2 Danes launch home-built rocket over Baltic sea

June 3, 2011 - 1:59 PM

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Two Danish space enthusiasts on Friday successfully launched a homemade unmanned 30-foot (9-meter) rocket over the Baltic Sea.

Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson used a barge near the Danish island of Bornholm as a launch pad for their 1.6 ton rocket, which flew some five miles (eight kilometers) high into the blue sky.

"It was a fantastic flight," Madsen said after the projectile took off at 1432 GMT following an earlier ignition failure. "The joy was huge. I looked back at the launch ramp and then I realized it had gone."

The team, which calls itself Copenhagen Suborbitals, watched the takeoff quietly and then suddenly burst into jubilation and started hugging each other.

Their plan was for their 1.6 ton rocket, which they have named after a 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, to reach a height of 10 miles (16 kilometers). Their hope is that one day their spacecraft can send a human to the edge of space, commonly said to begin at about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level.

The team recovered the rocket almost intact in the sea. "All we're missing is a top lid," von Bengtson said.

It was the second time the amateur engineers attempted a launch after a faulty fuse thwarted an experiment in September.

The team was given permission from the Danish navy to use a military test zone where they anchored their floating barge, 18 miles (30 kilometers) east of the port of Nexoe.

The booster was jettisoned after it used up its fuel of liquid oxygen, while the spacecraft continued to ascend until it reached its maximum height. The capsule with its dummy descended but the parachutes failed to open properly.

"We had some recovery problems with the parachutes," von Bengtson said.

The project, which so far has cost more than $53,000 (euro37,000), is being financed by private sponsors and a few dozen companies, including Air Liquide SA, one of the world's biggest makers of industrial gases and Swedish specialty car maker Koenigsegg.