Wallops Island Station was located about 100 miles as the rocket
flies from where I grew up in Mayo, Maryland. That was close enough
that many of the colored skies created by sounding rockets conducting
atmospheric research were visible. Local newscasters would broadcast
announcements ahead of tests so that the populace wouldn't think
we had been invaded by aliens (no, not the
ones from Mexico) or were not under attack by the Russkies.
This article on the Nike Smoke rocketsonde, by überrocketeer
G. Harry Stine, provides some historical data as well scale
dimensional data and a drawing for use in building a scale model
if you are so inclined.
Nike Smoke Sounding Rocket
The full story - and specs - of an ideal subject for your scale
The real bird was used to measure wind movement at 75,000 feet.
G. Harry Stine
So much data is available on this rocket that it can
be used in many NAR events - predicted altitude, scale,
trajectory and aerodynamic studies, etc. But don't attempt
flight operation with the TiCl4, it makes hydrochloric
In the February issue, we discussed some aspects of scale modeling,
an area of model astronautics that is growing rapidly and gaining
favor with both beginners and experts alike. The usual approach
followed by a novice is to choose as a subject a rocket vehicle
that is relatively well known. However, some of these vehicles are
often very difficult to build into a properly flying scale model.
There are dozens of different sounding rockets, some of them not
well known but yet widely used by NASA and the armed services; these
"obscure" vehicles are sometimes excellent scale subjects.
An example of this is the NASA "Nike Smoke" rocketsonde. Over
100 of them have been flown from both Cape Kennedy and NASA Wallops
Use this scale drawing for designing your Smoke. The real rocket
is single-stage, solid-propellant. Leaves white trail in sky to
The information on the Nike Smoke vehicle that follows has been
acquired from authentic sources and, accompanied by the drawing
and photographs, is considered to be the typical sort of scale data
for both general and competition purposes. This is what a scale
modeler starts with, and it's up to him to go through the process
of scaling, sizing, and designing from this information in order
to come up with his scale model.
The Nike Smoke sounding rocket is a single-staged solid-propellant
rocketsonde used by NASA to determine wind velocities up to an altitude
of about 75,000 ft. The propulsion unit is a standard M-5 Nike solid
propellant rocket with four cast and wrought magnesium fins. The
payload is approximately 10 gallons (144 lbs.) of titanium tetrachloride
(TiC4) contained within a 10-degree conical nose cone
fabricated of 347 stainless steel. Upon ejection of the TTiC4
into the atmosphere during flight, chlorides are formed which combine
with the water vapor in the air to form droplets of hydrochloric
acid. This reaction results in the formation of a persistent and
reflective white trail which is photographed by two cameras approximately
10-12 miles from the launch site and 90 degrees apart in azimuth.
Wind profiles are obtained by photographic triangulation techniques
utilizing time-lapse photographs of the smoke trail. The Nike Smoke
may be launched from a modified Nike Ajax launcher.
The Nike Smoke being prepared for a launch at Wallops
Station, Va. Over 100 such vehicles have been flown.
History: The Nike Smoke program was under the
direction of NASA Langley Research Center, Va. During the period
from May, 1962 to May, 1963, 55 vehicles were flown from Cape Kennedy
with a launch elevation of 80 degrees and on an azimuth of 60 degrees.
Fifty-three percent of the vehicles fell within a radius of one
nautical mile of the desired impact point, and 91 percent of the
vehicles were within a radius of two nautical miles of the impact
During the period from July, 1963 to January, 1965, approximately
70 vehicles were launched from NASA Wallops Station with a launch
elevation of 80 degrees and on an azimuth of 100 degrees. Project
engineer was James C. Manning. The Project Manager was Harold B.
