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Space Transportation Science

Europe's Biggest Amateur Rocket Completes Test-Firing 153

Posted by timothy
from the in-space-no-one-can-file-a-noise-complaint dept.
Michael Eriksen writes "The Danish amateur rocket group Copenhagen Suborbitals has successfully test fired their rocket (article in Danish). It is a 90,000 kW monster delivering a total of 140,000 N. According to the group, this is by far the biggest amateur rocket ever fired in Europe. The final goal is a manned (!) low-orbital flight."
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Europe's Biggest Amateur Rocket Completes Test-Firing

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  • 140000 Newton (Score:3, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:39AM (#27119069) Homepage Journal
    ..is 14000 kilograms force. So the total mass of your spacecraft at launch will be 7000kg (or less) if you want to accelerate at 1g initially. In practice you would want more that that so 3-4 tonnes is probably the limit for the whole spacecraft.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by freedom_india (780002)

      No.
      It takes close to 456,521 kilograms force to lift a weight of 7,000 Kg (Stage 1 Rocket).

      • Re:140000 Newton (Score:4, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:51AM (#27119115) Homepage Journal

        No. It takes close to 456,521 kilograms force to lift a weight of 7,000 Kg (Stage 1 Rocket).

        Are you talking about mass to orbit? I mean mass just off the ground at launch.

        • Oh... sorry then.
          I thought it was mass to orbit. Because the article kept saying it was a precusor to a low-earth orbit satellite.

          • by wisty (1335733)

            Escape velocity is ... well know. That Newton guy figured it out, I think. Of course, a lot of physicists in the 1900s said it was nonsense (what will the rocket push against?), or that it wasn't possible with any conceivable technology, but that's another story.

            What I want to know is what sort of budget would you need for a thing like this? I wonder if it's cheaper than NASA?

            • It ought to be chaper than NASA (not just because NASA is a Government body):
              1) These guys talk about multi-gear load lifting. Traditional rockets (like NASA Saturn V and even space shutle rockets) have been like one-gear cars. You have a great amount of power, but you waste a lot after you lift it up. These guys plan on a 4-speed car kinda thing.
              2) Prices of raw materials and solid fuel are pretty much low. You don't need the special slush mix you used to earlier.
              3) Advanced technology enables you to shave

              • Re:140000 Newton (Score:5, Informative)

                by Big Smirk (692056) on Monday March 09, 2009 @09:58AM (#27120643)

                Saturn V was a 'multi-gear' rocket. To lift off the pad, all 5 main rockets fired. As altitude increased, the center rocket turned off to minimize stress on the rocket (stay subsonic???)

                Space shuttle also has multiple speeds. If you remember the Challenger disaster - the last message from ground was "Go with throttle up" Apparently the shuttle was high enough to go full throttle (again) and not worry about aerodynamic stresses.

                One of the issues with the shuttles solid rocket boosters - they are steerable - allowing insertion into a very precise orbit.

                Compare that with the typical home built - solid rocket, that basically goes were you point it...usually...give or take a bit.

                I worked at NASA 10 years ago and can tell you I have never seen or worked with such a hardworking, under paid (compared to the commercial world) bunch of engineers. Buildings built in the 60s, linoleum tile not matching (patched so many times) - to the point that my wife (a teacher) commented that she used to think schools were in bad shape. All the money goes into the projects.

                • Am NOT denigrating NASA in any way.
                  I had a relative working there. And i love astronomy a lot. I still remember the big grin on my face when i first saw the tiny rover on Mars, and java.sun.com crowing about how NASA chose its technology instead of Windows.
                  I wanted to be an astronomer and at age of 15 when most boys where playing cricket or tennis, i was devouring books on Quasars and Pulsars.
                  NASA's budget has been gradually reduced, while expectations of it has increased.
                  Problem is that the bean counters h

                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by Big Smirk (692056)

                    Sorry, I took your response to be the typical "government wasting money by buying $700 hammers" (which is a myth anyway).

                    In NASA, with ever tightening budgets, there is no room for a fat-cat middleman to make huge sums of money.

                    And yes, I think a good way to spend the stimulus is to invest in NASA. I bet 99% of the money will be spent in the USA paying middle class workers (those that will buy things like new cars). The only question I have is: "Is there something that gives us the same financial return -

                    • Well, military is still 1st, but under Obama, NASA comes 2nd. He has made no secret of his plans to bring back the glory days to NASA.
                      I hope it starts with a manned mission to Moon once again and then an ion-engine-driven trip to Mars.
                      I learned a lot about Astronomy (my first and true love) from NASA.
                      It will be a sad day when its budget is cut to make room for abstinence programs.
                      But then, hey, Bush's IQ was single digit and he was a drunkard. What can you expect from him?

