Smoke on the water...but no fire in the sky, and both were what the novice aerospace company, Copenhagen Suborbitals, wanted to see at the first launch of their HEAT1X (for Hybrid Exo Atmospheric Transporter) private manned space test.

Containing a full size mannequin that sat in an upright, crouched position, the launch vehicle and payload - descriptively portrayed - appeared not entirely unlike a gigantic roll-on deodorant bottle because the top of the capsule has a transparent semicircular observation window on top.


From a special raft that served as a launchpad and floated 12 nautical miles off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea just east of southern Sweden, the homemade rocket built by two Danes was reported to have failed due to problems with a common, off the local store shelf item: a hair dryer. Using 14 volunteers to attempt the sea launch from creator Madsen's homemade mini-submarine, which is his private residence, the company's rocket is intended to carry their proposed suborbital manned vehicle, a single passenger re-entry capsule called the Tycho Brahe-1, to an intended height of beyond 50 miles.

The low-tech glitch has now delayed the first flight of their prototype until at least next June, said the engineer and inventive designer, Peter Madsen, who raised over $70,000 and founded the company along with Kristian von Bengston, who has NASA experience, two years ago. Undaunted by the setback, the company states that it will pursue their ambition of sending a pressure-suited human to a high altitude peak from which parachutes will then float the jettisoned capsule to the ground while the passenger gets a dynamic view of earth through the Plexiglas half-bubble window.

While being delayed often due to weather in the unpredictable Baltic Sea, the venture captured the imagination of space fans in Scandinavia as well as qualified experts. Many had expressed skepticism - not in the least due to conventional, inexpensive parts and materials being used for the construction.

According to rocketry-versed wizards who watched, the launch failed due to an ignition problem, and company statements hinted that a bad decision might have been involved. This same glitch, concerning fuel warmth in the system had been solved in early testing by using the blow-dry electrical appliance that was purchased commercially from a retailer's shelf.

Finesses for the pilot-passenger, who will be subject to about three times the weight of gravity during the one minute ascension, include controls in the cramped capsule for an oxygen mask, a vomit bag, a camera, an emergency exit hatch and manual override controls that control booster separation.
Already flight tested, the rocket itself is about 35 feet long, and after testing and rejecting paraffin wax and polyurethane as rocket fuels, the firm settled on solid epoxy fuel with the liquid oxidizer nitrous oxide to propel the missile. It is the first design in a proposed series of vehicles from Copenhagen Suborbitals that intend to pave the way for manned space flight on a micro size spacecraft.

Vowing to share technical information as much as possible with other hopeful aerospace enthusiasts, Copenhagen Suborbitals says that they hope to accomplish the actual manned flight within four years and, in doing so, demonstrate that, with limited finances, anyone can send a rocket into space. They add that when this is actually accomplished, it will also enroll Denmark in the club of those few nations to successfully send human beings into space.

Source: Copenhagen Suborbitals |