Homemade Rocket Successfully Launches

A rocket carrying a dummy achieved a successful launch last month from a platform in the Baltic Sea. The craft, created by Danish group Copenhagen Suborbital over the course of the last few years, was aiming for an altitude of around 50,000 feet for the launch; it is not yet clear what altitude the HEAT 1-X rocket booster and the Tycho Brahe capsule achieved.

The September 2010 flight failed to achieve full burn, a result, reports say, of a consumer hair dryer failing and a nozzle icing up. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

The project is the result of an “open-source” cooperative among space enthusiasts, including a well known Danish inventor, Peter Madsen and former NASA engineer Kristian von Bengtson, so whether it qualifies as amateur or not, the achievement is nonetheless remarkable and an important step toward an actual space flight. The rocket/capsule cost just around $75,000 to develop and is powered by a rocket motor using oxygen and polyurethane for fuel. The project has relied on private contributions for its funding. It is also not clear how much the launch and preparations for it cost. Regardless, in relative terms, the costs involved were exceedingly modest.

Madsen plans to be the “man” in the Tycho Brahe capsule after a few more successful unmanned tests. On the test flight the capsule carried a dummy in the seating/crouching position that the would be human astronaut would assume. The capsule has a capacity of one, and even then it’s cramped. When an actual astronaut boards the capsule, he will need to be wearing a pressure suit and a compact parachute.


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