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By day, plasterer Phil Vukovich reaches for the ceiling but by night he dreams of reaching for the sky with his home-built rocket.

In the shed at his North Shore home he has built a 2.4m rocket from the same strong and light glass-fibre composite materials used in fishing rods.

"My goal is to send it 30,000 feet [9144m]."

That's nearly twice the vertical distance achieved by the New Zealand record holder in experimental class rockets, Martin van Tiel.

Dr van Tiel, who has a doctorate in chemistry and makes and displays fireworks, set the record of 4.5km two years ago at the Rocketry Association's national launch day at Taupiri, south of Huntly.

Weighing 25kg, his rocket motor delivered 200kg of thrust for six seconds, propelled by the same powerful chemical fuel that is used in space shuttle boosters.

The feat set Mr Vukovich thinking about topping it at this year's Taupiri launch day on February 3.

"I'm a plasterer, not a rocket scientist, but you don't need to be one. It's the information age; everything you need to know is available on the internet."

For five years Mr Vukovich has built rockets, starting with a small one on a stick and continually building more sophisticated and powerful ones.

"Each success brings you higher."

But last year came a personal breakthrough.

He had the thrill of sending a prototype of his latest rocket an estimated 4km.

"Unfortunately, we lost it for five days - it was windy and it drifted away on its parachute to land in dense bush - and its altimeter was damaged, so we can't be sure about how high it went."

He called that rocket "Sugar Rush" because sugar is a key ingredient of the propellant that this experimental rocket uses.

In his shed, using a cut-down electric frypan to fit as a hot plate under a big cooking pot, he concocted a toffee-like potion from sugar and an oxidiser. This propellant was poured into tubes that fit in the "motor", which is a capsule of steel and aluminium that fits inside the airframe.

He drilled a hole through the centre of the propellant so, when flare-lit from above, it burned from top to bottom.

"You are pressuring the inside and then releasing it out - a bit like letting go of a balloon." Sugar Rush had about 4.8kg of propellant and its successor will contain 15kg if it is to hiss and roar to record-breaking heights.

But Mr Vukovich says the record will not now be attempted at the national launch but in March-April.

The new rocket's metal parts, made by local engineering shops, are ready for assembly and he has designed an electronic recovery system so the rocket's landing place will be revealed via text messages and a unit like those used for tracking stolen cars.

Mr Vukovich says other problems must be overcome before he is satisfied all is set for such an attempt.

"At its peak the motor will be pushing half a tonne of thrust to propel a 30kg rocket at 2000km/h."

His new rocket will be in action at the national launch day at Taupiri. The public is welcome at the day.

SEE ALSO www.nzrocketry.org.nz