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Understanding the Classification of Rocket Motors

Often it can be difficult to understand how rocket motors are categorised, causing confusion to the requirements of how they can be used. This article is designed to help educate potential users of how rocket motors and accessories are classified.

The Majority of consumer rocket motors and accessories available are considered class 1 explosives, often referred to as Dangerous Goods(DG). DGs are generally categorised into compatability groups and have an applicable United Nations (UN) number associated with them. This allows for easy identification of DGs throughout the world. Although there are many variations of DG classes, the following highlights the applicable items to consumer rocket motors and accessories.


Class 1 explosives are broken into six (6) divisions with 1.1 being the most dangerous and 1.6 being the least dangerous. Rocket motors and accessories generally fall into two (2) of these divisions:

- 1.3 - Minor blast hazard

- 1.4 - Major fire hazard

Compatibility Groups

Explosive DGs have compatibility group letters assigned to facilitate segregation during transport. Rocket motors and accessories generally fall into two (2) of these compatibility groups:

- S - Substance or article so packed or designed that any hazardous effects arising from accidental functioning are limited to the extent that they do not significantly hinder or prohibit fire fighting or other emergency response efforts in the immediate vicinity of the package (1.4S).

- C - Propellant explosive substance or other deflagrating explosive substance or article containing such explosive substance (1.1C, 1.2C, 1.3C, 1.4C). These are bulk propellants, propelling charges, and devices containing propellants with or without means of ignition. Examples include single-,double-, triple-based, and composite propellants, solid propellant rocket motors and ammunition with inert projectiles.


Rocket motors are generally classed as:

- 1.4S UN0454 (Igniters) - This is for igniters and electric matches.

- 1.4S UN0432 (Articles, pyrotechnic for technical purposes) - This is primarily small black powder motors and composite motors under 62.5grams

1.4S Explosives Diamond
- 1.4C UN0351 (Articles, explosive, n.o.s.) - Majority of high power and a selection of mid power rocket motors fit into this category. 1.4C Explosives Diamond
- 1.3C UN0186 (Rocket Motors) - This is generally large high power rocket motors. Depending on the manufacturer, this can be K impulse and above, however often is O impulse and above. 1.3C Explosives Diamond


Sometimes items are incorrectly described which apart from causing confusion, can also be dangerous if not correctly understood. Some of these are as follows:

- 'Igniters' and 'Electric Matches' being referred to as 'Detonators'. Detonators are generally classed as 1.1B (high explosives) and are used to trigger an explosive device such as TNT or C4 etc.

- Model rocket motors are sometimes referred to as 'Fireworks'. Whilst the compositions of black powder rocket motors and properties may be similar to some types of fireworks, model rocket motors are not considered Fireworks.


For information about who can buy rocket motors and Australian laws, please visit Who Can Buy Rocket Motors?