The Nike Cluster
May 16th, 2000 | Back to Blog Listing
On May 16th, 2000 Dave Guezuraga and I launched a new type of model rocket that we had never used before. Dave was the engineer behind this particular rocket and it would seem in hindsight that he crafted the machine rather well. The launch site was set at Zilker park and though the sunset made for some scenic views, it was only the result of us getting there late. As a note, it's usually not a good idea to launch model rockets at night if you expect to find them again.

We had a rather large crew / audience for this particular launch which consisted of Eric Zavesky, Klaus Wagner, Annie Van Zandt, and Dayna McKay. The schedule called for at least one test launch of the Nike Cluster, but time permitting, two would ultimately ensue.

To give a peek into the power of this rocket, this particular rocket flew on D engines, specifically D12-3 engines, but it happened to fly on 3 of them at once! It was roughly equivalent to 24 class A engines.

The Nike Cluster - Launch Number I

A bottom view showing off its 3 class D engine mounts
Launch Number: I
Launch Date: May 16th, 2000
Launch Time: 20:18
Launch Location: Zilker Park
Approx Landing Distance: 200 meters

How did we capture this footage?

If you happen to notice the glass looking thing sitting in the middle of the above bottom right picture, it is actually a 10-gallon aquarium. The purpose of having it was so that we could capture the footage that we did. Generally speaking, we would put it directly next to the launch pad with a video camera inside of it. For this particular shoot, the video camera was a Sony Digital 8mm. The aquarium simply helped to protect the camera from being destroyed.

The Nike Cluster - Launch Number II

The ignitor hits all three D12-3 engines at once
Launch Number: II
Launch Date: May 16th, 2000
Launch Time: 20:48
Launch Location: Zilker Park
Approx Landing Distance: 200 meters
Notes: Rocket barely recovered. Sustained damage from landing in a tree, lost parachute and nosecone

In the interest of science and exploration, why stop at one launch when you can do two? Truthfully, it was probably not a good idea for us to have gone ahead and launched the Nike Cluster a second time. The sun was almost down and it was apparent that recovering it may be somewhat of a problem. The video camera we used to capture the images happened to have nightvision on it and I suppose we figured we had some sort of an advantage over the night sky. We weren't entirely wrong.

It took about 30 minutes to recover the Nike Cluster from the first launch and have it prepped for launch II. It just so happens there would not be a launch number III.