Honoring George

In a Graveside Memorial Service Saturday, September 30, 2023 At the Forest Hills Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama, legendary U.S. Team Spacemodeling Champion and NAR Birmingham Rocket Boys Club Member; George Gassaway, was finally laid to rest with his parents as he requested.
Vince Huegele, and his wife Sharal, from Huntsville, Alabama attended George’s Memorial. Vince opened the Service with an inspiring New Testament Bible reading and words of reflection about George and how he was impacted by his life. Rocket Boys Club Member and Minister, Carol Witherspoon, also gave her reflections about George and his mother Margaret, and how George had become like family to her. Carol closed by praying an inspiring prayer and then turned the service over to me for the eulogy. As an Ordained Minister I was able to fulfill George’s request when he asked me in 2008 to officiate his mother’s Memorial Service, and to eulogize her.
In my eulogy of George I spoke of those last days I spent with him back in January of this year when he visited us. After helping him empty his storage unit of all of his rocket stuff, and loading it into his uhaul trailer to take back to his home in Minnesota, we had some quality time together. The Saturday before he left he attended our monthly Birmingham Rocket Boys Club rocket launch. George had been a member of our club for several years and had served as Vice President at one time. Little did I know then that it would be the last time that George would ever fly with us or that it would be George’s last rocket flight ever.
In honor of George, Birmingham Rocket Boys Officer, Rick Peek, assisted me in laying a wreath on his parents grave as I gave the committal of his cremains.
I want to say thanks to the Birmingham Rocket Boys for purchasing the wreath for George, and for assisting me to perform this service, and to Ed LaCroix and Keith Vinyard for securing George’s cremains so we could give him a proper Christian burial, and lay him to rest.  Rest in Peace George my Brother and Friend until when we one day meet again……Ron Witherspoon

George Gassaway Memorial Service

From the Birmingham Rocket Boys… George was an exceptional rocketeer and made numerous contributions to our hobby. A regular on the international team, he will be missed by those of us who knew him.

“Greetings BRB Club Members and Friends. As most of you know, back in May, we lost one of our Dear Friends and long time BRB Club Members, George Gassaway. While at home in Minnesota George succumbed to pancreatic cancer, but before he died he asked me to perform a memorial service for him here at his parents grave. After consulting with the Cemetery Officials, and BRB Officers, we have decided to hold a “Graveside Memorial Service” for George next Saturday, September 30th at 11:00 am. As an Ordained Minister and President of BRB, I will be officiating and conducting the Memorial Service which will be held at Forest Hill Cemetery, 431 North 60th Street (Birmingham, Alabama) 35212. I am asking all of our BRB Club Officers and Members to attend and am extending an invitation to George’s Friends to attend as well. In honor and tribute to George we will lay a special wreath on his parent’s grave, have a brief 40 minute Memorial Service which will include a prayer, scripture reading, testimonial and eulogy. For those of you who plan to attend I will permit you to sign your names in George’s Family Bible and to choose from a few of George’s personal rocketry collectibles to remember him by. The Forest Hill Cemetery can be seen from the Birmingham Airport Freeway Exit. Follow your GPS directions to the cemetery, enter the main entrance, go pass the office, pass through the main gate, turn right at the first road, proceed straight to the end of that road to section #34 where my White Silverado Truck will be parked at the Gassaway Family Burial Plot. Please join me and the Birmingham Rocket Boys as we pay our final Respects and Tribute to our Beloved Friend and Brother, George Gassaway. God bless you.

Workshop Set for 23-24 Rocketry Challenge

NAR Website Excellence Award Sustained

The winners of the 2023 NAR Section Website Excellence Awards were announced in July and HARA’s website came in Third Place. This was up from last year in finishing 4th. The judging was conducted by volunteer NAR members and this website ranked third out of over 120 websites that were judged. There are currently 240 NAR sections. See details at https://www.nar.org/find-a-local-club/section-guidebook/communications/website-excellence-award/

HARA’s website won first place in 2014.

Congratulations to all that contribute!

UAH wins 2023 NASA Student Launch Competition

The local rocket team from UAH outscored dozens of other schools to win the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI.) Multiyear champion Vanderbilt was third. The results were announced a month after the April launch day. To be number one UAH consistently scored well in the sub categories: first in payload design, second in safety, third in vehicle design, altitude and outreach. The UAH team were regular flyers at HARA launches this year testing their rocket and certifying their team members. Congratulations!


Alabama Rolls in TARC Finals Capturing Silver and Bronze

The state was made proud May 20 at the world’s largest student rocketry competition as Alabama teams from Russellville and Huntsville came in second and third out of 100 teams from across the country competing at the American Rocketry Challenge. More than 4,500 students from nearly 800 teams in 45 states entered the 2023 competition which held the finals at The Plains, Va. The Hardin Valley Academy Team from Knoxville, Tenn. was crowned National Champion. They will get $20,000 for the team, $1,000 for the school and a trip to the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show in June. Tharpstown in 2nd Place will receive $15,000 for the team, $1,000 for the school and 3rd place John Paul II will get $12,500 for the team, $1,000 for the school.

The Tharptown team is shown in pink shirts, John Paul II in blue shirts.

Competing teams had to launch the rockets to 875 feet with a flight duration of 43-46 seconds in the first round of competition. The top 42 teams conducted a second launch that was required to reach exactly 825 feet with a flight duration of 41-44 seconds. All nine Alabama teams present at the finals made the cut to move forward to the second round. California was the next most having seven teams advance out of the 15 attending from their state. They did have a group from Orange County come in fourth.