Tolefson, and the engineers involved in the project included Charles
M. Dozier, Robert M. Henry, and Robert W. Miller. Operation: The
components of the Nike Smoke are assembled, checked for alignment
and CG. The vehicle is then placed horizontally on a standard Nike
Ajax launcher or a boom launcher. Approximately ten gallons of TiCl4
are loaded into the canister inside the nose cone. The vehicle is
then raised to launch elevation. A standard, zero-delay M-24 electrical
igniter fires the vehicle on ground command.
During thrusting, while the vehicle is being subjected to high
positive acceleration, the chemical is forced against the bottom
of the canister; thus, the chemical surface is about 1" from the
top plate. Air is forced into the nose cone by ram pressure through
a 1" pipe and check valve, and enters the canister through the pressurizing
pipe. It then bubbles through the chemical and flows out through
the discharge orifice which is approximately 5/16" in diameter.
A small amount of TiCl4, is also expelled during vehicle
Upon burnout of the Nike M-5 booster, the vehicle deceleration
caused by aerodynamic drag forces the chemical against the canister
top plate. The impact pressure inside the nose cone then forces
the chemical out through the discharge orifice until the chemical
supply is exhausted. The check valve in the nose tip traps air in
the upper portion of the nose cone and, as the vehicle ascends into
the thinner upper air, this pressure continues to expel the chemical.
The discharge orifice size is calculated to expel the chemical at
such a rate that it becomes exhausted shortly after the vehicle
reaches apogee. The entire vehicle is permitted to impact with no
attempt being made to separate or recover the vehicle.
Photographs are made by the two trajectory cameras at six second
intervals for a period of five minutes. These photographs, when
reduced by photogrammetric data reduction techniques, provide profiles
of wind velocity and shear.
Weights: Gross (takeoff): 1560.7 lb.; Propellant:
764 lb.; Burnout: 796.7 lb.; Payload: 144.0 lb.; Empty: 652.7 lb.;
M-5 Nike booster: 431 lb.; Fins: 69.2 lb.; Nose assembly: 152.5
Performance: (80-deg. launch angle): Burnout
time: 3.5. sec.; Burnout altitude: 6294 ft.; Burnout acceleration:
47.2g; Apogee: 75,200 ft.; Apogee time: 65 sec.;
Splash time: 147 sec.; Splash range: 56,500 ft.
Propulsion: Hercules Corp. Nike booster M-5
(X216A2): Thrust: 48,700 lb.; Duration: 3.5 sec.; Propellant: solid.
Color data: (Wallops flights): Flat white overall.
Three fins fluorescent red, one fin fluorescent yellow. UNITED STATES
in letters 8" high, stenciled in black on both sides of vehicle
in horizontal position inter-digitated between fins and centered
along booster body.
Data sources: Nike M-5 booster and fins from
Thiokol Chemical Corp. Astro-Met Division Drawing No. R-00150. Vehicle
description, history, performance data, and dimensions from NASA
Langley Research Center "Flight Plan for Model W67-3604 Through
W67-3670," dated June 6, 1963. Color data from NASA color photo
L-63-6297 and from NASA Wallops Station Memorandum, "New Color Scheme
for Wallops Test Vehicles," dated January 23, 1964. Additional details
from NASA photographs L-61-8048 and L-65-4760.
Note to modelers: Because of the small fin area
set forward of the boattail, the Nike Smoke should not be made with
a body tube diameter of less than 0.9".
Some dynamic instability (pitch-roll coupling) has been experienced
with this model with a Centuri #8 tube for a body, balsa nose without
nose weight, and powered by a Type 1/2A.8-2 engine; the addition
of a nose weight is recommended for a model in this scale.
The Nike Smoke model may also be used for trajectory and aerodynamic
studies because its subsonic drag coefficient is known. Drag coefficient
during thrusting is 0.45 and during coasting is 0.85. Calculated
performances can therefore be compared against measured flight performances.
The Nike Smoke scale model is suitable for the following events:
Scale, Scale Altitude, Space Systems, Super Scale, and Predicted
Do not attempt to duplicate scale flight using titanium tetrachloride!
