It is your responsibility to determine whether what you are doing is legal, correct, safe and appropriate. The guidance herein does not constitute legal advice and we are not qualified to advise you on your specific use cases.
All information documented here was believed correct at the time of writing. If we become aware of changes in legislation or guidance we will endeavour to update this page, but it is absolutely critical that you undertake your own investigation for your own environment. The commentary here covers the use cases for most of our customers, but your circumstances might be different to what we consider normal. You are responsible for your own research, reading the relevant legislation and, if necessary, obtaining legal advice. If in doubt, please call us and we shall try to point you in the right direction.
All rocket motors fall under the legal definition of explosives as defined in the Explosives Regulations 2014. There are no exceptions, and it is illegal under those regulations to manufacture any quantity of any explosive for launching rockets. If you are talking to insurance companies, consultants, event organisers etc, the legally correct terms are “Pyrotechnic Articles”, and if asked you cannot deny that UK law considers them explosives. As with all explosives, there are risks associate with storage, handling, and use that you must mitigate through thorough research, safe handling, safe processes, security, and minimising risk to persons or property. There is not a legal requirement for a risk assessment, but if you represent an organisation where it is normal to create risk assessments (e.g. if it’s company policy, your landlord or insurance company require it) you should consider creating a risk assessment specific to the storage of rocket motors.
All rocket motors that we sell are considered non-relevant explosives. This means that you can benefit from the exemptions for licencing and motor storage in the Explosives Regulations 2014 and documented extremely well on the HSE Explosives website.
These exemptions permit you to store up to 5kg Net Explosive Quantity (the amount of actual propellant) in one place for an unlimited time providing that:
- The articles are all hazard type 3 or 4 (all motors that we sell are).
- The articles are not stored with any other items that do not qualify as exempt (e.g. black powder).
- The articles are separated from any other hazardous items, vulnerable properties, etc according to the separation distances listed in the Explosives Regulations.
- No one article exceeds 1kg of propellant.
If you have a requirement to store rocket motors and do not benefit from this exemption, you will need to obtain a licence to store those rocket motors. Depending on your circumstances and what you need to store, this licence will need to be obtained through either your local authority (usually county council public protection team) or your local police force. Please contact us if you need assistance in determining whether this is the case.
Rocket motor propellant is a sensitive and brittle formula that is extremely safe if used properly, but has dangerous outcomes if it is not cared for. The generation of thrust by the rocket motor necessitates the balancing of the burn rate of the propellant, and any change to the characteristics of this burn rate may cause failure of the motor and danger to those not using the products correctly. Specifically, anything that changes the composition of the propellant should be prevented.
Storage locations should therefore provide an environment with:
- Low humidity (indoors, or otherwise well insulated from outdoors)
- Low temperature variations (indoors, or otherwise temperature stable)
- Temperatures well above freezing/condensation temperatures
- No sources of ignition, especially avoiding metalwork (metal shelves, etc), electricity supplies, other flammable or hazardous goods (lithium batteries, etc)
- Any exposed metalwork MUST be earthed
- Good security against theft or inappropriate use (e.g. children or other vulnerable people)
- Well known location for responsible adults, so that in the case of fire or circumstances that may lead to fire, the rocket motors may be swiftly removed so as not to exacerbate a fire.
Rocket motors that have been dropped, suffered freezing temperatures, got wet/damp or have been cracked must not be ignited. Cracks inside the motor caused by impacts or freeze/thaw cycles will severely increase the chance of motor failure and should be considered dangerous. Motors suffering such events should be safely disposed of by soaking in water and disposing wherever you would normally dispose of chemical waste.
Contrary to popular assumption, sealed metal containers (e.g. ammunition containers) are not good choices for containers for rocket motors. Specifically, your storage container should offer the following characteristics:
- Breathable. You need any accrued moisture in the rocket motors to be able to ventilate away. Additionally, it is critical that if a motor were to light in the container that the container does not contain the pressure, but instead allow the hot gases to escape.
- Insulating. Cheap insulators are cardboard and wood, and wooden boxes in particular make great rocket motor storage containers. While wood is flammable, it is surprisingly resistant to temporary heat and can insulate a rocket motor temporarily from heat spikes.
- Non-conductive. No heat or electrical energy should be able to breach the container easily. Specifically, do not use metal fittings that breach both the inside and outside of the container (e.g. don’t use a bolt that goes through from the outside and has a nut on the inside).
- Secure, but easily moved. You are legally obliged to keep explosives secure, but you may need to move the container quickly in case of fire. Consider how this would work for you. Do not bolt the container to a wall or floor!
One of the simplest way to make a container for your rocket motors is to make a simple wooden box, make sure that the box can be secured closed (a good padlock), can be secured against theft, and is clearly labelled. Some foam padding on the inside will help increase the longevity of your investment.
Do not store anything other than rocket motors inside your rocket motor storage box! You do not want a screwdriver, battery, combination tool, or other dangerous object bouncing around when your car goes over speed bumps.