British company Starchaser Industries is to send a British astronaut to an altitude of 10,000ft (3km) by the end of 2001, following the latest successful rocket launch from Morecambe Bay.
Starchaser recently launched its two-stage solid fuel Starchaser Discovery rocket. At 3,000ft it split into two stages; the first stage parachuted safely to the ground, the second stage fired its motors and soared to an altitude of 19,000ft before also parachuting safely back to earth.
The next rocket planned is the Nova, which will be unveiled later this year. Starchaser’s founder Steven Bennett said the new rocket might run on four-star petrol because solid propellant is too expensive and much more difficult to handle.
This may sound unusual, but Bennett first came to public attention a few years ago when he was using sugar as a fuel for his early rockets with sponsorship from Tate & Lyle.
The Nova will have unmanned launches next year followed by a manned mission, which Bennett himself wants to pilot.
By August 2003 Starchaser Industries hopes to win the $10m prize offered by the American X Prize Foundation, meeting the challenge of being the first non-governmental organisation to put three astronauts into space and return them safely. Technically speaking, space starts at an altitude of 100km.
The company currently works in cooperation with the University of Salford, where Bennett lectures students on space technology. He said: `We’re always looking for people to get involved. We will probably need to have a team of around 100 people for the manned launch.’
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