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Space Technology

A Grand Day Out For British Rocketman 122

Posted by timothy
from the low-grav-high-tea dept.
Instine writes "Salford University, in the UK, is showing an article suggesting that Britain's biggest ever rocket has been unveiled, by an academic planning a space tourism offering by 2013. 'Nova 2 qualifies as the biggest rocket ever created and flown from the UK mainland,' says Steve Bennett, Head of Salford's Space Technology Laboratory The current offering is said to amount to 20 minutes 'flight' and 3-4 mins floating. I'm not sure how much, but I'd pay for that."
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A Grand Day Out For British Rocketman

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  • Well.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Peter_The_Linux_Nerd (1292510) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:10AM (#24015329)
    It might the biggest but it's not the best, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwIhEDq6tdY [youtube.com]
    • by IrquiM (471313)

      Same guys as far as I can remember, so that doesn't count for anything

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Not same guys at all. The TG Relaint Robin was done by "The Rocket Men" which is Damian Hall and Colin Rowe. Nova, Nov2 2 is by Steve Bennett. As for counting I would ride in a vehicle desgined by Damian/Colin but would steer well clear of Steve Bennett.
        • Likewise, I'd ride any vehicle designed by Colin Rowe, he's a really good engineer. Damian's the front man, so if it were all him, you'd be likely to have an onboard bar and be missing something like the parachute ;-)
      • Re:Well.. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by RocketGeek (566822) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:12PM (#24022915) Homepage
        Not the same guys at all. In fact I was fortunate enough to help out on the launch of the Top Gear Reliant Robin, and the people behind the Robin are in a different league. They are really clued up and know what they are doing when it comes to launching stunt rockets. Ironically, they were building the Top Gear Reliant Robin Shuttle no more than a couple of miles from Bennett, and he had no idea :-)
  • Just enough time for a nice cup of tea.

    But seriously, its cool to see progress from all these small/private space companies.. onward and upward!

    • But seriously, its cool to see progress from all these small/private space companies..

      Correction: it would be nice to see some actual progress from these companies. So far all we've seen is "concept drawings" and announcement after announcement of what they're planning to do in the future. Paper and vapor.

      I wish them all luck and such, but I'll get excited when any of them actually puts people into LEO. Repeatably. Cheaper and safer then what we have now.

      I think Elon Musk is the prime example of a "space entrepreneur" who's been forced to eat humble pie after repeated failure of his gran

      • by HJED (1304957)
        RTFA it says that

        The Nova 2 has been created by Starchaser to test a safety system which, if successful, will form the design of an even bigger rocket to carry visitors into space.


        also i am quite sure you can't test a concept drawing

      • by damburger (981828)
        True. People who think they know a robust system from their work on websites and computer games have been somewhat shocked at how easy it is to make a big fireball instead of a working rocket.
  • by MjDelves (811950) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:12AM (#24015361) Journal
    From the article: "Steve Bennett who heads up the University's Space Technology Laboratory, will be presenting his 58ft Nova 2 rocket at the University and will discuss how his company, Starchaser Industries plans to launch it in September 2009 with the help of school pupils from across the UK. "

    .

    How many kids does it take to reach escape velocity??

  • "World's 5th richest enters poverty this week after purchasing a 20 minute flight in space. Fox asks this man, as he cries on the corner. 'was it worth it?'"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bonehead (6382)

      Excellent point.

      My main problem with nearly every space tourism idea that I've seen floated is that they all want to offer you a few minutes of zero g, and charge the price of a new car, or more.

      Maybe if I had a Bill Gates caliber bank account, I'd consider it. But for an average person, 4 minutes of ANYTHING, no matter how cool, just isn't worth the kind of money they're wanting to charge. Even if they throw in a smokin' hot hooker to be your seat-mate.

