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Meet The Launch Control Officer (LCO)

(Yellow Vest)

Image Prerequisites: The LCO is an adult 18 years or older and experienced in club operations.


The Launch Control Officer is responsible for supervising each individual launch and seeing that conditions are safe to do so. This means making sure that pads are not and cannot be armed when people are close by them. It also means looking and listening for aircraft and not launching any rockets when any are within our FAA exclusion zone (currently a cylinder 2 miles in diameter and 15,000 feet high at Snow Ranch).

When the area around a rack of pads is clear, the LCO announces that the "Rack is closed." No one may go near the pads after they have been closed. At this point, the LCO removes the plastic switch protector and plugs it in above the pad switches to arm the rack.

The LCO is given a clipboard by the Pad Assignment Director or the High-Power Safety Check Officer containing the launch cards for each of the rockets on the rack being launched. The cards contain information about each of the rockets that the LCO uses when announcing the rocket. He next announces the rocket, taking special pains to make everyone aware of any flights labeled as "heads up." He determines if he or the owner is to "push the button" from a check box on the launch card. If you like doing count downs and pushing the button, this is the job for you as most of the rocketeers want to be down range a little to be ready for recovery.

When the button pusher (if any) is in place and it is safe to do so, the LCO arms the correct pad, checks for nearby aircraft and people in the launch pad area. He makes the statement "The range is clear and the sky is clear," listens for anyone yelling "Airplane!" and gives the go-ahead to the button pusher to do the countdown and launch the rocket. When the countdown reaches 2 he steps on the foot switch enabling the launch button which is pressed at 0. Keep the foot switch down until until the rocket fires or fizzles. The launch controller contains a relay that latches closed when the launch button is pressed to continue supplying power to the rocket until the foot switch is released, even if the launch button is released.

If the rocket flies, the LCO observes the flight and watches for proper operation of the recovery system; if anything goes wrong he calls "heads-up" and turns on the alert siren to make everyone aware of the possible danger.

When all rockets have been launched, the LCO unplugs the plastic protector, places it over the pad buttons and announces that the Rack is open for loading or removal if a rocket did not fly. People with failed launches get one chance to fix the problem and try again. If they fail a second time they must remove their rocket from the pads so others can fly. The LCO tells the Pad Assignment Director to return their flight cards so they can fix the problem "off line" and get a new pad assignment.

Note that if things are relatively slow, the LCO may let the owner of a failed rocket in to quickly inspect his rocket and, if it is an easy fix, launch it immediately before letting the next rack in.

The LCO returns the clipboard to the Pad Assignment Director or the High-Power Safety Check Officer depending on who gave it to him.

The LCO also watches the barrier and is the only person who may authorize anyone to walk inside the barrier (such as to recover a rocket). He needs to watch carefully, especially for our younger members who tend to not see barriers or wires when chasing after their rockets.