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
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas