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I heard in a video that a 15 year old got their rocket license before getting driving license.

The video does not explain further; but what I'd like to know is:

*In the US, is there any such a thing as a "rocket license", or any specific license that would be directly associated with rockets?

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    $\begingroup$ Last I heard, the age limit for getting a single-engine private aircraft pilot's license was well below that for an automobile driver's license. $\endgroup$ Oct 8 '20 at 13:11
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In the USA you must be at least 18 years old for the following, so that video may be incorrect.

For example HPR Level 1 Certification by the National Association of Rocketry or NAR provides certification for:

  • Level 1 allows the purchase and use of H and I impulse class motors; solid and hybrid. Certain F and G motors may also require Level 1 certification for purchase and use.
  • Level 2 allows the purchase and use of J, K, and L impulse class motors; solid and hybrid.
  • Level 3 certification allows the purchase and use of M, N, and O impulse class rocket motors; solid and hybrid.

For more on what those engine sizes might mean, see answers to:

and just for example, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_rocket_motor_classification:

class    total impulse (N·s)
          min       max
 ...
  H      160.01     320
  I      320.01     640
  J      640.01    1280
  K     1280.01    2560
  L     2560.01    5120
  M     5120.01   10240
  N    10240.01   20480
  O    20480.01   40960
 ...

The application form available there includes the following statement:

NAR HIGH POWER CERTIFICATION APPLICATION

...I ______ certify that I am a member in good standing of the National Association of Rocketry. I am 18 years of age or older. I understand that I must comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws or regulations during and after this certification attempt.

However, there is a junior level certification process and that might be what was referred to. The junior HPR certification can be obtained by anyone 14-18, is a member in good standing with NAR or Tripoli, and has passed a certification rocket flight and a written test. The adult certification, however, does not require the written test for the level 1. Unfortunately, junior members can only fly level 1 motors, and can not obtain a level 2 or higher license until they are 18+.

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    $\begingroup$ Wow.... and there me and my friends were, starting around age 12, going off to wide-open fields and launching all the Estes model rockets we wanted to. In many cases, we just used burning fuse rather than invest in an electrical ignition system. Light 6 inches of fuse and run to a safe distance. $\endgroup$ Oct 7 '20 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft: Note this is talking about High Power Rocketry, not your little Estes models with probably nothing bigger than D motors. $\endgroup$ Oct 7 '20 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting that the NAR is a private organization and its certifications don't carry any force of law, so using the term "license" is a bit sticky. That said, you'll be hard pressed to find someone who will sell you a big motor without a cert. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Oct 7 '20 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ I kinda miss the days when model rockets with their little solid motors were so *gee whiz". Maybe someday someone will figure out safe liquids. $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Oct 7 '20 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @ikrase how's your research going? Have they revealed anything further? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Oct 7 '20 at 17:17
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According to Estes, model rocketry is a legally permitted activity in every state in the US. However, four states have laws and regulations that specify certain age or permit requirements. It could be that the person lives in a state such as California, New Jersey, North Dakota or Rhode Island which have age and other restrictions on model rocket motors. None of these states require a permit, but the local Authority Having Jurisdiction might issue a permit to launch a rocket, which could be interpreted as a rocket license.

Since the question is, Is there such a thing as a “rocket license” in the US? I can answer that question, at least in terms of the state of California. CalFire - The Office of the State Fire Marshal is the state agency that handles licensing requirements for rockets, pyrotechnics and special effects. As a licensed pyrotechnician, I use the same forms and handbook as the rocket operators use, I figured I would share the details on licensing in California. You have to be 18 years of age and pass a background check for the pyrotechnic licenses, which is a Federal requirement, but I did not notice a similar age restriction for a rocket license, but I will assume one exists.

Pyrotechnic Operator--Rockets First Class may conduct and is restricted to all activities in connection with research experiments, production, transportation, fuel loading and launching of all types of experimental rockets. Such operator shall also be responsible for the actions and conduct of all assistants. Operators licensed under subsection (b) are also required to obtain a local permit from the authority having jurisdiction prior to all launches.

Pyrotechnic Operator--Rockets Second Class may conduct and is restricted to all activities in connection with research experiments, production, transportation, fuel loading and launching of all types of solid fuel experimental rockets only. Such operator shall also be responsible for the actions and conduct of all assistants. Operators licensed under subsection (b) are also required to obtain a local permit from the authority having jurisdiction prior to all launches.

Pyrotechnic Operator--Rockets Third Class may purchase, transport, store, and launch high power rockets. Experimental high power rocket motors may only be imported, exported, and wholesaled by individuals or companies holding valid import, export, or wholesale licenses. Pyrotechnic Operators--Third Class may only purchase high powered rocket motors from licensed wholesalers. Operators licensed under subsection (b) are also required to obtain a local permit from the authority having jurisdiction prior to all launches.

I am not clear if a rocket launched at a site like Vandenberg Air Force Base requires a First Class license, but what I interpret is that if you have that license, you can launch anything, although the specific language does state "experimental".

Once you are licensed by the State of California, you get a credit card sized identity card with your photo, your license number and expiration date. Every time you renew your license, you get a reflective sticker identical to the shape and material the state uses for licensing motor vehicles, although usually a different color.

For specifics for licensing in other states or countries, I suggest looking over the Wikipedia link below.

If @KASHIKAA S ever determines if a license is available, I hope someone posts the information. I think it would be great if minors with an interest in rockets are able to pursue their dreams without age-related restrictions.

Good luck.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would Earth fireworks work on the Moon or on Mars? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Oct 31 '20 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Some would work because they have oxidizers, fuel and colorants. As an example, some fireworks will burn under water. Some like water shells are designed to operate in water. For the 2020 Olympics, Japan experimented with creating a meteor shower of pyrotechnics for the opening ceremony. $\endgroup$
    – gwally
    Oct 31 '20 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ Consider posting a short answer there? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Oct 31 '20 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Yes. My experience with Space Exploration Stack is you better have your facts lined up before posting. $\endgroup$
    – gwally
    Oct 31 '20 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ ya I recently wrote about that kind of thing. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Oct 31 '20 at 6:31

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