School of Engineering



The UKZN Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG), led by Mechanical Engineering Senior Lecturer Dr Jean Pitot, has released the official video of their recent Phoenix rocket flight test campaign, held in March.  Click HERE to watch the video.

The campaign was run over several weeks at the Denel Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape and resulted in the student-driven team breaking the African hybrid rocket altitude record.

The new record-breaking mark is 17.9 km, achieved with a Phoenix-1B Mk IIr vehicle. The Mk IIr rocket has state-of-the-art components, including a carbon fibre propellant tank and silica-phenolic/graphite nozzle.

A second rocket, the Mk I, was also launched during the campaign and reached an altitude of 11.1 km, also breaking the previous African record of around 10 km.

ASReG’s 2021 flight test campaign was highly successful, validating the design and modelling work carried out by postgraduate students and providing over 20 UKZN students and staff with invaluable experience in a world-class flight test environment.

The official campaign video was produced by Donald Fitzgerald, a graduate and former student of ASReG’s space propulsion research programme. It incorporates footage from multiple cameras strategically positioned during the flight tests of both rockets, including aerial footage supplied by drone pilot Richard Matchett. Denel Overberg Test Range also provided high-speed camera footage on the launch pad and imagery from their state-of-the-art cinetheodolite tracking cameras, which followed both rockets throughout their sub-orbital flights.

Both of the hybrid rockets carried telemetry systems developed by ASReG’s industrial partner, DIY Electronics, and these were able to capture high-altitude video that was beamed back to receivers on the ground.

The 11 minute long film captures the excitement of the launches themselves and some of the unseen background work that goes into a rocket campaign.

ASReG’s research is focused on space propulsion technologies. In addition to the Phoenix rocket work, the group is pursuing the development of an indigenous satellite launch capability. The programme is mainly funded by the Department of Science and Innovation, together with industry support from local companies including Rheinmetall Denel Munition, DIY Electronics, Petrawell, AC Industries, Swagelok and Hulamin.

Author:  Michael Brooks (

Photograph: Supplied


For further information on UKZN’s aerospace research, visit