methanphetamine production (and derivatives).

Perhaps someone with credentials in chemistry beyond self-educated (as I am) could comment on the feasibility of this?

Re:In defense of the BATF? (footnote) (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219103)

Ah.. sorry. Footnote: I was referring to the government's interest in controlling various chemicals in my previous example, not trying to imply ephedrine is an explosive. Though, if you take too much of it something will explode. :)

Re:In defense of the BATF? (4, Insightful)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219189)

You realize you can buy black powder, by the pound, in cash, with no identification, right?

Re:In defense of the BATF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219387)

you can also buy pipe, wire, and clocks

Re:In defense of the BATF? (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219697)

Wow, are you serious? I remember it being that way long ago when I was a kid, but I figured that some terrified lawmaker would have put a stop to it by now.

Re:In defense of the BATF? (4, Informative)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219313)

How hard would it be to synthesize ammonium perchlorate from APCP?

Pretty difficult. APCP consists of AP and a powdered metal (Al or Mg) locked in a matrix of synthetic rubber. The material has about the consistency of a pencil eraser. Anything that would dissolve away the rubber binder would most likely react with the AP.

Besides, AP itself was not regulated by the BATFE, except for a VERY finely granulated (If it is not overly difficult, the BATF has every reason to be worried that mass distribution of this without licensing could open a channel for acquiring explosives materials domestically and in bulk under the guise of "hobbyist".

First of all, this whole court decision was based on the fact that APCP is NOT an explosive. Even contained in a sealed metal pipe, it is pretty worthless for building a bomb. And second, these motors will not exactly be "mass distribution" type items you will find on the shelves at Walmart or whatever. Purchase will STILL require certification through one of the 2 national rocketry organizations (NAR or Tripoli), HAZMAT shipping (which can only go to a valid address, not a PO box) and legally using them still requires airspace waivers from the FAA.

It wouldn't be the first time -- pseudoephedrine can be readily broken down to ephedrine, which is one of the components needed for methanphetamine production (and derivatives).

Which makes for a major PITA for law-abiding citizens who now have to get the 3rd degree from a pharmacist to get a pack of allergy pills. Meanwhile, the meth keeps pouring in from the "superlabs" south of the border. At least we're all safe from those evil packages of Sudafed, though!

Re:In defense of the BATF? (2, Insightful)

JustJonK (1502135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219631)

It wouldn't be the first time -- pseudoephedrine can be readily broken down to ephedrine, which is one of the components needed for methanphetamine production (and derivatives).

Which makes for a major PITA for law-abiding citizens who now have to get the 3rd degree from a pharmacist to get a pack of allergy pills. Meanwhile, the meth keeps pouring in from the "superlabs" south of the border. At least we're all safe from those evil packages of Sudafed, though!

Exactly, Ellis. It doesn't stop a small group of people going to every pharmacy in the area to buy one box of Sudafed at each so they can use them in their meth lab.

Re:In defense of the BATF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219397)

It's just an oxidizer, like ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate or liquid oxygen. I hope you aren't proposing the banning of all. If you are, I guess you must have nightmares over the mass distribution of millions of gallons of gasoline.

Seriously, no law stops any motivated person from developing/acquiring/using deadly tools, as recent history around the world demonstrates clearly. Killing yet more of our individual liberties will not help. It'll only hurt in much more diffuse, but much more damaging ways.

Re:In defense of the BATF? (3, Insightful)

tylerni7 (944579) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219453)

Extracting ammonium perchlorate from APCP wouldn't be too difficult--the AP is basically just mixed in with a bunch of other compounds that control the rate of deflageration.

However, I think you're missing the point here. APCP is not an explosive. That is the issue. The BATFE does not control chemicals that can be used to make explosives. In fact, binary explosives, ammonium nitrate, and black powder in quantities of less than 50 pounds are all supposed to be out of their jurisdiction. Why then, should they be investigating a mixture that doesn't even detonate?

Re:In defense of the BATF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27219489)

well, ammonium perchlorate -- pure, not this compound, is an explosive [osha.gov] according to OSHA. How hard would it be to synthesize ammonium perchlorate from APCP? If it is not overly difficult, the BATF has every reason to be worried that mass distribution of this without licensing could open a channel for acquiring explosives materials domestically and in bulk under the guise of "hobbyist". ?

You are assuming (incorrectly) that the BATF has the authority to regulate a non-explosive substance (APCP) for that reason. The legislation that created their regulatory oversight specifically says they can only regulate a substance if it's "primary and common purpose is to function by explosion". Thus by law they can not regulate something that, when misused or modified can be made to explode. Otherwise they'd be regulating your gasoline purchases, propane gas, fertilizer, solvents, dry ice...and on and on.

Secondly, more practically, making pure AP from APCP is technically difficult, would be very expensive and in the end make a lousy explosive -- there are much better and more readily available ones.

Great. Cmmon sense prevails.. (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219137)

as a long time rocketeer, it's nice to see us win one.

I've been dreaming of this day (4, Interesting)

SpartaChris (609999) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219209)

Man, what a great day. It reminds me of the quote by Margaret Meade: "Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." The more important issue is that a Federal Judge just told a government agency that they were no longer allowed to impede on the rights and freedoms of private citizens "just because." So while it's a tremendous day for rocketry, it's also a great day for the American People at large.

A great day in the history of rocketry... (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219353)

and even more so coming on the anniversary of Robert Goddard's first successful launch of a liquid-fueled rocket, in 1926.

This was a smackdown (4, Interesting)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219367)

I found this to be a hollow victory. The bureaucrats at ATF were just too full of themselves to respond to the order of the court to clarify themselves the first time. So when they came back and told the Judge "we've explained enough" the Judge sent them packing. They came this '' close to making criminals of 12 year olds. They won't make the same mistake next time...(but their asshole lawyers probably will)

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. - 437 F.3d 75 In defense of its unbounded comparative analysis, ATFE insists that it had no burden to make more particularized findings. The agency concedes that it "certainly could have conducted experiments or otherwise researched burn rates specific to APCP used in model rocket motors to bolster its conclusion that APCP is capable of deflagration," but claims that "nothing in the OCCA or the APA required it to do so." ATFE's Br. at 15. Unsurprisingly, then, rather than resting on concrete evidence to support its judgment, ATFE simply points to evidence relating to the properties of "rocket propellants" and claims deference on the basis of its presumed technical expertise and experience. The purported evidence cited by the agency does not support its determination in this case, and the cry for deference is hollow.

Next up on the ATF list of banned substances: (5, Funny)

cutecub (136606) | more than 5 years ago | (#27219555)

Mentos and Pepsi.

-Sean

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