                • Space shuttle also has multiple speeds.

                  Just confirming that this is true. My father used to work on the shuttle main engines and once told me that most of the real engineering beauty of the orbiter was in the main engine design. Most rockets simply burn until their fuel is extinguished; the shuttle can change throttle from something like 60% - 100%.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by ikeleib (125180)

                  Saturn V was a 'multi-gear' rocket. To lift off the pad, all 5 main rockets fired. As altitude increased, the center rocket turned off to minimize stress on the rocket (stay subsonic???)

                  Space shuttle also has multiple speeds. If you remember the Challenger disaster - the last message from ground was "Go with throttle up" Apparently the shuttle was high enough to go full throttle (again) and not worry about aerodynamic stresses.

                  Most liquid fueled rockets are throttleable. Both the space shuttle and Saturn V's throttle down to avoid putting "too much stress" on the airframe. What this really means, is that they didn't want to put more weight into airframe structure, and instead reduce throttle to the point where the atmosphere thins enough that one can throttle up without surpassing the design strength of the airframe. By the way, this point is called Max-Q and for the space shuttle, it is at 11km in altitude. For the space shu

    • by diskis (221264)

      Not that much of a problem. Most stuff going to orbit uses several engines anyways. Space shuttle has 3+2 engines, Soyuz has 4.

      • Soyuz has 4.

        With four combustion chambers each. Traditionally, we call that "sixteen", since we tend to believe that each combustion chamber represents a rocket engine.

        Note that multiple rocket engines is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It can provide redundancy in case of failure, for instance. But it can also be a real nightmare to get them to all go/stop at once.

  • by retech (1228598) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:43AM (#27119085)
    Why is this cute and interesting when done by a group of European amateurs and a global threat when done in North Korea [telegraph.co.uk]?
    • No mod-points anymore.
      +1 insightful

    • by mattaw (718560) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:51AM (#27119109) Homepage
      Amateur rocket people don't have a stock of chemical, biological and possible a few nuclear weapons, a historical grudge against a southern neighbor and totalitarian government (although their welfare state does have very good coverage).
    • by Xiph (723935) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:51AM (#27119113)

      quit trolling...

      but i'll bite.
      When amateurs do things like this, they do it out of interest, and the development is quite open.
      When North Korea launches, we're reminded that they've tried detonating nuclear weapons.

      The difference is what we hope space is used for.
      these people hope space is used for "cool things", hence this piques our curiosity.

    • by Canazza (1428553)

      The Danish are sticking a man on the end
      The Koreans are sticking a nuke... erm... i mean, a satellite, on the end.

    • Ummm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:53AM (#27119127) Homepage Journal
      ...because the North Koreans are militaristic nut cases and the Danes are not?
      • Re:Ummm (Score:5, Funny)

        by sfraggle (212671) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:11AM (#27119193)

        ...because the North Koreans are militaristic nut cases and the Danes are not?

        How can you say that when Denmark exports millions of vehicles every year believed to be used in private armies around the globe? True, they're Lego armies, but that's besides the point.

      • And so what... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:16AM (#27119213) Homepage
        Offtopic, I just couldn't help but wonder:

        ...because the North Koreans are militaristic nut cases

        And would you claim that the Americans less militaristic nut cases than the North Koreans?
        (Rhetorical question - you need not answer I've already prejudged you by reading the second amendment).

        • Re:And so what... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ozphx (1061292) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:31AM (#27119285) Homepage

          Pfft, when was the last time America nuked a neighboring nation?

          Oh.. wait :/

          • by jamesh (87723) on Monday March 09, 2009 @07:00AM (#27119405)

            Pfft, when was the last time America nuked a neighboring nation?

            I just checked the archives for the last 50 years and there is not one occassion of the Americans nuking any opposing force. I could have looked back further but I expect you'd find exactly the same thing.

            • Re:And so what... (Score:5, Informative)

              by byrskov (199248) on Monday March 09, 2009 @11:49AM (#27122055) Homepage

              While it may not have been on purpose (and probably doesn't really qualify for a proper "nuking"), the United States Airforce have in fact dropped four nukes on Denmark, just 41 years ago.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Thule_Air_Base_B-52_crash [wikipedia.org]

              To quote the article: "The conventional high explosive components of four B28FI model hydrogen bombs detonated on impact, spreading radioactive material over a large area in a similar manner to a dirty bomb, although a nuclear explosion was not triggered. The extreme heat generated as 225,000 pounds of unused aviation fuel burned for the next 5 to 6 hours melted the ice sheet, causing some wreckage and munitions to sink to the ocean floor".

