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British Rocket Skybolt 2 Launches Successfully

Ultimate Goal Is Space Tourism, Commercial Satellite Launch

A rocket fueled by recycled tires has been launched on its first test flight from a Ministry of Defence facility in northern England. The Skybolt 2 is the first step for Starchaser Industries, founded by entrepreneur Steve Bennett, towards eventually carrying tourists into space.

According to the Starchaser Facebook page, the flight, which has been sponsored by the University of Chester, had several goals, including engaging testing an an array of electronic instruments for use in future manned rockets; fly an accelerometer payload for Sheffield Hallam University; test a parachute recovery system for use in future manned rockets; engage young people and encourage them to pursue Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subject areas, and; serve as a springboard in pursuit of social funding which will support future Starchaser projects.

The U.K. newspaper The Telegraph reports that the only occupant of the rocket this time was a teddy bear that was on loan from a local elementary school. But the company eventually hopes to develop a manned spacecraft that will carry three people on suborbital trajectories.

That spacecraft would be carried by a much larger rocket, the Nova 2, also fueled in part by recycled tires. Bennett said that the first flight of the larger rocket is planned to take place in about 18 months.

The Skybolt 2 reached an altitude of 4,000 feet, according to the report.

According to the company website, Starchaser Industries is working on two concepts for the purpose of Space Tourism. The near term objective is the creation of a 3 person reusable space capsule called Thunderstar which will be used for sub-orbital flights in excess of 100km. The second system is a vertically launched 8 seat sub-orbital spaceplane that could be upgradeable for orbital applications.

Both the capsule and the space plane design feature pressurised environments where the occupants will be further protected by means of Russian Sokol derived spacesuits. Both spacecraft will also be fitted with a Launch Escape System (LES); the capsule will make use of a tower system whereas the spaceplane will utilize a system located to the aft of the vehicle.

All critical systems will be automated and protected by redundant backup systems. Taking the above safety features into account, the survivability from a catastrophic failure of hardware is considered close to 100% and significantly higher than that offered by contemporary Space Tourism systems. Along with space tourism, they also plan to launch micro-satellites for customers.

(Image from Facebook)

FMI: starchaser.co.uk

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