Amateur team to test manned spacecraft next week

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A group of Danish amateurs will next week launch its own rocket - with plans for a manned flight to follow if all goes well.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is a non-profit organisation funded entirely by sponsorship which has been working on the nine-meter rocket for more than five years. It's cost less than $70,000 to get this far.

The venture was founded by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen.

"Two rocket vehicles are under development," they say. "A small unmanned sounding rocket, named Hybrid Atmospheric Test Vehicle or HATV and a larger booster rocket named Hybrid Exo Atmospheric Transporter or HEAT, designed to carry a micro spacecraft into a suborbital trajectory in space."

The payload of the HEAT booster will be the micro spacecraft Tycho Brahe-1, which will contain a crash-test dummy. It can house one person - in rather cramped fashion - who, they say, will get an amazing view through the polymer plexiglass dome.

The booster's already been successfully test-fired, in February and May this year. For next Tuesday's launch from the Baltic sea, it will burn for about a minute.

The rocket should reach 2,000kmh before separating from the passenger capsule at about 150,000 meters - around 93 miles. The capsule will then float back to earth using three parachutes.

There's little in the way of guidance control. "By having a large launching tower, currently being developed, the rocket will be guided by passive rails until it have sufficient velocity to reach its apogee using only static fins," says the team.

If the team gets as far as a manned flight, it will make Finland only the fourth country in the world to do so - and the first to do it without government funding.