              And to make matters even more interesting, only wreckage from three of the four bombs were found.

              700 Danish and American people worked on the cleanup project for 9 months, often without adequate protection. A lot of the locals and cleanup crew have subsequently gone to court over alleged radiation poisoning. Oh, and did I mention that the nukes stored on Greenland was a breach of Denmark's nuclear free zone policy, and were stored there without permission?

              It's all fun and games when you're the big guy.

            • Didn't Bush get congressional approval for the use of low-yield nuclear devices in the Iraq conflict?

              It doesn't mean they were used, but it was approved, as I recall.

          • Canada? Mexico? Cuba?

            IIRC, the USA has never nuked a neighboring nation.
          • by lee1026 (876806)

            Canada and Mexico was never nuked. (Yes, I know that you were referring to japan, but they are hardly a neighboring country)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)

          Offtopic, I just couldn't help but wonder:

          ...because the North Koreans are militaristic nut cases

          And would you claim that the Americans less militaristic nut cases than the North Koreans?

          Background: I am not an American. The GP drew a comparison between NK and Denmark.

          The USA is a seriously militaristic country but their leadership consists of reasonably balanced people. The NK leadership consists largely of one person who is almost certainly terminally ill and quite likely unbalanced.

          I occasionally work in S Korea. With this missile test coming up (presumably whenever the NK rocket techs get the thing to fire) I plan to stay safely in Australia. There is something spookily serious abou

          • Re:And so what... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by pjabardo (977600) on Monday March 09, 2009 @07:20AM (#27119495)
            George W. Bush is a reasonably balanced leader? That's a first! Obama? Let's wait and see...
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by BradHAWK (1346147)
              Bush was a balanced leader. Except on bicycles. And on Segways. And mentally.
            • by jopsen (885607)
              I had the same thought, but wasn't say anything...
            • by drsquare (530038)

              If Kim Jong Il had so much as a tenth of Bush's military strength, he wouldn't have stopped at invading two countries.


            • George W. Bush is a reasonably balanced leader? That's a first! Obama? Let's wait and see...

              Yes, let's all have a chuckle at how bad a president Bush was. There comes a point were repeating a joke too often starts getting a little tired. In this case the comparison was to Kim Jong Il and by that comparison Bush is not only a reasonably balanced leader, he's nearly a saint(and at the same time one of America's worst presidents). I won't apologize for lacking a sense of humor either. If you were familiar with

            • by smithmc (451373) *

              George W. Bush is a reasonably balanced leader? That's a first!

              On a historical, worldwide scale? Yes, I'd have to say so. It's not as though I would have (or did) vote for him, or would have even if you paid me, but he certainly could have been a lot worse. Let's try to maintain a little perspective, shall we?


        • And would you claim that the Americans less militaristic nut cases than the North Koreans?
          (Rhetorical question - you need not answer I've already prejudged you by reading the second amendment).

          A thousand times yes.

          See, the Americans at least don't keep a vast portion of their country in concentration camps, nor do they have an indoctrination system from birth to death with the sole intent of enforcing the belief that the Great Leader is a deity. You can call those minor quibbles if you like, but don't be su

        • by couchslug (175151)

          "(Rhetorical question - you need not answer I've already prejudged you by reading the second amendment)."

          The Second Amendment isn't militaristic. (Maybe the light isn't very good under your bridge.)

          If you read it, it refers to an individual right. You are free to utterly trust your government and utterly trust your fellow citizens with your protection. We are also free to protect ourselves from both ordinary criminals and sufficiently toxic government, and the Second Amendment ensures the tools for revoluti

      • Coming from a citizen of the militarisic nut case number one on the planet, I presume? ;))

      • Beyond rhetoric, what clear military action was done in the last 10 years by North Korea in which they destroyed any foreign military facility (or even civilian one) or even shoot down a rocket carrying a satellite ? I am sorry but I usually ignore both rhetoric (US/EU/North korea), Rhetoric is good for politic, but just at that, beyond that you have to look at the action. And lately from all 3 aforementioned only one did indeed have an aggressive stance toward other nation.
        • by Sir_Lewk (967686)
          What country currently has thousands of pieces of artillary aimed at a peaceful urban center [wikipedia.org] and is ready and willing to do their damned hardest to level it to the ground if anyone so much as looks at them wrong? Excuse me for thinking little of North Korea.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BCGlorfindel (256775)


          Beyond rhetoric, what clear military action was done in the last 10 years by North Korea in which they destroyed any foreign military facility (or even civilian one) or even shoot down a rocket carrying a satellite ? I am sorry but I usually ignore both rhetoric (US/EU/North korea), Rhetoric is good for politic, but just at that, beyond that you have to look at the action.

