A supersonic rocket developed by Canterbury University students is expected to break a New Zealand altitude record this weekend.

The rocket, which is 41mm in diameter and about 0.5m long, was developed by the university's rocketry research group.

Project leader Dr Chris Hann, a senior lecturer at the university's electrical and computer engineering department, said a new set of sensors and electronics had been implemented on the rocket including GPS and a transmitter for radar tracking.

"The rocket is expected to reach an altitude of 2.6km with maximum speed of 1425km/h, in less than two seconds,'' he said.

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Dr Hann said successful recovery of the data would ensure the rocket would break the New Zealand altitude record by a large margin, for its specific class of motor.

"Two final year mechatronics students, David Wright and George Buchanan, have been working on upgrading the UC rocketry programme to full control at supersonic speeds,'' he said.

"The smaller rocket is an important part of this programme since it allows very fast speeds at low altitudes that significantly simplify launch planning and recovery.''

The rocket will be launched on Sunday on Kaitorete Spit, Banks Peninsula.