How to launch a sounding rocket in Italy

Very often, after heard what Skyward is, a lot of people ask us from where have we launched the Rocksanne I-X rocket, if we needed to ask for a permission to someone and how we did manage to obtain it. The following is a short article that contains all the answers.

By obvious reasons it is not possible to launch a rocket everywhere you prefer, so it is necessary to identify a suitable place, with determined characteristics.

The Skyward’s choice for the Rocksanne I-X launch was the Piano dell’Aremogna, a locality situated at 1400 above the sea level, within the Roccaraso municipality, province of Aquila, as the area is far enough away from population centers and it has a wide open space around the launch point.

Once an appropriate area was found, it is necessary to start asking permission from the Municipality, Brigade and the Forest Guard responsible for the interested area in order to close the access to the unauthorized persons.

To do so, an e-mail with the specific requests to the involved entities was enough, as in our case the question was facilitated by the fact that a Skyward member is a native of Roccaraso and he helped us to find the needed contacts.

In addition to the permissions from the institutions and local bodies the most important and indispensable is the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen).

The NOTAM is a list of activities related to the airspace that is used by the pilots of all types of aircraft and updated on the current activities nearby of a specific airport in order to perform the flights safely.

Demanding the NOTAM means to be included as an activity in this list, as a consequence you are authorized to temporarily close the assigned airspace in order to perform your activity.

The NOTAM has to be requested for any kind of activity that regards the airspace and that could become a potential danger for the air traffic, as for example the elevation of a dirigible, laser and light beams emission, fireworks or missile launch, like our R1X.

For R1X, the air navigation in the assigned area was closed up to about 3500 m of altitude, so in our case we did not have interfered with airliners but the closure was necessary for the security of all other types of aircraft, such as helicopters or military aircrafts performing exercises.

The bureaucratic process is not complicated and is explained in detail and clearly by circulars issued by ENAC available on the official website (ATM05A circular and its annexes).

Foresight not to be overlooked it is the timing, considering that you need at least three months to complete the bureaucratic process before the launch.

Once the launch site is chosen, you must then locate the airport of competence for authorization requests.The area we have chosen has proved to have as many as four airports nearby: two civilians (ACC ACC Brindisi and Rome) and two military (SSCAM SSCAM Brindisi and Rome).

To each of them you have to send by e-mail your request for the use of air space, which consists of a standardized form (Annex A of the circular ATM05A) that describes the type of activity that you need to perform, the take-off and landing location, both identified by geographic coordinates, the airspace identification data, expressed by altitude and lateral limits, the start and end time of the activity and other more detailed information.

Once completed and signed by the applicant, in our case the Skyward President, the form is sent to each of the competent airports and an answer is expected, hoping for a positive outcome.

The received answers have had a positive outcome, but at the first launch, in November 2013, before the final go, the airports have contacted us by phone for more information. In facts, the word “launch of two experimental missiles” as a description of the activity aroused a mix of perplexity and curiosity.

It is nice to remember that the tones have always been friendly, above all, interested in our project and there was no intention from the airports interfering with our work.

At the second launch, instead, our “reputation” has preceded us and everything went faster from the bureaucratic point of view.

All permits obtained should be sent to the Civil Aviation Authority for the final issuance of the NOTAM that will be published online on the website directly.

The list of issued NOTAMs is not updated frequently and it can be anxious to check every day if your asset is included in the list before the launch date.

It has to be reported, in order to avoid too many anxieties and spend entire afternoons to update the ENAC web site, which is notified by e-mail of the publication of NOTAM.

At this point it becomes official that the airspace is available on the dates and times required.

For the both lauches of R I-X, a further request has been made to us by the SSCAM airports of Brindisi and Rome, that is to notify them by telephone before and after launch, in order for them to be informed in real time of the flight activity.

Finally, if you’ve come this far you only have to… launch your missile!