Nike Smoke

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Nike Smoke
Nike Smoke inspection-01.jpg
A Nike Smoke being inspected.
FunctionSounding missile
Country of origin United States
Height6 m
Width0.43 m
Mass708 kg
Launch history
Launch sitesWallops Island, Cape Kennedy
First flightMay 17, 1962
First stage
EnginesThiokol M5 propeller
Thrust217 kN
Burn time3.5 seconds

The Nike Smoke was a sounding rocket, part of a research project on the behavior of the horizontal winds in the upper atmosphere, developed by NASA in the 1960s based on the Nike booster. The goal was to obtain more accurate data on the behavior of these winds in order to guide the design of new vehicles.[1]


In the early 1960s, NASA's Nike Smoke project was developed at the Langley Research Center and Marshall Space Flight Center laboratories, to study horizontal wind speed and its influence on rocket flights. The Nike booster was chosen due to its high reliability and availability, as thousands were manufactured to meet the requirements of Project Nike.[1]

Its cone-shaped tip, with an air intake tube, a tank and an exhaust valve, was specially developed for the mission. In the tank were placed 37 litres of titanium tetrachloride in order to produce a highly reflective and dense smoke trail, hence its name. This trail extended from an altitude of around 6,000 feet to 75,000 feet.[1] The triangulation of this trail provided data way more precise than previous tests made with high-altitude balloons.[1]


Data comparison between a balloon (orange dots) and a Nike Smoke (white line), with the latter showing higher precision.

The project's head was Harold Tolefson, along with his engineers Charles Dozier, Robert Henry and Robert Miller.[2]

It was intended to launch about a hundred rockets within a 1-year period from Cape Kennedy, where the launch site was built in what would later become Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The first launch was successfully conducted in May 17, 1962.[3]

From May 1962 until May 1963, a total of 55 Nike Smokes were launched from Cape Kennedy. From July 1963 until January 1965, more than 70 Nike Smokes were launched from their Wallops Island launch site. The rocket proved to be an effective and cheap method to study wind patterns at high altitudes. [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d NASA_Cultural_Resources-Nike Smoke Youtube video.
  2. ^ a b "Model Rocketry - October 1969" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 43".

External links[edit]