      They need some sort of a "space hotel" to make it wo

      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @11:42AM (#24017551) Homepage Journal

        Well, air travel used to be restricted to the very well-off, too. Remember the phrase "jet set"? For that matter, there was a time when cars were basically toys for rich eccentrics. If rich people are willing to pay a bunch of money for a few minutes of thrill ride, that's great; they're essentially funding the R&D that will eventually bring the cost down to where the rest of us can afford it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by fprintf (82740)

        I dunno, it seems there are lots of people, like former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who are willing to pay "the price of a car" for 4 minutes of fun.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          dunno, it seems there are lots of people, like former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who are willing to pay "the price of a car" for 4 minutes of fun.

          You misspelled "career."

      • by albyrne5 (893494)
        Oh I don't know. I did a parachute jump about ... er, 10 years ago. Just one. A static line jump, so I only had about 5 seconds of free-fall and about 5 or 10 mins of gliding down with the chute open and it's something I will never ever forget and always be grateful that I convinced myself to do it.
  • by stokessd (89903) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:14AM (#24015395) Homepage

    The FUSE Grommet, you forgot to light the fuse!!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fermion (181285)
      Here is the background [imdb.com], for those not in the know.

      More importantly, on the way up they forgot the parking brake, not to mention the crackers. If you have not seen the show, it is a beautiful thing to watch.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    of launching rockets from the UK Mainland?

    If you want to get into orbit, you need to launch as close to the equator as possible. That's why we launch from Florida, and the Europeans from Africa.

    This is like talking about the biggest rocket to be launched from Vermont. Guess that's not too big, either!

    • by AaronLawrence (600990) * on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:28AM (#24015589)

      Not necessarily. You can launch from anywhere, it just costs you more to accelerate (slightly less starting speed than at the equator) and possibly more to get into the orbit you want.

      Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome is further north than most of the UK and they certainly launch lots of stuff from there - though they prefer Baikonur, its politically more difficult....

    • by rpjs (126615)

      Unfortunately we leased the only remaining bit of the British Empire near the equator [wikipedia.org] to you lot back in 1976.

      However unless I'm very much mistaken a near-equatorial location is only advantageous for equatorial orbits, and a polar orbit can be launched from any latitude.

      • by dwye (1127395)

        Unfortunately we leased the only remaining bit of the British Empire near the equator to you lot back in 1976.

        According to the Wikipedia article, it is a joint base. Or do you think that the USAF will shoot down your rockets for having the temerity of challenging the agency that stole of USAF's rocketry program, and cancelled their Dyna-Soar program that would have built an un-Proxmireable space shuttle in the 1960s?

      • by Illbay (700081)
        But you guys run Diego Garcia along with us!


        C'mon, strap one o' those suckers to a 747 and tote 'er out there! Let's see how far she gets with a little more centrifugal "oomph" behind her!

        (I've ALWAYS wanted to conquer the solar system along with our Brit cousins! We can NEVER repay you enough for the British Invasion [wikipedia.org]!)

        • by rpjs (126615)

          I've ALWAYS wanted to conquer the solar system along with our Brit cousins!

          Only if we can call the joint venture "Spacefleet" and the spaceship "Anastasia".

    • by zappepcs (820751)

      The point is that you can ride the tube train to the launch site in the morning, and be home in time for evening tea.

      If you are not planning to leave Earth's gravity, there is no overwhelming need to have the extra orbital speed offered at the equator. If the flight plan is up, then back down again, you have to pay a lot of attention to the landing part as you take off. I suspect that launching from England augments the entire process, or curbs it to a joy ride rather than ISS replenishment mission.

    • by residieu (577863)
      They're not going for orbital flight, just going up for 20 minutes and falling back down.
    • by NCG_Mike (905098)
      As eddie izzard once quipped, "We haven't been into the space race as we can't build a long enough ladder".
    • Woah... before this discussion goes any further. You can launch into orbit from any longitude or latitude. It's easiest (takes less fuel) to get into orbit at the equator because that's where you have the most speed (Earth's rotational velocity). And its easiest to get into geosynchronous orbit from latitudes closest to the equator because the closer you are, the less inclination you can launch into.
  • by syrinx (106469) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:29AM (#24015601) Homepage

    Bennett went on to say that he is not the man they think he is at home, and that he will be burning up his fuse up there alone.

