Regulations United Kingdom

Launching Rockets in the UK

If you fly any rocket into controlled airspace, whether an Estes Mosquito model rocket, or a Saturn 5 moon rocket, you need express permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). For rockets with a total motor impulse of greater than 10,240 Ns (full M-power), you need to get written permission from the CAA, and you need to comply with the Air Navigation Order. If you expect your rocket to exceed 2000 feet in altitude, it is strongly recomended that you check with the CAA or obtain an air navigation map to ensure that your flight will not enter controlled airspace. For high power rocketry, high altitude flights or for large organised launch meetings it is advisable to contact the CAA to have a NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) issued.

This is especially relevant to people within Greater London and in South East England, where air corridors criss cross the sky.

Other precautions to take, include; ensuring that you have permission to launch from the site which you are planning to launch from. And never launch a rocket within 5 miles of an airfield/airport.

Buying Rockets in the UK

Apart from the Estes and Quest rocket motors that are available in most model shops, you can also obtain high power rocket motors but it's a little more difficult. Currently only AeroTech high power rocket motors and Rocket Services high power rocket motors are available in the UK.

For High Power solid rocket motors, you need to obtain certification from the relevant authorities, which allows you to legally possess the high power rocket motor propellant. This certification must then be produced to any UK High Power rocket motor propellant suppliers. The following facilities and documentation are required:

Storage Facilities
Registered Explosive Store Certificate
Explosive Certificate
Recipient Competent Authority (RCA) Transfer Document

For the most up-to-date info on the law regarding different motors it is best to speak to the UK distributor. This is currently "Pete's Rockets" who can be contacted at:


The legal position of UK Rocketry

In the UK, for model rocketry, there are no laws preventing model rocket launches (unless you launch from private land without permission - this is trespass). There are also no aviation laws preventing flight of model rocketry apart from the obvious case of not launching a model rocket within 5 miles of an airfield or airport.


There are however, some local byelaws in some parts of the UK, which either restrict or ban the launching of model rockets. This is similar to the case of radio controlled model aircraft which are also subject to similar restrictions.

The basic rule of thumb, is not to launch in or near a built up area such as a town or city, for obvious reasons. As long as this is adhered to then any potential problems should be minimised.

Rocket Motor Storage

What is less well known however, is that there is a limited amount (albeit a large limited amount) of rocket motors, or limited size of rocket motors which can be stored. These are governed by the 1875 Explosives Act, and the 1883 Amendment to this Act (There are also more recent acts as well). For most UK rocketeers, who fly on Estes model rocket motors, this is not a problem and motors of up to D-class (and even up to G-class) have not posed a problem (You would need about 100 D-class motors before it became a problem !).

However, for High Power Rocketry enthusiasts, storage of larger motors often entails application to the local police, since some UK police forces require that larger model rocket motors are stored in a secure fireproof safe as a safety measure. The process is to contact the local constabulary, and ask for their advice as to storage and safety requirements. This may or may not entail a certification process, depending on the local police force's interpretation of the matter.

It must be emphasised that there is no problem in the majority of cases, and even in situations where secure storage is required, as long as you follow the guidelines, then again, there will be no problem.

Rocket Motor Manufacture

Under the conditions of the 1875 Explosives Act, the 1883 Amendment, and later Prevention of Terrorism acts, it is an offence to manufacture your own solid fuel rocket motors, since these are classed as an explosive. This is also an issue for the Health and Safety Executive too. This act does not affect model rocketry enthusiasts who buy commercially available motors however, only those few people who want to construct their own solid fuel motors.

Air Law

Whilst there are no legal guidelines laid down by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In the case of the larger rockets, or those which are designed for very high altitude, it is also advisable to contact the nearest airport Air Traffic Control, to notify them that you are launching rockets. They can then decide whether they need to issue a NOTAM to pilots in the area.

Safety Issues

Whilst some members of the rocket community in the UK launch large rockets (e.g. AspireSpace, STAAR Research, M.A.R.S. and Steve Bennett), it must be remembered, that they do so from private land. Groups such as AspireSpace, STAAR Research and M.A.R.S. are in any case, ultra safety conscious.


