Latest Update:6th July 2018 - Day 199 - Phoenix 3D d78 Nosecone and UNSW Visit

SAFETY FIRST

Water rocketry IS a dangerous hobby.

You can, however, take steps to maximize your chances of enjoying your next birthday party outside the hospital ward.


So what are the main dangers? Always expect the following to go wrong:

Danger What can I do?
Shrapnel from exploding rockets
  • Keep well away from pressurised rockets. NO EXCUSES!
  • Test your rocket hydrostatically first behind a barrier.
  • Use materials that will do less harm when they become shrapnel.
  • Wear safety equipment. Eye protection at a minimum.
  • Use a remotely operated abort valve on your launcher to make a pressurised rocket safe without launching.
  • Use a long hose to remotely pressurise your rocket.
  • Launch your rocket from a safe distance.
Rockets flying directly at people
  • Ensure the rocket is designed to be stable during flight.
  • Only launch vertically, unless going for distance in which case you must make sure the range is safe.
  • Employ good construction techniques that prevent components falling off rockets during launch.
  • Keep people well away from the launch pad.
  • Secure your launcher so it cannot tip over due to wind or pulling the release string.
Ballistic return to Earth
  • Design your rocket with a reliable recovery system so it descends slowly. If you are planning a ballistic return (lawn-dart) make sure the nosecone is made of soft materials and the rocket is lightweight.
  • Instruct people to keep their eye on the rocket in flight at all times so they can get out of the way if the recovery system fails.
  • Make sure all spectators are aware that a rocket is going up. It does not matter if you are 30 feet or 300 feet from the launch pad. A rocket can come down anywhere.
  • Only fly in open areas away from structures, cars and crowds.
Hearing loss
  • When testing bottles to destruction wear ear protection. Burst eardrums, and hearing loss can occur from the pressure wave.
Faulty equipment
  • Regularly check all your pressurising equipment that nothing is loose or corroded.
  • Rockets are not the only components that can explode. Launchers, hoses, compressors, air tanks and even high pressure bicycle pumps can fail at pressure.

Safety Tips

  1. Use Common Sense. If something looks dangerous, it probably is.

  2. Don't exceed material ratings. It may be tempting to push things to their limits to get more performance from a rocket, but a failed launcher component can be just as dangerous.

  3. Observe local laws and regulations. Always follow the local laws when flying rockets. If you don't know what the laws are then ask someone!

  4. Don't shoot a rocket towards any object or people. They may fire back!

  5. Flammable liquids. Almost every water rocketeer has had this exact same thought at one time or another about using flammable liquids in water rockets. No matter how tempting this may be just DON'T DO IT . The short lived thrill comes at a great risk to your health.

  6. Don't rush a launch. It is always better to abort a launch if there is a problem and try again later.

  7. Don't launch in high wind conditions. A rocket can be carried a long way down range where you may not know what it will hit.

  8. Cutting bottles. Use scissors to cut bottles rather than a hobby knife. Bottles are soft and a knife can easily slip.

NOTE

We present a lot of videos, photos, designs and experiments on this site. These sometimes appear simple to do, but can get you in a lot of trouble quickly if you are not paying attention. If you wish to duplicate some of the things you see here please use common sense, and if in doubt please ask. We are always happy to answer your questions.

As can be seen from our early videos, we weren't always as careful as we should have been. We have been lucky so far that no serious incidents have happened although we have come very close on several occasions. Even though we have done hundreds and hundreds of launches, we continue to this day to get reality checks when unexpected things go wrong. 

Stay safe and have fun!