Legality of making rocket motors

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Well-Known Member
Jun 6, 2009
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What is the real law about making sugar motors with KNO3?
I have looked at several chemical companies and they sell the stuff, but will the ATF or whoever come looking for me or put me in a file? I like the science part of it. Watched a ton of videos on the U-tube. Looks easy enough, but what about the ejection charge? That is basically black powder. Do you buy that? Or do you make it? Any comments are quite welcome.
I don't think it is allowed to discuss how to make motors, for obvious reasons.

But, I do have book on how to make sugar motors. I think in small quantities it would be OK.
Ask the BATFE enforcement division for the area you live in. Thats the only answer that counts!
If you want more information on this topic, I'd go over to rocketry planet or even ye olde rocketry forum... RP has a LOT of discussion about this sort of thing.

I don't think it's permitted to discuss this subject here... wouldn't want 'young eyes' seeing the information and getting any ideas...

Good luck! OL JR :)
as far as the federal government is concerned, you can make rocket motors to your hearts desire, but you cannot ship them, or transport them, or sell them. they have to be kept on your own property. unless you have a BATF permit.

usually states also have their own requirements, so even if you're following all the federal guidelines, you still might need a permit from your state, which most likely requires some type of explosive storage magazine.

this forum does not condone discussions about manufacturing rocket motors, but there are some that do...

as far as the info i've given, it's meant as a general guideline, im sure someone more knowledgeable on the exact laws of manufacturing will chime in and correct anything that needs be.
some people look down on this but some of these things are a dont ask don't tell sort of situation. As bad as that sounds. You go to the ATF and ask to manufacture something and they will tell you no. It really doesn't matter they don't seem to receptive IMO

Thanks to all the people who responded. Sounds like a real pain. I will have to ponder this awhile. Thanks again.
Asking a government agency something like this will always stir the pot & have them asking you 600 more questions than you're probably ready for.
They would probably say that you will need a manufactures permit & or high explosive as well as they need to fund their piggy banks with more of your hard earned money...

Sugar propellant is still regulated unlike APCP:dark::D.

What is the real law about making sugar motors with KNO3?

According to one set of statutes, the propellants used in model rocket motors are exempt from the other laws normally applied to "explosives"

OTOH, you could run through the family savings, lose your job, and be placed on an international terrorist watch list while you are battling this through the courts. Guess what? Even if you win, you lose.

Potassium nitrate is on the list of "explosives" (even if the chemical by itself is absolutely not explosive) so anything that has it mixed in, like "candy" motors, is therefore also included with the real explosives.

To figure this mess out, you're gonna need a lawyer. Or a loooong front driveway with a bell on the gate.

Here on TRF we definitely don't discuss formulas, because some goober out there is going to blow himself halfway up and then sue us (ain't America great?). I can't speak for the moderators but I think it's OK to talk about the law surrounding our hobby---although any discussion of the law is quite likely to flare up into a major mess. Just phrase your questions carefully, and the mods will provide any necessary guidance.
According to one set of statutes, the propellants used in model rocket motors are exempt from the other laws normally applied to "explosives"

What statutes are these? There is certainly nothing at 18 USC Chapter 40. What we have is a regulation at 27 CFR 55.141 exempting model rocket motors using low explosives from regulation (The exemption has no requirement that exempt rocket motors/reload kits be commercially manufactured.) and a court decision that the ATF failed to prove APCP is an explosive.
Potassium nitrate is on the list of "explosives" (even if the chemical by itself is absolutely not explosive) so anything that has it mixed in, like "candy" motors, is therefore also included with the real explosives.

Not true. The closest thing is "Potassium nitrate explosive mixtures". Which is certainly different from a propellant.

List of Explosives

The feds recently had a chance to prove that a potassium nitrate sugar propellant mixture was explosive. They failed even using the loose standards of immigration court.

While it is true that the Respondent was riding in the car with the aforementioned materials and was without license or permit, as discussed above, the Department failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the materials actually constituted "explosive materials."

That document makes for interesting reading.
Randy at alwaysreadyrocketry holds class's and has literature for what you requested...:)
WELL, fellas it looks like I stirred a big pot of something. I will just buy my motors and be done with it. Being a retired Navy Chief I can see that a hassel is looming around this subject and will just let it be for now. One thing though being in a democratic country is not as simple as it seems. Thanks for all your comments.

No matter where you go there you are
if you're really interested there are a TON of clubs and individuals out there very knowledgeable on the subject, and willing to mentor. the main thing with manufacturing stuff is, the people who do it, love their hobby, and wouldn't want to see it go away, so everyone takes major precautions from contacting the ATF and getting the guidelines written out, requesting inspections of the facilities...etc...nobody wants a hassle, at the end of the day, its about making a product that you're happy with. i suggest if you want to take it further than this board allows, you should search around for some clubs or individuals who are already engaged in the practice. there are several forums out there that will suit your needs...good luck man!
Welcome Chief!

Just wish I would have seen this post earlier. You are more than welcome to ask for some help finding info. There has been a real hailstorm recently with government regs. so some folks are a little touchy, but that's ok.

As I'm sure you well know from your Navy days that the powers that be can really screw things up for us regular guys, even if we just go near the edge of a rule.

Richard Nakka is one of the most well respected guys around when it comes to sugar motors. Here is his website with more than enough info to keep you reading for a while. There is even formulas for bp replacements [crimson powder] that I know work well.

All you questions about sugar motors, formulas, rockets, regulations etc., will be found here with a little digging. It represents years of research and data. I bought his CD's to be able to view anytime.

The club I fly with in South Carolina had a good following when it comes to candy Motors. They have successfully flown M size sugar, and all sizes on a regular basis. All with in the constraints of the law. There are many groups out there doing the same.

Please enjoy the data from the link and come back and visit with us!

Ps I just saw your from Florida. well your pretty close to another great researcher into sugar. Jimmy Yawn flies with us in SC occasionally, but is a regular in North Florida. Here's a link to his sugar site...both sites a indexed very go direct to ejection questions. Jimmy's E-mail is at the very bottom of his front page. I'm sure he can tell you where the "candy" fliers meet monthly to fly.

This link will take you right down to business
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