          You should be utterly ashamed of yourself for comments that so undermine one of the greatest violations of human rights the world has eve

    • by PalmHair (1222728) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:53AM (#27119133)
      Well, the European amateurs have always been cute and interesting - I have 4 GB worth of them on my hard drive. I have never considered asian porn to be a global threat, I just not a fan.
      • by chebucto (992517)

        I have never considered asian porn to be a global threat, I just not a fan.

        Not everyone sees the problem as being so benign. Apparently you didn't hear about the high-level petition [theonion.com] to halt Japan's weirdo porn industry. Anything that makes millions puke has got to be a threat.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:54AM (#27119143) Journal

      Why is this cute and interesting when done by a group of European amateurs and a global threat when done in North Korea?

      Inexplicably, the European amateurs don't have a nuclear warhead development programme.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by captainpanic (1173915)

        Why is this cute and interesting when done by a group of European amateurs and a global threat when done in North Korea?

        Inexplicably, the European amateurs don't have a nuclear warhead development programme.

        That's because European governments already have had nuclear programmes and indeed warheads for the last 50 years.

        We DO have *several* nuclear programmes in Europe... who else made those two nuclear submarines carrying ballistic missiles that collided in the Atlantic a couple of weeks ago? (Perhaps the Americans did, I'm not sure).

        The reason why this is cute is that the Danish army doesn't need these rockets, since they probably already have decent rockets that can do the job, and if not, then surely the Fr

        • We DO have *several* nuclear programmes in Europe... who else made those two nuclear submarines carrying ballistic missiles that collided in the Atlantic a couple of weeks ago?

          The comment was specifically for nuclear warheads, which require very specialized knowledge and techniques which don't have much in common with nuclear power technologies ("glorified steam engines").
          You are partly right in that France makes its own nuclear warheads. However, it is the only European country with such a program. The UK gets its nuclear warheads from the USA. Apart from France and the UK, no European country is alleged to have nuclear weapons.

        • by smithmc (451373) *

          We DO have *several* nuclear programmes in Europe... who else made those two nuclear submarines carrying ballistic missiles that collided in the Atlantic a couple of weeks ago? (Perhaps the Americans did, I'm not sure).

          No, we crash our ballistic missile submarines into Japanese freighters [wikipedia.org]. For collisions with other subs, we use our attack [wikipedia.org] subs instead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by reallocate (142797)

      Perhaps you ought to lose some of those illusions.

      When an amateur group, Danish or otherwise, develops a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead across the Pacific, as opposed to carrying a mouse across a pasture, you can believe it will attract all kinds of attention.

      Also, the Danes aren't poised to invade northern Germany, aren't out of touch with reality, don't issue regular threats against their neighbors, don't have a multi-million strong military, don't kidnap their neighbors' citizens, don't sta

    • the other 4 launches that North Korea did claiming it to be about satellites showed that they were missle launches (as in distance), not straight up and down for a rocket. previous Truthfullness plays a big part of it. As it is, they have built one nuke that did not work correctly, but almost certainly showed enough that they could finish it.
    • The European amateurs don't have nuclear weapons and they don't make threats.

      Kind of the same with guns. A responsible hunter keeping one locked in a gun safe is different than some gang member having one in his pocket.

    • by cyn1c77 (928549)

      Why is this cute and interesting when done by a group of European amateurs and a global threat when done in North Korea [telegraph.co.uk]?

      Because the Danish group isn't simultaneously developing and conducting nuclear weapons tests and threatening to "accidentally" shoot down passenger aircraft.

      Also, the European nations already have the ability to reach space. It's cool because it is being done by an amateur group.

      Think of it as the difference between watching your son plinking at targets with a BB gun versus watching your neighbor blow holes in thick metal plates at 2 km with his .50 cal semiauto rifle, while simultaneously punching his wi

  • by PalmHair (1222728) on Monday March 09, 2009 @05:50AM (#27119105)
    Top Gear's Reliant Rocket was claimed to be the biggest non-commercial amateur rocket in Europe. The Danish rocket must be bigger, though the video shows only an engine test. Can you claim it to be a rocket test when there is only the engine?
  • ....I thought of Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the roadrunner. If my memory servers, it didn't work out too well for Wile E. Coyote.

