Model rocketry law in the UK
Model rocketry is advised for ages of 10 and over (with adult supervision) and 12 and up without for smaller launches. Although as always parental/guardian judgment and guidance is important.
Firstly it's worth pointing out that we're not experts on the UK's laws! We've taken knowledge from what we do know, the HSE website and speaking to the HSE and people that know something. Please take this all with a pinch of salt and get your own advice if in doubt.
Flying rockets is not illegal and a huge range of rocket motors can be purchased, stored and flown without any requirements for approval or certification. Almost all rocket motors can not be bought by minors, and modelrockets.co.uk do not sell motors to anyone under the age of 18.
When flying you have a legal obligation not to endanger people, property or aircraft. You are prohibited from flying model rockets into controlled airspace. While starting out you're unlikely to encounter anything much past the A-C motor sizes, and moving on to D, E and F's from there. Although you can fly much larger than a F motor in the UK.
In the UK All small motors, most mid and even some of the smaller high powered engines can now be purchased without an Explosive licence. You may still need a RCA permission letter for transportation purposes however this does not apply to UN 0432 classed motors which covers most options up to F/G motor size. This sounds more complicated than it is - really its just a letter you send to the HSE (health and safety executive) which then they will reply to with your RCA document.Model rockets class (A-G class motors).These rockets are known as LPR or low power model rocketry (A-E motors) and MPR (mid power rocketry) for F-G motors. These rockets can be flown by beginners and experienced people alike following basic safe practices. They are not subject to regulations by the CAA ANO. However the burden of not endangering people, property or aircraft still applies.Small rockets class (H-class and higher)These rockets are known as High power rocketry (HPR) and require certification to fly at a UKRA affiliated club. There are CAA ANO regulations for HPR rockets, however if no commercial gain is being made from a launch they do not require approval.
There are of course increased safety concerns with H-class and higher model rocket launches however they are still legal as long as these concerns are met.Large rockets (N-class and higher)It's unlikely you'll come across many rockets with N motors in them! This is some serious power. Over 1000x a D engine! All rockets in this class are strictly regulated by the CAA and require pre-approval to fly. The approval process can take 6 months or more.
Of course you should always transport model rocket motors in their transport packaging. Usually motors will arrive in a UN 4G cardboard box which it's a good idea to keep for both storage and transport. You should keep the box closed for storage and transport.
The summary of the law says that any person over the age of 18 is allowed to purchase and store a combined total of 5kg of rocket motors. No engine may have more than 1kg on it's own of propellant. There are a few exceptions but in general you are unlikely to encounter them.
With regards to rocket motors the weight is that of the propellant and not the entire motor's weight.
If you don't know the motor's propellant weight then you should assume one quarter of the product weight is propellant.
Here at modelrockets.co.uk we have listed the propellant weight on every motor listing under the specifications information to ensure this is clear.
The following UN Codes are listed on the exemption from requiring an explosives licence UN 0186, UN 0272, UN 0349, UN 0351 and UN 0471. Most smaller, mid and some larger model rocket motors are classified as UN 0432 which is classified as a Pyrotechnic for technical use.
UN 0432 is also considered by the HSE to also be within the 5kg exemption from a licence.
Explosives classified UN0432 will generally be pyrotechnics articles. This means that they are not relevant explosives and therefore an explosives certificate would not be required. As explosives not requiring an explosives certificate, HSE would expect the exemption to the requirement for a licence to store explosives appearing at Regulation 7 (2) (a) (ii) to apply i.e. HSE would not expect the storage the storage of up to 5kg of rocket motors classified for transport as UN0432 to require an explosives certificate or a licence to store explosives.If you wish to store motors outside of the above you would need a storage licence (we don't sell anything that is not able to be stored without a licence currently).
Estes A-D motors are UN0432.
Klima A-D motors are UN0432.
TSP D-F motors are UN0432.
TSP Glider motors are UN0432.
Estes igniters are not considered hazardous.
Klima igniters UN0454 (we're awaiting confirmation on if these need a RCA for transport)
TSP igniters are not considered hazardous.
For other UN numbered motors you may need to request a RCA document from the HSE (Health & Safety executive) in order to transport model rocket motors to a launch site away from your home.
The HSE has a template letter for rocket motors that you can fill out and email to the HSE Explosives Inspectorate for this purpose.
The Template is at the bottom of this page.
HSE.GOV.UK - Transfer of explosives
If in doubt we suggest you seek professional advice!
Single motorMultiple motorsA motors2 meters (7ft)3 meters (10ft)B & C motors3 meters (10ft)6 meters (20ft)D motors5 meters (16ft)10 meters (33ft)E motors7 meters (23ft)15 meters (50ft)F & G motors10 meters (33ft)20 meters (66ft)H motors15 meters (49ft)30 meters (98ft)I & J motors45 meters (148ft)90 meters (295ft)K motors60 meters (197ft)90 meters (295ft)
Last updated 19th August 2023.