The bigger the rocket, the better

Hamilton man's Big Red rocket to shoot for stars

Last updated 11:40 29/01/2014
big rocket
Rocket man: Hamilton rocketry enthusiast Craig Packard with Big Red – the rocket he plans to launch this Sunday

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The thing with rockets is the only good one is a bigger one - or so it seems with Hamilton rocketry fan Craig Packard, who will demonstrate his latest creation this Sunday.

A technician for Winger Motors in Hamilton, Mr Packard took up the hobby after reading a newspaper article in the 1990s and progressed, addiction style, from small to big and bigger.

He is a member of the Auckland Rocketry Club, which comes under the New Zealand Rocketry Association and has about 80 members nationwide.

The club is holding its national open day at Taupiri north of Hamilton on Sunday.

"I've been trying to do something a bit different than the things usually done in New Zealand.

"I've looked to the US where there is no end of money. There's even guys from NASA involved in model rocketry. The challenge is to get everything to work correctly."

The model Mr Packard will demonstrate will be his Aerospace Education Big Red.

The 3-metre long projectile has five solid-fuelled engines and can rise to more than 4000 metres at better than the speed of sound.

Each "burn", lasting only a few seconds, creates enough noise to shake the ground and costs about $2000.

The event is expected to see a finale of five large rockets, some able to get to 6096m, which requires clearance from local air traffic controllers.

What Mr Packard learned from Big Red will be incorporated in his next model, which will be bigger.

"What I've learned in this project has been about stability. I've taken what I've learned and I want to go faster."

Hosted by the Auckland club, the annual national rocket launch day is expected to attract about 150 rockets.

"We really promote rocketry as a family thing and try to get the kids involved. We will have a ‘have-a-go' rocket area where kids can assemble and launch their own rockets on the day."

Kneebone Rd, Taupiri, noon, Sunday February 2. Visit


New Zealand Rocket Association is a group interested in building and launching model rockets. The group is open to everyone and has been operating since 1991. Model rocketry opens up many avenues for learning, particularly science. A range of motors can be used, for vessels built for speed or altitude. Some rockets can be mounted with cameras. Others can communicate with a GPS satellite network.

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