Thanks to efforts by SERFS and the BMFA, the UK CAA have recently deregulated model flying in the UK, including rocketry ! After long consultation the CAA agreed to scrap up to 50 pages of regulations as uninforcable !.the guidelines below are current for any model aircraft ( including rockets ) up to and including an all up weight of 7 Kg ! above this limit extra rules and regulations apply to all model flying and you should consult directly with either the BMFA or the CAA Details are available in CAA pamphlet CAP 658

The following are extracts from the guidelines published by the British Model Flying Association & the UK Civil Avaiation Authority.These are the current (Jan 97) regulations regarding the flying of model aircraft (Including rockets) anywhere in UK airspace:

Regulations from the UK CAA are contained in Chapter 1 of the UK Air Navigation Order (ANO) Apendix I Page 31 deals spefically with Model Rockets and states :

1. Only fly on sites that are clear and open with adequate open space downwind of the launch point and in good visibility.

2. Models should be constructed of lightweight materials and should contain no metal structural parts.

3.Only commertially available factory produced motors should be used.

4. Models should be equiped with a suitable recovery system (Parachute or streamer) or be equiped with aerodynamic surfaces sufficent to ensure a safe decent.

5. Motors should be ignited electrically in such a way that the opperator is at least 5 meters away from the launch point.

6. NOTE Article 55 of the ANO applies to ALL MODEL ROCKETS LAUNCHED WITHIN UK AIRSPACE :in that the opperator of a model rocket must ensure that his model does not endanger a real aircraft at any time.

Further details are available from :Civil Aviation Authority, 1st Floor, East Wing, Aviation House, South Area, Gatwick Airport, West Sussex, RH6 0YR.Tel 01293 573540

Thanks primarily to hard work by members of SERFS and other individuals throughout the UK you can now legally import Aerotech Single use and Reloadable Motors into the UK, upto and including "M" size motors.


Like This:

1. Go to your local Police Station and ask for form COER/1, an application to aquire and keep explosives. (Then watch their reaction and leave hurridly !)

2. Fill in the form(Just parts A, B, & D) and of course the common sence parts ,name etcQ9 = "reload of toy propellant to power model rockets"Where = As and when models will be flownQ14 = No quantity is required in this section as the amounts are set by law.You may however wish to put "Reloads are manufactured from Ammonium Perchlorate and are classed under UN0349 & UN0351, which are UK 4.1 &1.4 respectivly.Q17 ignore (Do not send anything to Merseyside as these licences have not existed for three years !

3. Send the completed form to the Chief Constable of your local Police force, marked for the attention of the Explosives Liason Officer (usually in the Firearms dept)No fee is payable for this licence, however the liason officer may wish to visit your home to inspect or specifiy secure storage.( Mine asked for a lockable steel box bolted to the floor of the garage)

4. You may wish to include a covering letter and the following information may assist the Police:Further information on classification can be obtained from :

Mr J.Phillips H & SE, Room 615, Rose Court, 2, Southwark Bridge, London, SE1 9HS

5. We are assured that we may store up to 7Kg of propellant under "Mode B" storage and that there is currently a Health & Safety exemption certificate from having an alarm system fitted to your home.

7. You may have to stress that these are NOT fireworks and you are not selling them to anyone else !

8. Once you have your certificate send a copy to the address in paragraph 4, in return you wil lrecieve an "Authority to Transport" (No Charge)this will then give you all the paperwork you require to "Legally" import Aerotech Single use and RMS motors into th UK.

9.For your information, motors can currently ONLY be sent surface mail.You will need to send a copy of your Authority to Transport to the port of arrival in the UKand arrange personal collection from the port.(carriers are both expensive and hard to find for explosives)You are also liable for import duty and VAT so bear this in mind when you order, plus this has to be paid to customs when the motors are collected.

10. And thats it ! should you require the details of the US supplier who shipped the first order contact :


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