Hundreds of spectators were thrilled to witness the launch of more than 100 rockets at the New Zealand Rocketry Association's national launch day near Huntly on Sunday.

If you want to be a rocket man, head to Huntly.

The New Zealand Rocketry Association held its annual national launch day on Sunday, in Orini near Huntly.

It was blast off for more than 120 rockets, some reaching an astounding 9000 feet (2743 metres).

But that's not even close to the record of 44,000 feet.

Around 300 spectators watched as months of planning, building, and practice paid off with rockets launching into the

atmosphere in excellent conditions – blue sky and barely any wind.

Craig Packard and Jim Hefkey prepare for liftoff in Huntly, Waikato district, NZ
Craig Packard and Jim Hefkey prepare for liftoff.

"It teaches science, mathematics and all sorts of physics which are involved in rocketry. Which is really great to get people off their Xboxes," Evan Moore, president of the New Zealand Rocketry Association, said.

"Some of them are pretty sophisticated with multiple computers on board. They run on the same fuel as a space shuttle."

As hobbies go, it's not cheap – some of the rockets cost between $3000 to $4000 per flight.

Jack Davies with his Marsden rocket – the biggest amateur rocket in the country.
Jack Davies with his Marsden rocket – the biggest amateur rocket in the country.
Generally, you can reuse the rocket motors but need to refuel and hope that the parachutes open for a safe landing so that there is no more than superficial damage.

The hobby can get addictive and Moore admits his love for rockets came from an interest in explosives.

"I used to be a commercial diver and do a lot of the explosive work but this is now my hobby and I get to meet a vast range of personalities. People in engineering, physics, right through to mathematics and chemical engineers who are allowed to legally manufacture rocket motors."

The Kiwi competitive nature exists in this type of environment too.

"There's a whole bunch that are extremely competitive and they are vying for the record as it's an amazing feat to get that as these aren't Nasa people, these are people building and learning themselves."

One man hooked on rockets is Jack Davies – he's been coming up to the event from Wellington for the past 11 years.

He and his father Tony drove up his Marsden Rocket, which weighs 52kg and is the biggest amateur rocket in New Zealand.

"It has 300kg of thrust which should accelerate the rocket at seven times the force of gravity and to about 8000 feet."

Davies has just finished high school in Wellington and is heading to Canterbury University to do an engineering degree. He admits the thrill comes from seeing something that he has made with his own hands achieve the height that planes do.

"You can barely lift it up but when you see this thing go, accelerate seven times its own weight, it's phenomenal."

Davies aspires to be the real-deal rocket man and go into space one day.



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