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High power rocketry
by Richard Brown

Rockets have been around in one shape or another for hundreds of years, but it is really only since they were developed in World War II did they become so well known. Over the years governments and space agencies have continued with the development of rockets, such as the R7 Russion space craft pictured here.

The R7 although initially developed as an ICBM by the Russians was used for many years in the Russian space program to deliver satelites and astronauts into space. In fact it was the first to deliver a satellite, the Sputnik into space on January 31, 1958.

Over the last 40 years or so, the amateur rocket scene has been quietly developing into a mature sport/hobby. In the United States the amateur rocket scene is much larger than the UK scene which is in comparison quite small. Amateur rocketry now encompasses a huge range of rockets, anything from model rockets found at hobby stores or on sites such as this, high powered rockets flown by more qualified people, all the way up to groups of people reaching close to and just into space.

The model rocket scene started in the 1950s, but it was only when Estes started in 1960 that model rockets were made on a commercial scale.

High power rocketry has grown in the past few years to become a booming hobby for adults with numerous clubs and regular rocket meets. These events are a safe way to fly high powered rockets which require a larger recovery area than model rockets. The clubs and events are also a great way to learn new things and share experiences.

Advanced rocketry is the term given to those individuals and groups going beyond high powered rocketry and are looking toward space.

In August of 1996, the various amateur rocket clubs around the country agreed than a national body was needed to look after the best interest of the sport and the UKRA (UK Rocket Association) was formed. For more information on clubs around the country and more information on the UKRA and their function, please see their website at

So if you have got this far, then amateur rocketry has interested you to some degree. Many people have heard of model boats, cars and aeroplanes, but model rockets are not as widespread and they are just the beginning of amateur rocketry if you want them to be. Partly this is due to their small exposure in hobby shops, but hopefully this will change through specialist shops such as ours.

Amateur rocketry includes rockets from the tiniest of model rockets all the way up to 20ft tall rockets or rockets that can achieve 30,000 feet in altitude.


What types of rocketry are there?

There are 4 main types of rocketry. Before we explain each type, a quick mention about rocket engines and how they are specified within rocketry. Each engine is given a single letter from A to Z denoting the power band of that particular engine. Please note it is a power band and not a specific figure. As each letter increases it doubles in power. So a B engine is twice the power of an A engine and so on.

The engine sizes are primarily used to divide amateur rocketry into groups.

Model Rocketry - Probably the only type of rocketry that anyone outside the rocketry circles has ever heard of. Model rocketry uses engine size of A to D and typically don't require any form of license or permits.

Mid Power Rocketry - This category is generally for E to G engines and also doesn't require any form of license or permits unless you want to stock pile lots of engines. Many people move up from models to Mid Power to get that extra height and experience Ammonium Perchlorate engines. For most people Mid Power rocketry is a great balance of fun and costs.

High Power Rocketry - This category is generally for H to O engines and an Explosives License is normally required together with other documentation in order to allow you to purchase, store and transport the items required for these rockets.

Advanced Rocketry - Individuals and groups going beyond high powered rocketry and are looking toward space.

Where can I Fly?

Rocket Club - There are several clubs now around the UK, these are listed on the UK Clubs page of the UKRA website. You may have to drive a bit to get there, but club launches are great places to talk rockets, rockets and more rockets. The rocketing community are a friendly bunch and you just have to ask for help and someone will oblige. You will learn rocketry much faster at a club than flying on your own.

Private Land - If you have a large garden or a family member or friend with farm land then great, you can launch your rockets when you like. The size of the rocket you can launch to a degree depends on the size of the recovery area you have available.

Public Land - If you want to use a local park or playing field, you must make sure you have permission from the relevant local or county council. There are some byelaws that prohibit certain activities in parks, such as rockets, golf, kites etc. So if you are unsure check first.
You MUST abide by the laws outlined in Launch Site. Above all be safe and be sensible!

How much space do I need?

Typically for most model rocketry a park or small farmers field is adequate, however for larger rockets, many acres are required. For a full comprehensive list of the launch site sizes required for each motor, please Click Here.

What about safety?

Surprisingly to most people, rocketry is one of the safest sports/hobbies around. Unlike many other hobbies/sports such as Golf, Model Aeroplanes etc, there have been no fatalities and no serious injuries. However if you are reckless and irresponsible then of course they can cause harm. That is why all fliers must follow the relevant safety codes for UKRA and their club.

What are the legal requirements for rocket engines?

This again depends on what type of rocketry you wish to do. Model rocket engines (A-D) are free from paperwork unless you store large quantities because they are classed as pyrotechnics. So the only restriction is that you must be 18 years of age to purchase them.

If you want to start in High Powered Rockets then you will need some paperwork from the Police and HSE in order to be able to purchase them, unless you go for hybrids although at the moment you still may need an explosives license to store the black powder used for ejection charges.

Please refer to the other introductions for more in depth information on the type of rocketry you are interested in.

What about insurance?

We always recommend you get some public liability insurance just incase, however some people launching on private land etc may decide not to, but just remember if you cause and damage or hurt anyone you may be legally responsible.

The UK Rocket Association offer public liability insurance for all model rocketeers and even for high powered rocketeers under a certification program.

Article provided by Richard Brown

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