  • Eccentrics? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 19061969 (939279) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:31AM (#24015633)

    Quoth TFA: "Steve Bennett who heads up the University's Space Technology Laboratory, will be presenting his 58ft Nova 2 rocket at the University and will discuss how his company, Starchaser Industries plans to launch it in September 2009 with the help of school pupils from across the UK."

    There is something so British about that statement. I almost expected the guy to say, "well, I knocked it up in my garden shed at weekends with a friend of mine who is a keen amateur astronomer. We thought of getting some of the local schoolchildren to help out which would be good for their Scout's badges."

    I miss the old country sometimes even if we are often portrayed as a nation of lovable middle-class eccentrics.

    • Re:Eccentrics? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stokessd (89903) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:41AM (#24015779) Homepage

      I miss the old country sometimes even if we are often portrayed as a nation of lovable middle-class eccentrics.

      Yet another reason the wife and I would love to move there... It's hard being a middle-class eccentric in a walmart culture.

      Sheldon

      • Re:Eccentrics? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pzs (857406) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:55AM (#24015937)

        Maybe we could set up an exchange program. Ship Wal-Mart consumer drones from the UK (yes, we have quite a few) to the US in exchange for your middle class eccentrics.

        I have a friend who worked in IT in the UK. He got sick of it and went to work on a ranch in rural Australia. I'm willing to bet there are quite a few farmers in rural Australia who would kill to work in IT in the UK.

        1. Set up exchanges for people who think the grass is greener.
        2. They get to find out if they're right.
        3. ???
        4. Profit!

        • I can see it now, a server farm complete with traps for dingos.
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I have a friend who worked in IT in the UK. He got sick of it and went to work on a ranch in rural Australia.

          There are some things money can't buy, like the opportunity to shag unlimited woolly lovelies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jez9999 (618189)

        Yet another reason the wife and I would love to move there

        Be prepared to be surveilled a lot, especially if you live near London. Don't try and speed, there are speed cameras everywhere. You have to pay for a TV licence to watch broadcast TV, put up with a very socialist authoritarian government... and those gun thingies you Slashdotters are always on about? Seriously illegal for virtually anyone to own over here. Carrying a knife in the street may also lead to a 4 year prison sentence.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by tehcyder (746570)

          Be prepared to be surveilled a lot, especially if you live near London.

          You are walking down a public street and someone has you on CCTV. Wow, 1984 or what?

          Don't try and speed, there are speed cameras everywhere.

          Well, the cameras are mostly in 30 mph zones where you shouldn't really be speeding anyway, plus they are clearly marked and it's easy to download their locations for the most part.

          You have to pay for a TV licence to watch broadcast TV

          Yes, but you get watchable TV

          put up with a very socialist

  • Is it bad that I heard British rocketman, and immediately thought Soldier [youtube.com]?

    • by nsayer (86181)

      Not as bad as when I heard "British Rocketman" and immediately thought of Wallace and Gromit [wallaceandgromit.com]. Though that was certainly assisted by the mention of "A Grand Day Out" in the article title.

  • Comma Police (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is the third or fourth summary today with an absolute disregard for the usage of the comma and/or proper grammar. That is all.

  • Now that the Daleks are threatening to take over earth YET AGAIN It's an absolute cert Torchwood would have something sneaky up their sleeves and the dead giveaway is that Salford Uni quotes all its features in ancient Imperial units and not the modern Metric units they teach.

    Consider:

    "58ft Nova 2 rocket"

    "They will travel at 3,500 miles per hour and receive intensive safety training* in advance of the flights."

