Is Model Rocketry Expensive?

Little boy displaying his silver model rocket on kitchen table.

When you think of rockets, you probably think of NASA or Elon Musk.

Those rockets are wildly expensive and only professionals can use them, but what about the much smaller model rockets that children can use with an adult present?

Is model rocketry expensive? Model rocketry is not very expensive for beginners as kits and engines can be purchased for around $40, and most of the parts can be reused multiple times, though a new engine will be needed for each launch. However, high-powered rockets can cost over $400 for the first launch.

Let’s discuss the materials you will need for both model rockets and high-powered rockets. Prices for each type of rocket and supplies will be provided so you can have an idea of how much it will cost to get into rocketry.

What Do I Need to Start Flying Model Rockets?

You need more than a rocket and fuel to get started with model rockets.

The number of supplies you need to begin may seem overwhelming and expensive, but do keep in mind that you won’t have to purchase each item every time you’re ready to launch a rocket.

Some tools will last you for years, while others you might have to replace after a few months. It will depend on the quality and the inevitable wear and tear.

The Rocketry Basics

The rocketry basics you will need to purchase include:

All of these supplies can be found in kits made for beginners. These kits will supply instructions and will be easy to assemble.

You might need additional tools like a hobby knife, but most of what you need will be in the kit. 

A great beginner kit is the Estes 1491 Taser Rocket Launch Set. It comes with everything you need except for the motor.

The motor will determine how high and fast your rocket will travel, so you will need to decide what you want it to do. The projected altitude is 1,100 feet (335 meters) on a C6-5 motor.

I explain more about engines and altitudes here.

Another great kit is the Apogee Apprentice. This kit is made specifically with beginners and children in mind, so it’s easy to assemble and can be put together quickly.

Like the Estes rocket, this kit does not include a motor.

Both rockets are compatible with the following engine sizes:

  • A8-3
  • B4-4
  • B6-4
  • B6-6
  • C6-5
  • C6-7

Unless you damage or lose your rocket, you will be able to use it several times. If you keep it in good condition, you will be able to use it for a year or two.

You might have to repair some pieces or repaint it over time, but the motors are the only part of the rocket that you will have to continually replace.

Motors can’t be reused and you shouldn’t try to do so.

Learn more about motors, including how to properly store them, here.

How Much Does It Cost?

Beginner rocket kits are typically under $30. A beginner rocket by itself is typically in the range of $10 or $20 per rocket. 

A launch pad by itself should be about $20, although it could go higher or lower depending on the brand, and packs of recovery wadding usually cost less than half that.

Model rocket motors will quickly become the most expensive part of the hobby over time. You can buy a 3-pack of motors for around $10. Bulk packs of motors can get up to $70 or so.

You’ll save money if you start with a kit instead of buying each part separately. A kit will benefit you in the long run since you’ll get to reuse the launch pad and rocket.

Hobby Knife and Cutting Mat

You can make your own rocket without buying one from a kit. If you choose to go this route, you will need a hobby knife and a cutting mat.

A #11 blade is typically needed when making rockets. Hobby knives are typically less than $10.

Blades often get dull after several uses so you’ll need to buy replacement blades, but you don’t have to replace the handle unless you damage or lose it.

Cutting mats are recommended because they allow you to have a surface to cut on so you don’t scratch the surface underneath.

You can find self-healing cutting mats that will prevent indentations from messing up future cuts you make.

You can find cutting mats at hobby stores for about $20. Many hobby stores frequently hold sales or offer coupons, so you should be able to find one for a pretty cheap price.

Glue

Wood glue or white glue is recommended for beginner projects.

Don’t use glues that are labeled as “washable” because those typically don’t hold up on rockets. Elmer’s school glue is one of the glues that probably won’t work well on your rocket.

A bottle of glue is only a few dollars and can be found at office supply stores, craft stores, and even your grocery store.

Ruler

You will want to buy a metal ruler if you’re going to make your own rocket, especially if you’re going to use it with your hobby knife to keep the line straight.

Other rules are sometimes flimsy and might move while you’re making a cut. Make sure it has a side that is cork to prevent it from sliding around. A metal ruler should be around $5.

Sandpaper

Sandpaper is beneficial if you need to even out the fins on your rocket. Sandpaper is typically inexpensive, just a few dollars a pack, and you won’t need very much of it.

Higher grits are used to finish surfaces, so you might want a low-grit paper and a high-grit paper for both rough sanding and finishing.

Paint

If you want to paint your rocket, you should use primer and spray paint. Cans of spray paint can vary in price but should be around $10 per can.

If you want to use the same colors for multiple rockets, a can should be able to cover a few rockets.

You can use other paints on model rockets, but spray paint is recommended because it’s light enough that it doesn’t add too much weight to the rocket. 

How Much Do High-Powered Rockets Cost?

After you launch a few beginner rockets, you might decide to dedicate yourself to the hobby and eventually launch high-powered rockets.

These rockets are much more expensive, so it’s best to make sure that you’re interested and have experience with beginner rockets before you try out bigger ones.

High-powered rockets require certification. There are three different levels of certification. If you want Level 3 Certification, you will have to receive Level 1 and Level 2 first.

You can receive certification through one of the model rocketry organizations, the Tripoli Rocketry Association, or the National Association of Rocketry.

Depending on the size of the rocket, prices begin at $100 and can get up to $300. These prices don’t include the price of a motor.

Motors for high-powered rockets are pretty expensive. The motor casing that goes around the motor will be about $35. The motor reload will be about $30.

High-powered motors typically require HAZMAT shipping fees for up to $50. Tools needed for the motors can cost up to $150. 

You’ll also have fees for rocketry association membership and will have to pay for certification.

If you buy one of the cheaper high-powered rockets, the total price will end up around $400 to launch it once.

Of course, you’ll get to reuse the rocket and motor casing, but you’ll have to buy more motors and will have to pay HAZMAT fees each time.

Conclusion

Model rocketry is an affordable hobby when you’re beginning. If you want to get into high-powered rocketry, it will be more expensive.

For both types of rockets, you’ll need to buy motors and a launching pad. If you want to make your own rocket, you will need to buy supplies to do so.

High-powered rockets require you to have certification to be able to use them. Model rockets don’t require certification since they are small and can’t cause as much harm if they malfunction.