This was Huntsville’s best TARC year since 2013 when John Paul II was fourth and Liberty Middle was eighth nationally. Bob Jones was third in 2010. Tharptown finished tenth last year.

The John Paul II team mentor is Duane Meyer, who also is the reigning HARA Geezer TARC champion.

Here are the teams, places and scores.

Place School City State Flight 1 Flight 2 Score

1 Hardin Valley Academy Team 1 Knoxville TN 11.4 2 13.4

2 Tharptown High School Russellville AL 13.8 1 14.8

3 John Paul II High School Team 2 Huntsville AL 17 6.92 23.92

16 Hackleburg High School Hackleburg Alabama 30.76 28 58.76

23 Lawrence County High School Moulton Alabama 39 36.36 75.36

34 Haleyville City Schools Haleyville Alabama 49.24 65.52 114.76

35 Winfield City High School Winfield Alabama 29.72 102.72 132.44

36 West Morgan High School Trinity Alabama 26 222.32 248.32

37 John Paul II High School Team 1 Huntsville Alabama 37.12 946.92 984.04

38 Bob Jones High School Madison Alabama 9.44 DQ 9.44


As participants launched for points, a TARC alumnus was circling above them in space. NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg competed in the National Finals of the inaugural American Rocketry Challenge in 2003. Twenty years later, in March 2023, Hoburg blasted off to space as the Pilot of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). His journey to space began with a model rocket.

Not Our First Rocket Rodeo

The program that started with HARA launching three school rockets in 2001 has continued to a celebration of 48 launches this April 2023. Although 27 flights occurred last year in Huntsville, the rocket fair, normal RSO inspection schedules and group assemblies of NASA’s Student Launch were back for the first time since covid 19. The weather turned out perfect 4/15 for student teams to launch a rocket with the NASA challenge of taking panoramic video on landing mimicking a probe reaching another planet. The ensemble of high school and college teams flew J, K and L motors to altitudes not over a mile above Bragg farm on a range operated by NAR.

Nine Alabama TARC Teams Make Finals

For several years the state has consistently delivering a half dozen teams to the TARC finals and this year had another good showing.  These teams from Alabama scored in the top hundred ranking nationally and will compete for the 2023 championship at The Plains, Virginia as they vie for $100,000 in prizes and an all-expense paid trip to Paris for the International Finals.

The schools and cities are:

Bob Jones High School                           Madison

Hackleburg High School                         Hackleburg

Haleyville City Schools                           Haleyville

Lawrence County High School                Moulton

St. John Paul II Catholic High School Team 1     Huntsville

St. John Paul II Catholic High School Team 2     Huntsville

Tharptown High School                          Russellville

West Morgan High School                      Trinity

Winfield City High School                      Winfield

The Huntsville/Madison area fielded eight TARC teams this season. HARA is particularly proud of the three teams – The Falcon Rocketeers and Noah’s TARC (both from John Paul II Catholic High School) and the team from Bob Jones High School that scored well enough (20-30 points) to place among the top 100 teams in the country.

HARA would like to salute the other Huntsville area teams for their efforts in building and flying this year:

Girl Scouts of North Alabama (2 teams)

St. John Paul II C.H.S. (3rd team)

Huntsville School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (2 teams)

Scenes of team’s launches are shown here.

The state had a total of 38 teams for 2023. Thanks to the rest of these Alabama schools for registering and participating in TARC.

Alabaster Thompson High School (2 teams)

Bear Creek Phillips Engineering

Cullman Area Technology Academy

Florence Central High School

Florence Rogers High School

Girl Scouts of Central Alabama (2 teams)

Haleyville City Schools

Lincoln High School

Mobile School of Mathematics and Science

Muscle Shoals City Schools (2 teams)

Phil Campbell High School

Russellville High Schools (2 teams)

Tharptown High School

Sylvania High School

Trinity West Morgan High School (2 teams)

Trussville High School (2 teams)

Wetumpka High School


March Certification Madness

After three scrubbed launches in a row the earth and sky were finally dry enough for HARA to get out and fly. With them came a ton of people wanting to be certified to fly high power. There were plenty from the UAH Space Hardware Club, but the real blitz was added by a new sport rocketry club of employees at Huntsville’s Blue Origin plant. A likely headline for this story could be, “HARA certifies Blue Origin for HPR,” but that would be too cool. Twenty-two fliers got level 1 with two more achieving level 2 keeping the officers busy all day with paperwork. Sixty four rockets flew and most of them were high power. The light winds kept all the models landing nearby. Pictures by Pat, Doug and Vince.

Spaceweek School Demo


For several years it’s been an annual tradition for HARA to launch rockets at Columbia Elementary for their Spaceweek. Vince, Duane and Duane’s friend Vinnie put on the show March 6 for the entire school firing a dozen models in the sports field. The Huntsville area is growing proven by the school’s enrollment that last year was 650 students and is now 800, all of which were out watching the launch. Vince had several small streamer models, Vinnie flew his helicopter bird twice and Duane took video from a rocket and finished with a familiar D powered school demo rocket. Duane’s firing system was perfect with no problems or misfires keeping the show right at the prescribed half hour long. One model was sacrificed to the school roof but the left over make it take rocket accepted its fate.