    I knew we'd beat those pesky pretentious trash-cans somehow - not even Daleks can trundle

    • Dalek/Cylon crossover. Though it would be pretty gross seeing Six seducing Davros. Baltar could start talking to the Daleks, hack into the system and take Davros' place! I'd like to see the Daleks vs. the new Centurions!

    • The Daleks in Doctor Who have pretty much unlimited technology. Basically they were Nazi analogues, genocidal master race advocates with a taste for cool killing machines. In fact in Doctor Who there was a bit where the Doctor and some Thals were escaping up a shaft. The Daleks wait at the bottom and the Thals call out abuse. Then a Dalek team arrives with an antigravitational disk and starts to ascend the shaft. The Doctor looks down at them and says wistfully "You have to admire their technology". The Th

      • by zmollusc (763634)

        a) V1 != rocket

        b) You wouldn't say V2 'wasn't particularly effective' if its 1 ton of high explosive falling at around mach 3 landed on _your_ ass.

        • b) You wouldn't say V2 'wasn't particularly effective' if its 1 ton of high explosive falling at around mach 3 landed on _your_ ass.

          They weren't militarily effective compared to British Lancaster bombers or Russian T34s. People have argued that the resources the Germans spent on building high tech stuff would have been better spent on building fighters to defend their factories. Or tanks to halt the Russian invasion. Both of which would have been militarily effective - RAF/USAF carpet bombing of German cities destroyed their industrial base and the Russians eventually captured Berlin and destroyed the regime.

          Freeman Dyson said
          http://en. [wikipedia.org]

  • Starchaser (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    These are the people that tried to launch a Robin Reliant as part of a Top Gear episode last year. If anyone in the UK can do it, then these are probably the guys. Makes me proud to live in Salford.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      NO, they are emphatically ***NOT*** the same people.

      The Reliant Robin Space Shuttle was built by the UK Rocketmen, led by Damian Hall. Both groups are based near Manchester, UK Rocketmen in Stalybridge, Starchaser near Salford, but that's the only significant link.

      I know this, because I spent a week in France last year getting drunk with Damian and a bunch of other miscellaneous rocketry nutters (including ex-Starchaser folks). Great fun :)

  • Cost of the trip (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Original post opined "I'm not sure how much, but I'd pay for that."

    From the Starchaser website (http://www.starchaser.co.uk):
    "The price of a sub-orbital spaceflight aboard a Starchaser vehicle is currently expected to be £98,000."
    (i.e. about $193k)

  • by Kingston (1256054) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:09AM (#24016173)
    If anyone was wondering about the rather tortured use of words:

    Nova 2 qualifies as the biggest rocket ever created and flown from the UK mainland

    It's because Britain used to have a rocket program in the 50s and 60s. All the launches of the large rockets were done from Woomera [wikipedia.org] in the Australian outback. The biggest of these was Blue Streak [wikipedia.org] developed as an ICBM. There are some pictures here [spaceuk.org]

  • Eddie Izzard got it just about right, we should go to the moon on foot.
  • That the UK government had a ban on manned spaceflight. Does this only apply to UK government funded projects or to private ventures as well? Anyone?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Goffee71 (628501)
      Its only government money that goes to ESA. That has to be used for robotic/satellite missions. Boring sods that they are! If the private sector puts up the cash (Richard Branson for one) then anyone can have a go at manned flight.
      But, being British, we're happier working in sheds and old WWII hangers with bits of old bathtub and wire. If our government tried to run a manned space program today, it would be the biggest waste of space, time and money in all human history.
  • First let me say I'm always excited to see progress in the effort to more easily put humans in space. With that being said, am I the only one who sees a bit of a correlation between early exploration of the earth and the current climate regarding space exploration?

    It's currently so expensive to get into space (real space guys, not sub-orbital space) that it's almost exclusively a government endeavor. I know we're striving to change that, but that seems to be the case as of the present.