This chemical forms droplets of hydrochloric acid upon contact with
the water vapor in the air!
Centuri Engineering Company has kitted the I.Q.S.Y. Tomahawk
(October 1967 Countdown. Kit KC-40 goes for $2.25. This is an excellent
beginner's scale model which should not be sniffed at by competition
flyers; it took more points at NARAM-9 than any other scale design.
The I.Q.S.Y. Tomahawk can be flown in all types of scale competition,
including the new NAR Space Systems event. By leaving out the engine
mount for the 18 x 70 mm engine, you can fly the bird with an FSI
engine ... a real cloud-cutter with that power plant! It can also
be converted to a payload-carrier for competition work. Your scale
substantiation data can be the October 1967 Countdown article, which
is available as a back issue if you didn't get it.
Model Rocket Industries T-20 tube fits an FAI-NAR Payload like
a glove fits a hand. Furthermore, the T-20 tube (so-called because
it has a 20 millimeter o.d.) is light. An Estes BT-20 tube will
slip-fit inside of it, too.
Talley Guill's Dubnica Pay loader (Countdown, September, 1967)
can be made with an MRI T-20 tube throughout, giving it the same
o.d. from the base of the nose cone to the tail. This eliminates
the difficult transition piece because a simple balsa nose block
is substituted instead. Carefully made, the T-20 Talley-Bird has
somewhat better aerodynamics which will permit it to hoist an FAI-NAR
Payload perhaps another 100 ft. (30 meters). The launch lug can
also be glued directly to the side of the T-20 instead of sticking
out on a standoff like a built-in headwind.
The Tenth Anniversary of the Space Age
To commemorate the Tenth Anniversary of the Space Age on October
4, 1967, the General Electric Missile & Space Division invited
the NAR National Champions to visit their Valley Forge (Pa.) Space
Technology Center. Charlie Duelfer, Bill Bloch, Greg Scinto, Joe
Persio, and Mark Mercer, accompanied by NAR Trustees Harry Stine
and Jim Kukowski, spent the day at Valley Forge with G. E. space
engineers viewing the NIMBUS-B to be launched early in 1968, the
hypersonic shock tunnel, the space environmental simulation chambers,
and the NIMBUS ground station. Following lunch, the NAR model rocketeers
returned the favor by flying over a dozen model rockets from the
helicopter launch pad outside the Valley Forge Space Technology
Center. They then met with G. E. Vice President Hilliard W. Paige,
and Charlie Duelfer presented Paige with a scale model Thor-Agena-B
which had flown and been recovered that day; the Thor-Agena-B modeled
by Duelfer had launched the G. E. Discoverer-13, first space capsule
ever recovered from orbit.
"When you finish school, come back and see me," Paige told them.
"The aerospace industry is going to need all of you fellows that
we can get!"
This was the first time that a major aerospace company had ever
invited NAR model rocketeers to both tour their facilities and also
fly models. Both the NAR Champions and the G. E. space scientists
parted with great respect for one another. And it showed that model
astronautics, born with the Space Age in 1957, has come along as
rapidly and as successfully as astronautics itself.
Three generations of rocketeers were together that day - rocketeers
who had flown the German V -2 rockets from White Sands, present-day
NIMBUS and Discoverer satellite engineers, and the model rocketeers
who will be the astronautics engineers ten years from now.
Two new, honest-to-Wernher scale models are now available in
kit form. These are real scale, not semi-scale.
Estes Industries Saturn-Ib is worth its $9.50 price, if you are
an advanced modeler looking for a real challenge. It is a highly
detailed scale model. (Photos appeared January issue.) It has been
accurately scaled from NASA drawings. For those of you who wish
to get scale substantiation data so that you can fly Saturn-Ib in
contests, write to the Public Affairs Office, NASA Marshall Space
Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. and ask for a set of the special
modelmaker's drawings of the bird which they have prepared for model
Nike Smoke Sounding Rocket Plans
Posted September 21, 2014