Open Source Outer Space: How A Couple Of Guys Are Building A Homemade Rocket Ship for the Masses
Inside Copenhagen Suborbitals, the most powerful amateur rocket project ever flown
Testing of Launch Escape System Thomas Pedersen/Copenhagen Suborbitals
Anyone with enough brains and balls can build their own rocket and fly it to space. Or at least that’s what the non-profit, open source space project Copenhagen Suborbitals wants to prove.
In September, Motherboard scuttled out to Denmark to meet the pioneers behind this new wave in do-it-yourself space exploration to find out how these backyard space rockets are made. Founded in 2008 by two amateur engineers and entrepreneurs, Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, Copenhagen Suborbitals is now comprised of a coterie of 20-plus specialists determined to create the first homemade, manned spacecraft to go into suborbital flight.
If successful--a manned launch is projected for sometime in the next few years--Denmark would be the fourth country in the world, after China, to successfully launch a manned rocket into space. What’s exceptional about such a feat, if completed, will be Kristian and Peter's ability to do so on a shoestring budget of a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, versus the tens of millions of dollars it costs government-funded agencies and the rising tide of private companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic or Bigelow.
And so far, their accomplishments are impressive: their solid-and-liquid-fuel rocket, the HEAT-1X, is the first "amateur" rocket flown with a payload of a full-size crash test dummy, and the first to perform a successful Main Engine Cut-Off, or MECO command, and the first launched from a "low budget" sea-based platform. It's also the most powerful amateur rocket ever flown.
If you’re trying to go to space, there’s no point in being tight-lipped about it. By making the spaceflight project open-source, Copenhagen Suborbitals were not only able to attract space-crazed specialists to volunteer their human capital in exchange for being part of something new and exciting, but they also raised donations, product support and constructive feedback from avid followers from all over the world. They haven't specifically said how much they need to raise, but they estimate that a typical launch should eventually cost 50,000 Euros, or about $63,000 dollars. Today, they continue to raise donations using an IndieGogo campaign.
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