    Which then brings up

    • "Which then brings up the thought, are we really over our colonial ambitions, and all the behaviors that go along with them? And will the colonization of space simply be a rehashing of the unpleasantness that has passed before, or will we be able to rise above petty human weakness?

      Sadly, I can't say I'm optimistic."

      I'm not sure that I can be optimistic unless there crops up some reason (probably catastrophic) for the Earth's nations can adopt a kinder and more cooperative relationship. As it stands now, it

  • by damburger (981828) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:46AM (#24016695)

    As nice as this is to see, it is shocking how far behind we are. I'm at Leicester University, and the pinnacle of British commercial rocket techology (A Skylark, a small payload sounding rocket) sits in the middle of our foyer. Meanwhile, the French with a similar sized population and a similar sized economy (and coming from a similar state of total-fucked-upness after the war) have a commercially successful 20t launcher flying regularly.

    Tory fanboys perpetually bleat that what Thatcher did to our heavy industry was a necessary evil - but it wasn't necessary for the frogs and they were in as bad a state as we were in the 1970s. We voluntarily gave up our capacity to engage in any project on a larger scale than a new shopping mall.

    • Tory fanboys perpetually bleat that what Thatcher did to our heavy industry was a necessary evil - but it wasn't necessary for the frogs and they were in as bad a state as we were in the 1970s. We voluntarily gave up our capacity to engage in any project on a larger scale than a new shopping mall.

      Is [wikipedia.org] that [wikipedia.org] so [wikipedia.org]?

  • by rjbrash (1033294)
    This is the same guy who ran Starchaser Industries, claimed all sorts of records and pissed off a lot of amateur rocket people in Britain. He crops up every couple of years with another "NEW AND EXCITING DEVELOPMENT IN ROCKETRY". Never produced anything.
  • Oh, not the real British Rocketman, Elton John. Very misleading title.
  • ...1999 was nine years in the past now, and I don't see any sign of British dominance of cislunar space.


    H*ll, that rocket would take another 999 YEARS to haul enough nuclear waste out to the far side of the moon [wikipedia.org]!

    "Get me rewrite!"

  • > so that travellers can be safely landed even in the unlikely event of a major rocket malfunction.

    Well the obvious malfunction that comes to my mind requires the ejection system to be able to eject passengers faster than the shockwave of an exploding fireball. Out of curiosity - how many astronauts have been saved by the ejection systems on their vehicles?

    • by rts008 (812749)

      Not near enough, unfortunately. And until some kind of an 'inertial compensator' can be developed (Hah! Hah!) it will likely only improve in small increments, but never be enough to be truly safe. This seems to be the major divide between real world capabilities and scifi.

      I think that the Mercury program had some successful tests, but I don't think it was ever used. I think this is one reason space exploration is still able to classify astronauts as 'brave pioneers'. (and justified in my book)

      We are still a

  • by bugeaterr (836984) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:04PM (#24019115)


    A little known, slightly less ambitious project (more reasonable, really),
    whose announcement was plagiarized by John F. Kennedy:

    It is our goal... goal... goal... (echo)

    Before the decade is out... out... out...

    To send a carrier pigeon to West Staines and return him safely to Slough.

  • Steve Bennett... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by damburger (981828) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:40PM (#24019757)
    Having read more about this man and his previous 'efforts' to break altitude records that had already been broken and to showcase part of a cement mixer as a space capsule... I feel that Wallace and Gromit are a more serious prospect for commercial space flight in this country.
  • "...20 minutes 'flight' and 3-4 mins floating..."

    A similar experience can be had on the Vomit Comet, probably for substantially less and for a longer total duration. Although with the cost of aircraft fuel quickly approaching the cost of rocket fuel, I may be mistaken.

  • The size of a booster isn't all that important. The Brits put a satellite up in 1971 with a homebrew booster. The UK's small footprint in space is the result of policy decisions, not capabilities.

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