“We are the world’s only manned, amateur space program. We’re located in Copenhagen with followers from all over the world,” proclaims Copenhagen Suborbitals’ webpage. “One of us will fly into space.”
To send a human being past the Karman line, or 100km above sea level – the accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space – with a rocket built from scratch is Copenhagen Suborbitals’ ambitious volunteer space program.
World’s only amateur space program
The world’s only amateur space program was set up in 2008 with the aim of achieving a manned suborbital space flight. Since 2011, the group of volunteer space engineers has built and flown 6 homebuilt rockets and space capsules from a ship in the Baltic Sea.
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One of its original founders was Peter Madsen, who was convicted last year of murdering Swdish journalist Kim Wall. He left Copenhagen Suborbitals in 2014 and was not involved with the project after this time.
Scandinavian DIY Rocket Scientists
The Copenhagen suborbitals are unpaid volunteers and funded by donations. Individual donators from all over the world share the members’ dreams of amateur spaceflights.
“If you were to compare the way we operate with Nasa or ESA, or some of the big government agencies, the comparison is absurd,” says team member Mads Wilson, Communications Lead for Copenhagen Suborbitals. “Our total annual budget is less than ten per cent on what Nasa spends on coffee for their employees.”
The non-profit program is staffed entirely by 50-60 volunteer specialists, and is wholly crowdfunded. For practical and cost reasons most of the test launches take place in the military test areas at sea.
Their control vessel M/V Vostok arrived a cold December morning in 2012 after a 30-hours and 200 nautical miles journey from Norway. During the tour the ship was boarded, during a check stop, by the Swedish coast guard.
Launching rockets from sailing platforms
The plan is to fly a space capsule with a designated astronaut straight up to just over the Karman line, from where it falls free straight back and land by parachute in the sea. Copenhagen Suborbitals is the only space organization that launches rockets from a sailing platform in international waters, since it’s virtually impossible to get permission to do it from the ground in any country.
Mads Wilson has a degree in Physics and Computer Science and is an IT consultant. He has been in the advertising business for many years in the technical side of advertising. He heard about this project locally and had always been fascinated with space – the rest is history.
“Our guiding principle is to build space craft as simple and cheap as possible. The systems just need to be good enough, not extremely efficient, since we’ll fly a person only just over the edge of space. This allows us to use low-tech production methods in the workshop, and to avoid expensive, exotic materials,” proclaims their homepage.
Scandinavian DIY Rocket Scientists, written by Tor Kjolberg