UKRA frequently receives enquiries from individuals wishing to launch rockets themselves without visiting a club. UKRA always recommends that any fliers find and visit as many clubs as possible as the knowledge and experience at those clubs is not only valuable in learning how to build and fly rockets but in the matter of starting your own club.
With this in mind UKRA recognises that many fliers find it difficult to travel to existing clubs and wish to launch rockets on their own. This page documents some of the things you should consider when choosing when and where to fly your rockets.
Flying rockets is not itself illegal and many rocket motors can be purchased, stored and flown without need for certification or approval. When purchasing rocket motors it is important to ask your vendor in case the motors you are buying have specific legal requirements. Most rocket motors cannot be purchased by minors.
When flying you have a legal obligation not to endanger people, property or aircraft and you are legally prohibited from flying any aircraft (including model rockets, model aircraft, etc) into controlled airspace. This activity is regulated by the Civial Aviation Authority (CAA) with the Air Navigation Order (ANO) and any flights exceeding 400 feet above ground level (AGL) are subject to regulation by this document.
For the purposes of the CAA ANO there are three classifications of rockets based upon the total impulse of the rocket at launch:
- Less than 160Ns (A-G class): Model rockets.
- Between 160Ns and 10,240Ns (H-M class): Small rockets.
- Over 10,240Ns (N-class and higher): Large rockets.
These rockets are known within UKRA affiliated clubs as Low Power Rocketry (LPR, A-E class) and Medium Power Rocketry (MPR, F-G class). These rockets can readily be flown by novice fliers following basic best-practices and are not subject to regulation by the CAA ANO, however the burden on not endangering persons, aircraft or property (see below) still applies.
These rockets are known within UKRA affiliated clubs as High Power Rocketry (H-class and higher) and require certification to fly at a UKRA affiliated club. UKRA does not recommend that these rockets are flown outside a UKRA affiliated club due to the increased safety concerns associated with the higher mass and performance of these flights.
The CAA ANO regulates the commercial flight of all small rockets and any flight flown for any commercial benefit or reward must be pre-approved by the CAA prior to flight. Amateur and non-commercial flights do not require approval but must still comply with the CAA ANO regulations.
All rockets of N-class and higher fall into this classification and all flights are strictly regulated by the CAA requiring pre-approval to fly. The UKRA Large Rocket Scheme has been set up to help fliers complete this approval process with the CAA.
UKRA recommends that any flier looking to fly large rockets contacts UKRA as early as possible to start the approval process as this process can take 6 months or more.
Flying outside of a club
The CAA ANO is complex and detailed and UKRA recommends that potential fliers consider reading the regulations.
The UKRA safety code has been written in a manner to maximise safety while allowing as many flights to be undertaken as possible complying with the CAA ANO. The UKRA safety code is recommended reading for all fliers.
Fliers are required to:
- Not to fly on public land. As other users of the land have equal right to use the land you are not in control of the members of public also sharing that land. You may be able to get explicit permission from the owner of the land (e.g. the council) to fly rockets but see the further notes below.
- To only fly on private land with the explicit permission of the land owner or their agent.
- To only fly where you can control other users of the land to comply with relevant safe distances (see the UKRA safety code for examples).
- To only fly where the rocket either:
- Stays below 400' and therefore in airspace controlled by the owner of the land or
- Enters uncontrolled airspace after issuing a NOTAM to notify other air users of your intentions.
- Not to allow your rocket to enter any controlled airspace under any circumstances.
- Not to fly if other airspace users encroach on the flying area.
Please contact UKRA if you have any further questions.