Friday, July 11, 2008

Starchaser to Launch Prototype Rocket

Starchaser Industries, in conjunction with Salford University in the UK, has announced its intention to launch the UK's largest ever rocket in September of 2009. The Nova 2 rocket is 58 feet long, and the launch is intended to test the design's safety systems. A small capsule will be launched from the rocket during ascent, and if all goes well, will safely parachute to the ground.

This is all in an effort to develop - you guessed it - a manned rocket that Starchaser intends to use for tourism launches. The flights are expected to be 20 minutes long, and will include 3 to 4 minutes of weightlessness.

I have only mentioned Starchaser briefly in passing, so now would be a good time to talk a bit more about them.

Starchaser began in 1992 as a group of volunteers headed up by Steve Bennett with an objective of developing an inexpensive method of delivering small payloads into orbit. In 1996, they launched the Starchaser 2, a 21-foot rocket that was then the largest civilian rocket ever to be launched in Europe. They soon set up a base of operations at Staford university and began executing other launches. In 1998, they were incorporated, and have since began manufacturing and selling rocket parts. To date, they have made 16 launch attempts, 16 of which were successful.

Their interest in space tourism is a more recent development. The Nova was launched in 2001, the first private reusable rocket capable of carrying people into space. With the Nova 2 getting ready to launch, Starchaser has also developed a huge educational wing of operations, visiting over 200 schools and educating 150,000 students every year.

I, for one, wish them luck.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

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