How Do Fireworks Get Launched?

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Fireworks are Launched From a Tube

  • In order to launch fireworks, professional or amateur, pyrotechnicians use a sturdy, solid tube. In amateur fireworks, the tube is usually heavy, reinforced or commercial-grade cardboard. For professional fireworks, a reusable tube, such as custom-made metal tubing, is preferable. The diameter of the tube dictates the size of firework shell that can be launched from the tube.

An Explosive Charge is Loaded in the Bottom of the Tube

  • Before the firework shell is inserted into the launch tube, a small explosive charge is first loaded into the bottom of the tube. When launch time arrives, the explosive charge will detonate; the force of the detonation can only exit the pipe in one direction--through the open end. As the charge explodes, it exits at an exceptionally high velocity, carrying with it everything in the tube (including the shell). In short, the firework shell is carried out the open end of the tube much in the same way a bullet exits the muzzle of a gun. The small explosive charge also contributes to the sound of fireworks, explaining why many spectators report hearing a small explosion on the ground moments before the fireworks display begins.

The Explosive Launch Charge is Ignited

  • In order to send the firework shell high into the sky, the explosive launch charge must be ignited. In professional pyrotechnics displays, these charges are often ignited electronically from a central control station. More advanced displays use computers to synchronize the launch charges with carefully choreographed music. In amateur displays, such as the kind you might perform in your backyard, the explosive launch charge uses an ignition system as simple as a long fuse lit by a match or cigarette lighter.

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