Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Two Days Till NARCON 2017

Inside the Udvar-Hazy Center, image from the National Air and Space Museum website.
NARCON 2017, the National Association of Rocketry's annual conference, is sold out. They increased the available reservations to double the previous record, meaning that this year's conference will be the most-attended in history. Despite the increased capacity, NARCON sold out a couple of weeks ago!

This year's conference will be in Herndon, VA, near Washington, D.C., and will include a tour of the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Insitution's National Air and Space Museum. Included in the museum's collection is the Space Shuttle Discovery, seen in the amazing room full of stuff in the photo above.

In advance of the conference, we talked to museum curator Dr. Jennifer Levasseur on The Rocketry Show podcast, who gave us a virtual tour of the Udvar-Hazy Center and told us a lot about how they do things at the Air and Space Museum.

Dr. Jennifer Levasseur, curator at the National Air and Space Museum

I am simply busting with excitement to go to this year's conference. It's going to be packed with fascinating presentations on model rocketry, high power rocketry, TARC, and professional rocketry and spaceflight.

Jim Barrowman will be there!

Jim Barrowman, around 1966

In 1966, Jim and Judith Barrowman presented a paper at NARAM 8, as part of the Research and Development competition, in which they demonstrated a mathematical method of determining the aerodynamic center of pressure on a rocket. This changed everything. Model rocketeers were no longer left to guess whether their designs would be stable, or to use the less-than-ideal "paper cutout" method (more on this method when we return to my series on model rocket stability).

Lee Piester of Centuri Engineering Company will give the keynote speech after the banquet. Centuri was a model rocket company you hear a lot about from long-time rocketeers. They eventually became part of Estes Industries, and sometimes you can still see their design influence today in certain Estes kits.

Trip Barber, who did some important work on model rocket staging back in his college days at MIT, and who was an early NAR president, will give presentations on TARC - Team America Rocketry Challenge, a program he was instrumental in building.

Current NAR president John Hochheimer, as well as the most recent former president Ted Cochran, will both be in attendance.

Tim Van Milligan of Apogee Components will be a presenter. Tom Ha and Adam Martin will discuss rocketry in Australia. A number of representatives from NASA will be on hand giving lectures on the sounding rocket program, the Orion program, satellite launching, the James Webb space telescope, and more, and a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration will discuss the process of obtaining FAA waivers for high power rocket launches. There will be so much information packed into just a couple of days!

Also, plenty of vendors will be there. AeroTech, of course, will make an announcement - or perhaps several. Matt Steele of North Coast Rocketry, a mid power rocket company, said he'll have "some news," which sounds pretty exciting.

Show sponsor North Coast Rocketry's SA-14 Archer. They sent this as part of their sponsorship - it was on my wish list!

I'm pretty sure John Beans of Jolly Logic will be on hand, as will Randy Boadway of eRockets and Semroc. Since Tim Van Milligan will be there presenting, I'm sure that Apogee Components will also be there as a vendor.

What I'm most looking forward to is the chance to get together with a bunch of fellow rocket obsessives and talk rockets all day. This is what I've been wanting for over two years!

CG and I plan on talking to as many people as we can for the podcast (and I'll give some updates here as well). What I want to know is - what do you want to know? Ever have a question for James Barrowman? Always wanted to know something about some of your favorite old Centuri rockets? What about a question for the NAR president?

I can't promise I'll ask every person every question. Just looking at the schedule, there's so much going on, I won't possibly get to all of it. I'm going to have to plan my day carefully. I'll probably cover the more n00b stuff - model rocketry, etc. - while CG will probably focus more on the HPR stuff. But who knows who I'll bump into and what fascinating conversations we might have? A chance encounter could become an entire show or blog post.

But I would like to know what you would like to know, so that if I get the chance to ask, I can. If there's something you'd love to ask someone at NARCON, email me at, or email the show at

I cannot wait!

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  1. Looking forward to seeing you at NARCON!

  2. Great blog...much better than mine! I'm curious, where do you reside & fly? General area - I'm not asking for address, just the state. Also if you could tell me how you get Google blog format so clean. The online blog editor is full of bugs!

    1. I live in Boston, and I usually fly with either CMASS or the MMMSC (a club in the southern part of Maine).

      The format is just a template. I do have to do some editing in the HTML function when the editor messes up the formatting, but it's usually pretty minimal and just involves line spacing.