Launching a Homemade Spacecraft Is Not Easy
After many failures, Danish scientists successfully launch an Internet-funded rocket
A group of Danish rocket scientists just offered hope to amateur astronaut wannabes worldwide with the successful launch of what they hope will be the world's first homemade spacecraft for human passengers. Under blue skies Friday, the open-sourced, donation-funded Copenhagen Suborbitals fired a rocket off of a platform in the Baltic Sea towards the heavens at supersonic speeds. It's arguably their most significant step yet in making it accomplishing their goal of sending tourists into space in their sort of scary-looking space capsules at a reasonable price. The rocket soared two miles into the air, breaking the sound barrier during its 21-second flight, and fell back to Earth sustaining only minor damage. The team celebrated by drinking champagne in boats.
Led by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, the sixteen-person team built the rocket in an abandoned shipyard in Copenhagen using "'ordinary' materials for cheaper and faster production." Named Tycho Brahe after a mustachioed Danish nobleman who made a number of breakthroughs in astronomy during the 16th-century, "the micro-sized spacecraft" is designed to carry one passenger into space on top of a high-powered rocket called the HEAT-1X. Last year, heavily publicized but unsuccessful launch attempt sent the team back to the lab to make improvements, and though the rocket can now fly, at least one set of burners malfunctioned. Instead of adding lift as the rocket flew up, the fired on the way down, sending the spacecraft and "Rescue Randy," a dummy aboard, hurdling Earthward at Supersonic speeds.
Misfires aside, the seemingly ramshackle team's accomplishment could one day be viewed as a milestone in the world of space exploration. (It's like that Billy Bob Thornton movie but with less government intervention.) The plexi-glass domed spacecraft is designed for affordable trips to the cosmos, and with a budget of only about $60,000, a ride on the Tycho Brahe could be a bargain compared Richard Branson's galactic tickets. Check out the full explanation given by the founders at a TED talk: