Russia, the US, China... now Denmark to send man into space

Duo prepare to launch £41,000 rocket that will eventually fly one of them 100km high

The Soviet Union gave the world cosmonauts, America followed with astronauts and China eventually added its own Sinonauts. If all goes to plan on a floating platform in the Baltic sea during the next three weeks, a 63cm-wide rocket hand-built by two self-employed engineers will herald the unlikely arrival of a new breed of space pioneers – the Danonauts.

Depending on weather conditions and some last-minute fine tuning of its oxygen-fuelled engine, the Hybrid Exo Atmospheric Transporter or Heat 4 rocket is scheduled to launch from a barge off the wind-swept island of Bornholm before mid-September. In so doing it will bring significantly closer the day when Denmark – a country hitherto better known for the combustive qualities of vikings and roll mops – breaks into the exclusive club of four nations to have sent a human being into space.

Blast off for the 1.6-tonne projectile, which is due to take place during a 17-day window beginning this weekend, will be the culmination of six years' work for Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, the two Danish enthusiasts who have dedicated themselves to the successful launch of the world's first amateur-built rocket capable of manned space flight.

Although the first flight will be carrying a crash test dummy, it is intended that Heat 4 will eventually take a human in the shape of former Nasa scientist Mr von Bengtson into sub-orbital space inside a capsule barely big enough to contain his body in a standing position and topped with a thick glass dome allowing the one-man crew a 360-degree view of a rapidly-shrinking Earth.

If all goes to plan, the 9 metre-high rocket will burn through its fuel of liquid oxygen and solid rubber in about 60 seconds to propel the craft at 1,250mph to a height of more than 100km where it will experience weightlessness for about five minutes before drifting back to the Baltic sea slowed by a parachute.

All this for approximately €50,000 (£41,000) paid entirely by donations of between 10p and £2,000 from members of the public and sponsors. The cost is about 0.02 per cent of the £290m average cost of a Nasa space mission.

Mr von Bengtson, 34, who once built the world's largest home-made submarine and co-founded the Copenhagen Suborbitals organisation behind the plan with Mr Madsen, told The Independent that their mission was driven by a desire to prove that the cosmos is accessible without the backing of a multi-billion dollar state space agency.

He said: "I think our entire budget would barely cover the cost of the key hole on the space shuttle. We want to show people that space doesn't need to be the exclusive domain of big money investments where everything is made out of titanium in clean rooms by people wearing white slippers. We want to give space another face.

"It will be a very big day for us to launch the rocket. We have made the project as open as possible. People make suggestions via our website and some come down to volunteer and work in the workshop. It has been a kind of collective effort. It sounds strange for a scientific project but it is like an artistic endeavour trying to bring it all together."

The test flight, which will gather data to ensure that the Tycho Brahe capsule provides sufficient protection from the heat and G-force generated by the 210,000 horsepower rocket, will be the first of four ahead of a possible manned mission within three years by Mr von Bengtson, who worked on Nasa's human space flight programme before becoming frustrated with the slow progress of the American space agency.

The Danish rocket's journey beyond the upper reaches of the atmosphere will be similar to that planned for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic venture, which is expected to begin operations by early 2012 carrying six passengers at a time paying $200,000 (£130,000) per seat into weightlessness on board a reusable space ship.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links