  • I was there (Score:5, Informative)

    by kobotronic (240246) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:04AM (#27119171)

    Up-close videos from the test:
    http://www.vimeo.com/3531197 [vimeo.com]

    Pretty cool stuff, the whole team is all smiles. What was tested is a scaled-up design from a smaller hybrid rocket motor. The fact that the burn was even and stable demonstrates that the motor design is sound, and the math checks out. As such the team remains confident that an atmospheric launch of either this specific rocket or its twin can be carried out by mid-summer. Also, work continues on scaling the design further for the HEAT booster with a body diameter of 60 centimeters (3 times the diameter of the HATV rocket tested yesterday). The goal of the HEAT booster program is to develop a safe, economical and environmentally friendly man-rated sub-orbital propulsion technology. On the www.copenhagensuborbitals.com website you can read about their miniature spacecraft that would sit atop HEAT and carry a would-be astronaut on a no doubt exciting suborbital flight.

    • Re:I was there (Score:5, Informative)

      by andrew.w.moore (468363) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:27AM (#27119263)

      No detraction from their achievements but far from perfect:

      Any comments on the nozzle burning through; it can be seen clearly at 1:05-6 http://www.vimeo.com/3531197 [vimeo.com] flying off "vertically"; look carefully and the nozzle is heating up then "ping" - once the nozzle cone has gone then the burn starts to go turbulent.

      This is also very clear in the high-speed footage of this event from the www.copenhagensuborbitals.com site.

      Also the engine shutdown seems very messy - lots of random bits'n'pieces thrown about (e.g. down through the flame) - looks like the top of the inside of the booster section sucked down through the ignition chamber.

      Well this stuff will be fixed I am sure and congratulations to them.

      • Re:I was there (Score:5, Informative)

        by kobotronic (240246) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:34AM (#27119299)

        Thanks for the comments. I see now that the compressed timeline of the high speed video may be a bit confusing: I contracted for this brief summary the parts of the video that was essentially showing a stable, unchanging situation and left only the highlighted incidents. The burn becomes strongly turbulent only as the injector pressure has dropped appreciably, closer to flameout. The shutdown is rather messy, but I don't think that has significant impact on the flight trajectory.

        We'll be releasing a video later this week with a synchronized time and data track.

    • by quenda (644621)
      Are they seriously aiming for low-orbital manned flight? Or is that just a bad translation that should read "sub-orbital".

      I don't see anything changing in my lifetime that will make big orbital vehicles affordable to amateurs. And thats a GOOD thing, if you remember why the Americans and Soviets built them originally.

    • I really think this is all very interesting stuff. Backyard rocket design, I really wonder what comes out of it. The coolest would be if these amateurs (or any other hobby-group) would manage to lift and safely return to earth a person.

      Mostly I expect this can give an enormous boost to general rocketry due to cost savings. After all we're talking about amateurs here, who thus do this in their spare time with their spare money. There is probably no rich sponsor nor company structure behind it paying them fo

  • by slashbart (316113) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:12AM (#27119197) Homepage
    If you look at the hi-speed movie, you can see that their exhaust nozzle ring gets blown off after a few seconds (no timestamp on the video). I love what they're doing, but they're not there yet unfortunately. Bart
    • video [vimeo.com] 2:02. Exhaust nozzle lives 2 seconds
      • I don't know actually because the hispeed timestamp is not showing. But the nozzle separates at 2 minutes 2 seconds on the video
      • Am I seeing apartment buildings in the background? Maybe they should do future tests in Greenland.
      • by kobotronic (240246) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:24AM (#27119245)

        Actually, no. The nozzle ring sits on for 10+ seconds.
        At 00:34 in the video you can see it fly off, the distinct luminous object leaving the rocket, which ignites at 00:19. I'm no booster specialist (I work video and telemetry), but my understanding is that the booster team is satisfied that at the time of nozzle failure the expansion effect (produced or supported by the nozzle) is no longer required. In any case a thicker nozzle wall has already been drafted for the next test.

        The high speed (1200fps) footage closeup (side view) is edited timewise; the whole thing takes about an hour to play back at 30fps. We'll be releasing a video with time codes and more data later this week.

        • Great that it's not an important failure for you guys. I'm really impressed with it. I didn't know there was such a professional amateur rocketry club in Europe. Way to go Danes :-)
  • Those are the same guys who built the biggest amateur Submarine before. Bunch of swell fellows. http://www.uc3nautilus.dk/index.htm [uc3nautilus.dk]
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday March 09, 2009 @06:38AM (#27119317)

    The final goal is a manned (!) low-orbital flight.

    The result could be some crispy Danish bacon.

  • The summary says "The final goal is a manned (!) low-orbital flight." However, the name of the outfit is Copenhagen Suborbitals. I suspect that the summary is wrong, and these guys are trying for an X-Prize mission: straight up 100 km and then back down again.

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