The Phoenix Hybrid Sounding Rocket Program (HSRP) was started at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2010 within the School of Engineering’s Aerospace Systems Research Institute (ASRI). The program started in the context of the South African government’s prioritisation of skills and resource development in space-related research. South Africa does not offer a sounding rocket launch service in support of the country’s or the African continent’s scientific endeavours who have to instead use expensive foreign sounding rocket service providers.

The objectives of the program are:

  • to develop a series of civilian sounding rockets that have the capacity to meet the requirements of the South African and African scientific communities
  • to stimulate novel research into hybrid propulsion systems at UKZN
  • to inspire students to pursue graduate studies at the School
  • to generate interest in rocket propulsion, flight dynamics and airframe design in South Africa generally


The work done in the program includes:

  • Hybrid Rocket Performance Simulator (HYROPS) code.
  • Hybrid Rocket Performance Code (HRPC).
  • Lab-scale and flight-scale hybrid rocket motor development and testing.
  • Laboratory-scale test facility.
  • Development of hybrid sounding rocket vehicles.
  • Hybrid motor closed-loop throttling.
  • Metallised fuel grain research.
  • Filament-wound oxidiser tank development.  


The program has developed two flight vehicles to date with the third currently in development: