How Amateur Astronauts in Copenhagen Launch Rockets and Plan to Send a Volunteer to Orbit

A group of amateurs are planning to send a manned rocket into space. Based in Copenhagen the group dedicates their spare time to the ambitious project.
Jessica Miley

You’ve heard of crowdfunding a new product or even a new album, but what about crowdfunding a real space ready rocket? That’s what a group of amateur space engineers are working on. Calling themselves the Copenhagen Suborbitals the group has a mission statement that simply states: "We are working towards launching a human being into space, and bringing him safely back to earth.”

Amateur group plans manned space vehicle journey

The non-profit amateur space endeavor group has big goals on a micro-budget. It plans to ‘launch a manned space vehicle into a suborbital trajectory, reaching a peak altitude beyond the Kármán line 100 km above the surface of Earth, and subsequently landing the spacecraft safely.’ To achieve this ambitious goal the Suborbital's design and construct space launch vehicles out of their warehouse in Denmark's capital, Copenhagen. The group is quick to point out, their plan is motivated by entirely peaceful means and they have no intention of carrying a weaponized payload of any kind.

How Amateur Astronauts in Copenhagen Launch Rockets and Plan to Send a Volunteer to Orbit
Source: Copenhagen Suborbitals

Flat business structure leads to fast design development

The highly unusual space group was founded by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen in 2008. It is run entirely by volunteers, some who are able to dedicate their full attention to the project, but most have other employment commitments and work on the project in the spare time they have. The team can move forward with their ideas from sketch design to testing really quickly as they have no administrative or overhead board to contend with. This gives them perhaps greater flexibility in their approach to the project lifecycle than other space exploration organizations.

Hobby group funded entirely by donations

As the team is based on the harbor at Copenhagen, they say they have plenty of space for the testing they do and have a fleet of sea recovery vehicles to assist in the process. Copenhagen Suborbitals are entirely funded by private sponsors and donations. The group says they have more than 1,000 supporters who make regular donations to keep the very expensive project happening.

Group aims to build record sized rocket

The group has a solid roadmap of how they are going to achieve their dream and they are actually well on the way to do it. Communications Director Mads Wilson says “Technology is not the problem. Time and money are the problems.” If they can overcome their time and money hurdles the group will build Spica, the rocket that will send their astronaut into space.

The proposed rocket will be powered by a 100 kN liquid bi-propellant engine running on liquid oxygen and ethanol. Once completed it will be the largest rocket ever built by an amateur organization. But before Spica takes shape there is other technology development and testing to do.

Long road of development ahead

The next big challenge for the Copenhagen Suborbitals is the test launch of the NEXO II rocket. Unfortunately, the Nexo II launch has been postponed until the Summer of 2018. But safety is the team's number one priority, particularly after the setbacks they experienced with NEXO I.

The rocket ran into trouble during its testing after it stayed on the launch pad too long causing the liquid oxygen in its tank to begin to boil. This left the rocket without enough fuel to complete its mission and it ended up crashing into the water causing serious damage. But despite the setbacks and constant financial worry. This group of happy amateurs are proving you can do anything you set your mind to.