The Project

“The Nike” is a full scale replica of the famous NASA Nike Smoke sounding rocket from the 1960’s, being put together by a few over-zealous members of the NZRA, for the inaugural “Havoc in the Paddock” International launch. 

What started out life as an attempt by Ethan to score some of Kelvin's leftovers (parts that is!) somehow, with the aid of gin, morphed into the behemoth below: 

The Rocket 

The Team

Ethan Kosoof - Not sure what he does exactly, except have constant anxiety attacks about the state of the airframe, recovery and motor design and fabrication.  Apparently this whole thing was his idea.  

Dr. Martin Van Tiel - Propellant formulation and motor design extraordinaire.  Also seems to be the chief gin consumer. 

Chris North - Master of motor hardware, airframe & launch pad machining and fabrication. 

Kelvin McVinnie - Manufacturing expert of all things tubular and composite.  Soon to be an manufacturing expert of all things conical and composite, possibly against his will.  Also responsible for the constant supply of gin and gin-inspired design ideas.   

Kim McVinnie  - All of the above, except probably better at it.  The voice of reason on this project for when Ethan & Kelvin find the most complex and convoluted way to do something.  Word on the street is she will also be in charge of painting this thing.   


If for some reason you feel inclined to follow the carnage as it unfolds, you can keep an eye on the page below.  Or if you're more social-media savvy, you can check out the Facebook page: 

The Nike Facebook Page 

Note that this (attempted) flight would not be remotely possible without the generous support of the team at Logic Wireless

The Nike Flew! 

The Nike flew as planned on February 9th 2020! 

The Nike reached 9,000ft and just over Mach 1 on the P11,000, and returned safely to earth.  The main came out at apogee, and we suffered some fin damage but nothing we can't fix!  Many thanks to those who made this project possible.  

Check out the facebook page for more photos & video

On-board video here! 

Ground Video (Thanks to Dean Spittle) 

Update - 4/2/20 

NIKE on it's PAD for the first time - The news reaches The New Zealand Herald

Update - 26/1/20

More fun and games this week, adding some ballast to the cone before Kim and Kelvin hit it with paint and a few finishing touches - two weeks to go 😅 

Update - 20/1/19

Starting to look pretty slick! 

Update - 19/1/19

Another marathon weekend from the McVinnies and the color coat is on! Next up, decals and then clear coat and the booster is ready 

Update - 15/1/19

Under a month to go and we are finally nearing the finishing line...booster got completed and transported back to Kim & Kelvin's place for finishing & ground testing. 

Some last minute love 

Kelvin hitting it with the first coat of primer

Primer on!

Update - 19/12/19

Our M2300 sub scale test motor came to life last night....looking good for the full scale P-11,000 😎 

Update - 2/12/19

Another cool picture from yesterday, plus a couple of the phenolic nozzle blanks going through their high temp cure cycle and then being machined

Liftoff of Kim's middle earth on the J630

Phenolic nozzle blanks getting post cured

Machining the 98mm nozzle carrier

Update - 1/12/19

Got the booster section outside for the first time with the fins on - just needs fillets and fin re-inforcement and it is done! 

Kim also managed to do the first flight test of the new Purple Neon sparky propellant in her rocket "Middle Earth" - a 54mm J700.  Gonna look pretty sweet in an 8" Motor! 

Booster catching some rays

Kim taking one for the team and doing the first flight test of the new "Purple Neon" sparky propellant

Update - 29/11/19

19 static tests later and we're done formulating and characterizing the propellant.  Not bad for a 2-grain 54mm! Up next, the 98mm 4 grain sub-scale motor, followed by a full scale static test of the flight motor  -  200mm 4 grain.  

Update - 17/11/19

Got the internal structure ready to get bonded and bolted into the booster tonight, after a long day of prepping the inside of a 4m long tube...Never again (no matter what Kelvin says)  

Booster Internal Structure

Sanding and cleaning the inside of the tube

Update - 13/11/19

A great day is upon us - the birth of the Nike nosecone! After several months of hard slog, and almost at the cost of Kelvins sanity - we finally have the finished part. Kelvin and Kim added strengthening bulkheads over the past few days with the cone still in the mold (and strapped to their front deck).Last night it was unleashed and transported to the shed for the great unveiling - It didn't disappoint!

Unleashing the beast

Transporting the beast, while Debbie keeps the boys in line with the leash (or maybe its one of Martin's fantasies? Who knows) 

Quick gin just in case bad news awaits us

Discussing how good (or bad) it might be inside

Martin & Ethan look on in admiration while Kelvin just looks relieved its over

Ethan adding some more reinforcing bulkheads while Kelvin whispers words of encouragement

Update - 31/10/19

Successful round of seven test firings with two different propellant formulations this weekend - looking like another round of R&D to do a few more tweaks before we start scaling up to 98mm

Update - 21/10/19

Panic setting in over the last week as we realised A) there is just over three months to go and B) the gin supply has run dry again...somehow Kelvin and Kim pushed through and have managed to complete both halves of the mold which are looking flawless.

