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What is High Power Rocketry and How Do I Get Started?

Hobby-Fun-Day-Rocket-KidThis is a common question people ask once they see larger medium and High Power (HP) rockets.  There’s a lot of information to handle when first getting into HP rocketry. This FAQ-blog piece will step you through several of the key concepts of HP rocketry, provide logical steps for dipping your toe into  HP, and even help you in getting certified (if you so desire).


What Is “High Power Rocketry?”
Before we tell you how to get into HP rocketry, let’s define soem terms. One of the best definitions is one by Tim Van Milligan of Apogee Rockets. Tim says,

“The lines between “low power,” “mid power,” and “high power” are drawn by the size of motor you use. Low power is defined as D-class motors and lower, and mid power is generally defined as E, F or G motors. Low and mid power rocketry tend to blur together and don’t require any specific age or ability to fly.

DSC_1072High power is where a true line is drawn, and such motors are any of those with an “H” rating or higher, an average thrust of over 80 N-s or have a “sparky” quality. To fly any of these motors, you need a Level 1 Certification (or be attempting for it) from the National Association of Rocketry or the Tripoli Rocketry Association. A Level 1 certification can be done on either an “H” or “I” motor, so you cannot certify on a G124, even though it is a high power motor.”


Before you can “get into” high power.. you need to first learn about the two parent HPR associations who oversee the hobby, work with the FAA, legislators and other government organizations to keep the hobby safe and legitimized.

To fly HP rockets and commercially buy most H and larger HP motors,  you need to first join one of these high power organizations — either the Tripoli Rocketry Association (TRA) or the National Association of Rocketry (NAR):



NRV Rocketry is a subsidiary of the TRA organization, (we are Prefecture #143 in the US).


Getting Your High Power Certification:
Once you’re a card carrying member of either the TRA or NAR (or even before joining up), you’ll probably want to learn more about high power rocket construction and how building HP rockets  differs from model rocketry.  Here are some easy to watch videos I recommend from our good friends at Apogee Rockets:

Video : Intro to Level 1 Certification Rockets

Video: Building Your First High Power Rocket – Part 1


For a really good book reference, we also often recommend this comprehensive book.. some consider to be “The Bible” of HPR, “Modern High-Power Rocketry 2


Picking a Flexible Rocket Design:
While many of our more experienced club members like to design and build HP rockets from scratch, we recommend starting off with an easy going rocket kit.  A lot of thought and expertise goes into the designs of these kits, and by starting off with a kit, a free benefit is getting to glean decades of “design wisdom” and pick up great construction techniques in the clear, detailed directions.

For a first time high power rocket, our club recommends getting a multi-purpose rocket design that can fly on both Medium Power motors (F-G size) as well as HP motors (H and higher).

NOTE: More information on motor sizes and how they related to thrust and total-impulse is here.

Here are a few good rockets that can fly both MP as well as HP motors, giving you the ability to fly at sites both with and without FAA waivers (and HP oversight), giving you the most bang for your buck starting off:

CTI-ProX-CasingsRegarding motor casing sizes, you can go smaller than 38mm (diameter) when doing medium/high power rockets, however if you want the most bang for your buck and not have to buy new reload casings as you move from medium to high power (up through L1 and L2 certifications), then many consider 38mm as the best deal covering the widest ranges of rocket & impulse (thrust power) combinations.

MOTOR SIZE INFO: Old estes A-C motors are 18mm, D-E are 24mm, 29mm is the first size that traditionally begins to reach into into HP (H impulse motors)). However, 38mm can take you from G impulse levels all the way thru J (L2) motor impulse levels. With just a couple of key 38mm motor casing lengths (combined with a few spacers), you can use the same motor casings (and rockets) to fly from G, H-I (HP L1) and J (HP L2) motor impulses!


Ask Before You Buy:
talon-L2-sparky_1280As you get more into HP rocketry, the costs can really get up there.  Your first HP rocket $80-120. Your first motor casing $30-40. Your first motor reload $25-30. Specialized HAZMAT and other relation shipping $30-50. Various tools, adhesives and extras, $150. TRA/Club annual membership dues, $80-90, etc.  And let’s not even talk about lost or crashed rockets. <ouch!>  You want to save money where ever you can!

One great way of saving a lot of money is by talking to your club via our nrvr-members (only) email list before buying gear. Upon joining NRVR, you’ll be added to the members list and instantly be able to ask design questions, legal and safety questions, or even ask our experts about the best building techniques or where to get certain hard to find  supplies. You’ll have access to all the group’s decades of experience in the hobby.. and invaluable resource.

Useful Links for Getting Started:
Just getting started, here are a few useful links of rocket vendors, motors, parts and expert sites you should check out and bookmark:

General Rocketry Supply Vendors:


HP Rocket/Kit & Supply Vendors:

Expert Forums & Sites:

Other Regional Rocket Clubs:


Tips  on HP Rocket Construction:
VTAS-group_640This is a much larger topic for another FAQ blog post, but in a nut shell, start off by checking out some of the tutorial HowToGuides on, or if you want a short run down that contrasts some of the differences between building the model rockets of your youth, and the modern high power rockets we’re all getting in to now days, then here’s a mail list piece we wrote a few years ago that touches on the big differences .

We also strongly recommend browsing through the wealth of knowledge in Tim Van Milligan’s Rocketry HOWTO video series.. a very useful library of info.


Hang Out With With Us:

Lastly, NRV Rocketry is here to help you. Check out our calendar to see when our next launch or meeting is or come hang out with us!  Even if you’re not a member and have some questions about the hobby, please either flag us on our public mail list here, join our facebook group or email the officers directly at officers(at)

We’re here to help you get off the ground!


Updated: April 21, 2016 — 3:15 pm
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