There are generally few regulations applied to model rocketry, with most of those applied at the state and local level. Forty eight states (all but Rhode Island and California) adhere to a common code of regulations for model rocketry known as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 1122. This code defines the power, weight, and other limits to which a rocket must comply in order to be classified as a "model rocket."
At the Federal level, according to FAR 101.1 model rockets are exempt from FAA regulation, provided they are operated in a manner so as not to pose a hazard to aircraft. The only exception to this rule is that if a model rocket weighs between 454 and 1,500 grams, you must notify the nearest FAA control tower before launching them. Model rocket kits and motors do come under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety commission where they must satisfy the same basic product safety requirements as toys.
The State of California treats model rockets as a special class of fireworks and requires:
- You must be at least 14 years old to purchase model rocket engines (1/4A through D class).
- You must be at least 18 years old to purchase engines larger than D.
- To launch, you must secure the written or verbal permission of the local fire authority having jurisdiction over the location where you wish to launch.