Fortunately salvation is on the horizon, courtesy of another batch of gin (thanks Mark & Jordy!), just in time for another round of static tests this weekend

Prepping the second half of the mold

Kim laying up the second half of the mold



Update - 13/10/19

Getting down and dirty with the Nosecone plug again this week...Oh the joy

Kelvin and Kim whipped up a rather nice table which, for a few short hours, served as a quite a handy storage place for gin and nibbles. Unfortunately, it's life was cut short as Kelvin proceeded to cut a dirty great hole in it for the NC plug, and it will see out the rest of its days as the parting table for the nosecone mold. RIP

Trying to come to some sort of consensus on how to proceed

Kelvin really putting those brain cells to work while Kim laughs at his struggles

Attempting to find the middle of a circle

Kelvin ruining a perfectly good table

Getting read for the moment of truth - does it fit? 


Update - 09/10/19

Mid week project meeting/gin therapy session to celebrate mating....of the nosecone pieces! After many nights of shaping, filling and sanding and a garage full of phenolic dust, the nosecone plug is finally together thanks to Kim and Kelvin

Next up - making the parting table to create the 2 piece fiberglass mold 

Worshiping the cone

Kim getting hands-on with the plug

Update - 29/09/19

Kelvin's love affair/fetish with foam continues, with the nosecone plug starting to take shape after many a late night & early morning turning each of the segments to shape.  

First section completed

First section mated with shoulder

Second and third sections complete

Update - 15/09/19

With the Great Gin Drought of 2019 resolved, things got going again this week. After much anticipation, Kelvin finally got to fulfill his lifelong fantasy of building a large pointy object out of his favourite building material - foam.  The nosecone is over 3m in length, so is being done in three separate pieces. The foam segments will be used to create a male plug for a 2 piece mold.

We also got the first lot of foam fin core halves into the vacuum bag with layers of carbon & E-glass. Next, the two halves will be bonded together and the entire fin vacuum bagged again. 

Chris also managed to get the casing rough cut to length - him next to it for scale

NC Segment after shaping on the wood lathe

Fin core half section under vacuum

Chris next to the casing after being cut to length

The bottom section of the cone starting out life

Update - 05/09/19

Work slowed to glacial pace due to the lack of gin over the last week (more on that later), but prior to the great gin drought of September 2019, we did get a bunch done.  The raw material for the flight motor hardware made it safely to Chris's workshop.   A 6m length of 200mm OD 6061-T6 tubing, and a 300mm segment of round bar that will become the casing and closures of the motor over the next couple of months.  There's a little bit of design work still to complete before we start making swarf but it is coming together: 

Casing & closure raw material

CAD model of the rocket motor assembly 

FEA analysis of the end closure bolt pattern

After some last minute issues with missing hardware, the first round of static test firings were completed over the weekend of the 25th of August.   A lot learned and a some more work for the Dr. to do before we scale up to the 98mm version, but getting there! We've starting putting the hardware together for that in preparation: 

Last minute 2am nozzle machining

Post Successful 54mm characterization firing

98mm development motor hardware 

All the work over August took it's toll on the gin reserves.  An emergency gathering was called at the McVinnies place on the 1st to try and replenish the stock and keep the project from stalling.  We don't know much about this stuff so the experts were called in (thanks Mark and Jordy!) while the rest of the Nike team got relegated to sampling & quality control.  We did squeeze a rocketry related activity in at some point (can't quite remember when), a glass over foam layup for one of the Dr's special Havoc projects: 

Team building exercise 

Glass layup session

Finished product

Update - 19/08/19

The McVinnies have been hard at work - again.  Do they even sleep? After yet another mammoth, gin fueled layup session, involving cutting out 80+ pieces of carbon fiber, E-glass, peel ply & mylar, all of the Balsa-cored composite centering rings for the booster section have been completed.  With that, all of the main structural components of the booster section (minus fins) are now finished.  The parts have been safely delivered to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) - Also known as Ethan's shed 

The 54 mm development hardware, nozzles, thermal liners, and data acquisition have all been completed and ready for static testing once propellant curing is complete.  

Update - 11/08/19

Kelvin & Kim have been flat out over the last couple of months building the composite structural components for the Nike.  They have already finished the 3.8m x 405mm carbon fibre outer airframe, which was a mammoth undertaking.  The carbon was applied in a wet layup over a mylar covered Styrofoam mandrel, with each layer allowed to set up before the next was applied.  8 layers were applied in total, with the entire process taking over a week. The finished part weighs just over 18kg.  Alex, being a minimum diameter human, was even able to get inside the tube at the NZRA AGM which gives a sense of scale: 

Next part from the McVinnie workshop was the internal 200mm stiffening tube/motor mount.  This part was fabricated in the same way as the airframe, with 4 layers of carbon, and will help stiffen the lower airframe and support the motor casing. Several E-glass segments of airframe and motor mount tubing have also been laid up which will be used at strategic points within the airframe, to provide additional bonding area and stiffness.  

Meanwhile, on the motor side of things - the test stand with thrust and chamber pressure capability has been refurbished after many moons collecting dust.  The 54mm development motor hardware is under construction.  The propellant has been cast and the first round of static firings will be conducted over the next few weeks to refine the propellant and motor geometry for the flight motor: