ALL SYSTEMS GO: The University of KwaZulu-Natals Aerospace Systems Research Group has developed a small, sub-orbital rocket to fly research payloads (scientific instruments) into the upper atmosphere for physics research.

Durban - Blast off!

Mechanical engineering students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal will unveil their new rocket at Howard College campus on Friday.

The Phoenix-1A Hybrid Rocket is a product of the work and research conducted by the Aerospace Systems Research Group and the Phoenix Hybrid Sounding Rocket Programme, and was designed and engin-eered by Masters’ degree students working within the discipline, said the university.

The aerospace research group, led by Michael Brooks and Jean Pitot, was established in 2009 and focuses on the development of propulsion systems.

“The Phoenix Hybrid Sounding Rocket Programme aims to develop a series of small sub-orbital or sounding rockets that will eventually carry scientific instruments into the upper atmosphere. The instruments will be used to gather measurements and then be brought back to earth, where researchers can analyse the data,” UKZN said.

Researchers explained that the rocket was a prototype that would be used to test basic systems, but would not be used for sounding purposes.

“Following the launch of the prototype from a range in the Western Cape later this year, researchers intend to develop more powerful variants that will conduct upper atmospheric physics research.”

The university explained that the Phoenix was regarded as a “hybrid rocket”, meaning it used a solid fuel made of wax and a liquid oxidiser consisting of nitrous oxide.

“The rocket will not go into space as it is sub-orbital, but researchers expect it to attain an altitude of about 5km. The motor of the rocket burns for 20 seconds and produces a maximum thrust of three kilonewtons (almost 306kg force).”

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