Abstract Cryogenic hydrogen isotope fuelling pellets were observed to undergo strong radial acceleration in the confined plasma. The reason for pellet acceleration is believed to originate from drift effects: the ionised part of pellet cloud is affected by the grad-B drift, therefore, the cloud becomes polarised. The E × B drift then deforms the pellet cloud so that it can no longer follow the original flux bundle – this results in a less efficient shielding on the pellet’s HFS region, where the subsequently enhanced ablation pushes the pellet towards LFS, like a rocket. In order to study this effect, a simple and a comprehensive ablation model was developed. Results from both models show quantitatively acceptable agreement with ASDEX-Upgrade experiments concerning trajectory curvature, corresponding to radial acceleration in the range of 10 4–10 7 m/s 2.