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'Open-source' Danish rocket lifts off

The Heat-X1 rocket, built by a non-profit organisation, has carried the prototype Tycho Brahe spacecraft into the skies after a successful take-off in the Baltic Sea
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1 of 8 Sonny Windstrup

Tycho Brahe fuelling

A Danish non-profit organisation has successfully launched a rocket and prototype spacecraft in a test intended to precede a full-scale, private and non-commercial manned mission into space.

Copenhagen Suborbitals's Heat-1X rocket — pictured above prior to launch with engineer and co-founder Peter Madsen inspecting the main oxidiser valve — took off from a platform in the Baltic Sea on Friday, reaching an altitude of 2.8km.

It was the second launch attempt by the team. A liquid oxygen valve failure stymied the previous attempt, made in September. The valve failed because of a power cut to a 100 Krone (£12) hairdryer being used to keep it hot.

The rocket held a dummy of the Tycho Brahe spacecraft, which is designed to carry one person on a sub-orbital trip into space. The craft is named after a 16th-century Danish nobleman who came up with remarkably accurate astronomical observations for his time.

According to legend, Brahe was also notable for keeping a clairvoyant dwarf named Jepp as a jester, and having an elk that died after falling down the stairs drunk. The nobleman also wore a fake nose made of gold and silver after losing his real nose in a duel.

Copenhagen Suborbitals describes its donation- and sponsor-funded project as "open source", and the group says it intends to share as much technical information as is possible within EU export control laws. According to the New Scientist, the firm built the rocket for around £42,000.


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2 of 8 Bo Tornvig

Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen

Engineers Kristian von Bengtson (left) and Peter Madsen are the founders of Copenhagen Suborbitals.

When the real Tycho Brahe spacecraft becomes operational, Madsen will be the first to fly it, while von Bengtson will wait until the first proper low-Earth orbit (LEO) flight.


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3 of 8 Sonny Windstrup

Tycho Brahe antenna

Above, radio specialist Thomas Scherrer adjusts the telemetry antenna array.

The array provided two-way data links with the spacecraft, including continuous video.


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4 of 8 Bo Tornvig

Madsen checks valve

Pictured above, the Heat-1X rocket is fuelled prior to launch.


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5 of 8 Bo Tornvig

Heat-1X lifts off

All systems are go — Heat-1X and its Tycho Brahe payload begin lift-off.


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6 of 8 Thomas Pedersen

Attack of the vapours

The 'Sputnik' platform, built in an abandoned shipyard in Copenhagen, has an attack of the vapours as Heat-1X takes off.


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7 of 8 Thomas Pedersen

Heat-1X in flight

The Heat-1X rocket, shown here in flight, is 9.5m tall and weighs more than 2,000kg.

The dummy Tycho Brahe spacecraft on top is smaller than the final version, which is yet to be built. The real thing will be 3.5m long and weigh 300kg, including the astronaut.


See more space photos on ZDNet UK.

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8 of 8 Bo Tornvig

Recovery of Tycho Brahe

The rocket broke up when it hit the sea, but the dummy spacecraft emerged unscathed.


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