Is Model Rocketry Safe?

Little boy and man setting up model rocket to launch.

Model rocketry is an exciting hobby for children and adults alike. The joy of shooting rockets high up into the sky is thrilling to say to the least.

Since it involves igniting a motor and sending something into the air at high speeds though, you can’t help but wonder about potential danger.

Is model rocketry safe? Model rocketry is a relatively safe activity when standard precautions are employed, such as adult supervision for children, not using metal parts, only using new engines designed for rockets, and ensuring that the launch area is clear of any obstructions.

Safety should always be foremost in your mind, especially if children are involved.

Once you understand the potential risks and know the recommended safety guidelines, you can pursue your new rocketry hobby with confidence.

Is Model Rocketry a Good Activity for Kids?

If model rockets can be dangerous, should it be an activity for children? Yes and no.

Children should never handle rockets by themselves. They should always have an adult assisting them with launching and handling rockets. 

Model rocket injuries are rare if you follow safety rules and don’t try to do things that are strictly said to be dangerous.

Adventurous children might want to try dangerous experiments with rockets just for the thrill of it.

An adult should monitor their activity with the rocket at all times because these experiments could be highly dangerous.

Here are a few things that could go wrong:

  • Reused or DIY model rocket engines are not up to code and could cause a fire or injury when you try to ignite them.
  • Using metal parts for the rocket could result in an injury.
  • Failure to make sure that all the pieces are securely attached to the rocket and aren’t too tight could result in falling pieces or a malfunction during recovery.
  • Launching rockets near trees, buildings, roads, or people could result in injury to people or damage to property.

Some of these hazards are caused by deliberate rule breaking such as trying to make your own engine fuel or using unapproved materials, like metal, just to make a “cool” rocket.

These things create unnecessary risks. Not every child seeks out danger, of course. These incidents could simply be accidents, too.

Children should be supervised when choosing a location to launch a rocket.

Make sure they understand that they need to be in an open area without obstructions since rockets can potentially cause damage.

Make sure you’re far away from telephone poles because that could become very dangerous if the rocket makes contact with the wires.

What Are Some Safety Rules for Model Rockets?

The National Association of Rocketry, or the NAR, has a Model Rocket Safety Code that went into effect in August 2012. The code lists several rules that a NAR member must adhere to.

While these are rules specifically for NAR members, they’re great guidelines for anyone using model rockets. 

Here are a few general safety rules to follow when using model rockets. The rules are based on the NAR Model Rocket Safety Code and NASA’s Safety Guidelines.

Materials and Motors

Metal should never be used on a rocket. Metal can be sharp and cause damage.

If a rocket malfunctions and collides with a person, any metal on the rocket will cause severe injuries, especially if the rocket nose is made from metal.

Balsa wood, plastic, and cardboard are safe materials to use for rockets. They are lightweight and can’t cause as much damage as metal.

For motors, you should only use motors that were commercially made for model rockets.

Be sure to read my explanation of engine sizes and their power here.

You shouldn’t use a motor made for something else or any kind of motor that you have made yourself. These can be unstable and may malfunction when you try to ignite it.

Time and Place

Only launch your model rocket in an open field that doesn’t have any trees, buildings, roads, vehicles, telephone poles, or electrical wires.

Your rocket could potentially cause damage to any of these things during launch or recovery.

Colliding with objects could also cause damage to your rocket too. It could get stuck in a tree or fried by an electrical wire. You won’t be able to get your rocket back in most cases.

Also, make sure that the weather is clear when you’re planning to launch your rocket. Wait for a clear, sunny day that isn’t windy.

High winds could cause your rocket to take off in the wrong direction and could potentially injure someone. Rain could damage your launch pad.

It’s never safe to send flying objects into the air at night because it’s hard to see where they’ll land. 

I go into more detail about safe locations in my article Where Can I Fly My Model Rockets? Don’t miss it!

Launch Sequence

Only electric launch pads should be used for model rockets. Using matches and fuses is highly dangerous.

Electric launch pads have a safety feature that will prevent the rocket from launching if something in the system doesn’t work correctly. This can’t be offered with matches and fuses.

Before you launch the rocket, make sure everyone is standing 15 – 30 feet (4.5 – 9.1 meters) away from the rocket, depending on the size of the rocket’s motor.

  • Stand 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from the rocket if the motor is size A – D.
  • Stand 30 feet (9.1 meters) away from the rocket if the motor is bigger than size D.

Make sure you have everyone’s attention and use a countdown before you launch the rocket. Using a countdown will prepare everyone for a misfire in the rare event that it should happen.

The rocket should be launched from a launch rod or tower that is placed above eye level to avoid injuring eyes if something should go wrong. 

Recovery

Your rocket needs to have a recovery system. This can be a parachute or a streamer and should be flame resistant. 

As the rocket returns to the ground, keep an eye on it so you can track where it’s falling. Do not try to retrieve it if it lands in a tall tree, on power lines, or on a roof.

Remember, if you launch it in an open field, you shouldn’t have any issues with recovering it.

You occasionally might have an issue with the recovery system failing to deploy. If this happens, alert everyone in the area so they can move to avoid injury.

Try to keep up with where the rocket will land so you can alert anyone in the area.

Recommended Model Rockets for Beginners

Now that you know the basics of model rocket safety, here are two rockets that are recommended for beginners.

They’re both simple to use, so if you’re brand new to the hobby, they shouldn’t be difficult to set up.

Estes 1491 Taser Rocket Launch Set

Estes 1491 Taser Rocket Launch Set,Brown/A

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This rocket is an excellent choice for beginners because it has different colored parts so you can easily assemble it.

This rocket kit doesn’t include a motor, so you will have to choose one yourself. Rocket sizes are based on the beginning letter, with A being one of the smallest engine sizes.

Recommended motors for this rocket are:

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

The projected altitude for this rocket is 1,100 feet (335 meters) with a C6-5 motor. The rocket likely won’t reach this height if you choose a smaller motor.

Apogee Apprentice

Apprentice Rocket Starter Set

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This model rocket is also great for beginners. It was designed to be easy to assemble so model rocketry beginners and children will be able to put it together quickly and without problems.

The rocket is durable so you can use it several times. You’ll be able to practice rocketry for several launches with this rocket and get your money’s worth from it.

This rocket also does not come with a motor but will be able to use the same engines that are recommended for the Estes 1491 rocket. 

You can find my other recommendation for model rockets here.

Takeaway

Model rocketry is a safe activity if you follow the safety guidelines.

It’s possible for you or someone else to get injured or for property or objects to get damaged if the rules aren’t followed or if the rocket malfunctions.

As long as you use the recommended materials and launch system and stay in an open field, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Last update on 2021-04-15 at 10:32 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API