How high can fireworks go?

Time for a celebration! What better way than to send rockets of colorful explosions high into the air? But how high can they go?

There are many kinds of fireworks, from the small consumer types all the way to professional grade mortar shells.  The ones made for exploding in the sky, a kind of display firework, can reach a number of different altitudes.  Let's consider three different types of these fireworks, starting with the lowly bottle rocket.

Bottle Rockets

Bottle rocket fireworks launch from the ground or from the mouth of an empty soda bottle.  They sometimes don't go up at all!  But expect them to explode quickly after takeoff, at about 40-50 feet high. (Note that they are illegal in many regions- always research your zoning restrictions.)

Consumer fireworks

In many states you can buy consumer display fireworks for holiday celebrations.  Some of these are the mortar shell type used by professionals, although they function on a much smaller scale.

To estimate how high your consumer fireworks will go, measure the diameter of your firework shell (the round part that holds the rocket material inside).  For every inch across, expect it to go anywhere from 70 to 80 feet in the air.  This means a 2 inch diameter firework will probably stop before hitting 160 feet in the air. 

It's harder to find fireworks for consumer purchase that are larger than 2 inches across, so don't expect to see ones that will travel past 200 feet.  That's about as tall as a medium size office building.

Professional grade fireworks

FireworksCredit: AddyG via FlickrThese are the kind you see on TV for the Fourth of July and New Year's celebrations.  They are designed to reach high altitudes and explode in large flowering patterns.  Don't try to set these off without a pyrotechnics license. 

These fireworks can make it big distances:[300]

A two inch shell: 300 feet

A three inch shell: 360 feet

A four inch shell: 425 feet

A six inch shell: 900 feet!  (This is skyscraper material.)

As you can see, the bigger the shell, the higher the firework can fly.  There are even bigger shells than the ones listed here(some are even bigger than 12 inches across!), so the altitude can easily top 1000 feet.  

Hopefully this gives you some idea of how high fireworks can fly.  The next time you're watching a show, try guessing with your friends how high up the explosions are!