One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1In a rocket: a form of engine in which the exhaust gases emerge from an annular opening and converge so as to enclose a cone or spike of gas pumped in from the engine, or (in later designs) emerge from a rectangular opening so as to converge around a linear wedge-shaped space; (also) an engine in which a solid conical plug takes the place of the gaseous cone or spike.
2In a missile: a device in the nose which extends forwards to create a shock wave in advance of the body, thereby reducing drag at supersonic speeds.
1960s; earliest use found in The Los Angeles Times. From aero- + spike.
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