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Homebuilt $70,000 single-person spacecraft tested

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June 6, 2011

The world's smallest crewed spacecraft, built in Denmark, was successfully test-launched f...

The world's smallest crewed spacecraft, built in Denmark, was successfully test-launched from the Baltic Sea last week (Photo: Copenhagen Suborbitals)

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Sending a man to outer space in a homebuilt spacecraft worth US$70,000 may seem like a crazy idea to most of us, but not for a Danish group of enthusiasts who call themselves Copenhagen Suborbitals. Their shoestring-budget single-person flying bullet might have come one step closer to an actual manned flight, thanks to a partially successful test flight last Friday (June 3).

The amateur space engineers prepared everything just as if it was going to be a real flight to space, apart from the passenger, which actually was a crash-test dummy. The rocket HEAT 1-X was launched from a floating ramp called "Sputnik" on the Baltic Sea, carrying a single-person standing capsule known as Tycho Brache (named after a Danish astronomer).

All went as planned, apart from the fact that the parachute was torn apart due to air drag and didn't fully open. It was meant to slow down the spacecraft's return, so as it turned out, HEAT 1-X ended up splashing down to the water after just a few minutes of flight.

The world's smallest crewed spacecraft, built in Denmark, was successfully test-launched f...

Maximum altitude achieved during the test flight is estimated at 2.8 km (1.74 miles), which is far less than the Suborbitals team planned (around 15 km/9.32 miles). For comparison, the Kármán line, commonly referred to as the border of outer space, lies at an altitude of 100 km (62 miles).

This wasn't the first attempt at launching the bizarre spacecraft. Copenhagen Suborbitals planned the test for last year, though it failed because of a malfunctioning hairdryer, which was used as a heater inside the rocket. This time the team had more luck, and despite the parachute's failure, they celebrated the fact that the rocket actually flew.

Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson are the brains behind the non-profit Copenhagen Suborbitals organization, having worked on the project since May 2008. Their aim is to lift people to altitudes as high as 120 km (74.56 miles). The person standing in the Tycho Brache capsule would actually not be a pilot or an astronaut, as the machine is controlled remotely from the Earth. "He's not doing anything with the spacecraft; he's not flying it in any way. He's there as an observer," Madsen explained in a New Scientist interview.

Taking into account that the rocket is just 65 cm (25.59 inches) in diameter, it will require lots of courage to take the trip. For certain individuals, however, the chance to be an "observer" will doubtless be a sufficient reward.

13 Comments

how good of the onerable and esteemed Gizmag to purvey a budget project, for once,,. Yes, I am also a Dane, - but, I don't like to fall down.

Algreen-ussing Søren
6th June, 2011 @ 09:03 am PDT

But is it Green? It's not any good if it's not Green. And how much C02 will it exhaust into space? Might that cause the Sun to warm?

Todd Dunning
6th June, 2011 @ 10:59 am PDT

Why is it that the only "creative expressions" that the people who write this articles use, is really pin headed terms like "bizarre spacecraft" and "weird".

And the same stupid words are used for sea life and all sorts of things. Stupid cliches come from stupid people.

How about "Amazing", "Far Out", "Incredible" and "Super Cool" etc.....

Provided that ALL the bigs are sorted out on this - I'd be in like Flynn on riding this one.

Mr Stiffy
6th June, 2011 @ 06:27 pm PDT

I am curious to know how they are going to keep the "Observer" alive. Do the attach electodes to the chest and revive them once the ascent is over? I mean all that blood rushing from the head to the feet away from the brain and the heart. That couldn't be good for you.

Could be why at NASA and in Russia they launch with the feet elevated lying on their back.

Its an assisted suicide machine made to look like a rocket, to get around the Euthanasia laws.

Foxy1968
6th June, 2011 @ 08:53 pm PDT

Perhaps the USA should LOOK into saving tons of dough by using this group's skill.

WDR031927
7th June, 2011 @ 06:45 am PDT

How utterly, completely, geekily cool is this!

Foxy, a pressure suit takes care of the blood-rushing-to-the-feet bid'ness.

JW

yodecat
7th June, 2011 @ 07:06 am PDT

"This wasn't the first attempt at launching the bizarre spacecraft. Copenhagen Suborbitals planned the test for last year, though it failed because of a malfunctioning hairdryer..."

BEST.LINE.EVER!

amindisaterriblething
7th June, 2011 @ 07:26 am PDT

Do they have anyone named Desdemona on the crew? ;)

Gregg Eshelman
7th June, 2011 @ 04:13 pm PDT

Um , do they know that outer space is WAY colder than that and an electric hairdryer is not going to be enough to keep anything warm for very long.

What about cooling for when you get too hot from the sun?

So when the craft is turned towards the sun ; You get instantly cooked.

You get flash frozen on one side and fried crispy on the other side kind of like a dinner in a microwave.

Jim Andrews
7th June, 2011 @ 05:08 pm PDT

Very Cool! And CERN has captured and held antimatter atoms for a record 16 minutes.

Now all we need is for Zefram Cochrane to be born and we're SET!

Lamar Havard
7th June, 2011 @ 06:57 pm PDT

Jim, it's unlikely this vehicle is meant to keep people in space for very long; it's certainly not going to place them into orbit. I think of it as a sort of "inverse bungee jump". :-)

alcalde
11th June, 2011 @ 12:50 pm PDT

The hairdryer was there to warm a LOX valve as I understand it. They actually LAUNCHED something, and should be extremely proud of that!

And yes - I would like to be there when the bugs are sorted...

Sture Bloom
20th June, 2011 @ 03:52 pm PDT

An amazing effort - and just to think that so far they've achieved limited flight for less than the cost of a set of tyres for NASA's transporter!

Count me in for a flight as well. We'll all be queuing up for one :o)

FrankR
4th April, 2012 @ 08:18 pm PDT
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