Phobos 2 was built for the BBC 'Tomorrow's World Live' Rocket Challenge TV Show early in 2000. The TV show aimed to show three teams competing to break the 14,006 feet altitude record for a UK built amateur rocket, set by MARS in Nevada, U.S.A. in 1998. The MARS rocket that was to be used to defend our record, was a very small and very simple design.
Where the other two teams opted for large, two stage vehicles using two rocket motors, MARS opted for a "Boosted Dart
" design, that used a single, high thrust 1st stage solid rocket motor that would catapult a small, heavy and low drag dart off the top of the booster at motor burn-out.
The technical challenge of fitting two commercial altimeter/accelerometers, an audio-locator, a radio transmitter, a parachute and a streamer into a dart that was less than an inch in diameter, and less than three feet long, taught the team a lot about how to design payloads to fit into a very small volume!
The rocket launched perfectly, accelerating to over 900 mph in three seconds. The dart separated at burn out and all sections of the rocket deployed their recovery systems. Whilst the flight and recovery was perfect however, unfortunately, the radio locator used to find the dart stopped working on landing, when a connection came loose, and so the dart was not found for over two weeks, meaning that the altimeters ran out of battery power, and the altitude record was lost. This failure was instrumental in spurring MARS on into undertaking the Phobos-3 and Phobos-EAV Boosted Dart launches later in 2000, since the fact that the flight itself was successful, vindicated the strategy of using boosted darts.