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A Chat with Kristian von Bengtson, co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals (Video)

timothy posted about a year ago | from the getting-into-space-the-simple-way dept.

Space 26

Copenhagen Suborbitals says their mission is "very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space." That doesn't sound so simple, really, but they're approaching this gargantuan task with an intentionally simple approach: a small team, relatively unhampered by bureaucratic hassles, who are taking advantage of existing, off-the-shelf high-tech solutions when they make sense, and low-tech solutions when possible; if the parable of the Soviet space pencil hadn't worked its way into the mythology of space technology, it could have been based on the Copenhagen Suborbitals point of view. I talked with project co-founder Kristian von Bengston about the project's progress so far, as well as what the next steps are. Among those next steps: in summer 2014, the Suborbitals team plans to launch their HEAT2X lift vehicle loaded with the TDS-80 capsule; you can download the preliminary trajectory projections for both the launcher and the capsule.

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In phase 2... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45361509)

They plan on getting a living human being into space.

By phase 3, said human being will also be living after landing.

And by phase 4, said human being will also be living several (or more) minutes after landing.

Re:In phase 2... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45361609)

Didn't someone make a video game about this, with the names changed to Jedediah Kerman et. al?

Re:In phase 2... (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#45362225)

Well, since they are unhampered by bureaucratic, at least the paperwork for the fatalities will be simple. No tedious safety analysis, no verifying that their course will not interfere or collide with other things, just shoot the rocket off and hope for the best. Adventure!

Looks like they are about 5 years behind SpaceX (3, Interesting)

Glasswire (302197) | about a year ago | (#45361619)

Do they think they will be cheaper or more capable or exceed Elon Musk's company by any metric in 5 years?

No, they are 50 years behind SpaceX (2, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | about a year ago | (#45361867)

SpaceX has the goal to be a successful orbital rocketry business.

These guys have the goal to noodle around and blow stuff up. Their capability is somewhere in the 1940's. Note "suborbital" << "orbital". You can go up to be 'suborbital'. If you want orbital you have to go up but more importantly around very very fast.
Orbital velocity is about 7 km/s. The plot on these guys's page shows velocity topping out at 0.7 km/s. So they have 1/100th the energy needed for orbit (and obviously they have no capability to do multi-staging which is quite non-trivial to do reliably). And if they put more fuel in, then the mass goes up even more. It's just useless hobby waste.

Thing about rocket science is that SpaceX knows it's rocket science and employs people who know the scientific and engineering experience of 50 years of rocketry. They know they actually need substantial simulation and material science experimentation. They know they need to build a rocket engine test stand and understand fundamental dynamics in many regimes including near vacuum.

Re:No, they are 50 years behind SpaceX (2)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#45363791)

In the 1940's, the V2 altitude was 200km+, and the fuel I've heard was kerosine, Wikipedia says Liquid O2, Ethanol and Water. I guess we can ignore the fuel that the Titan IV uses, its shelf life is about a year. Of course SCUDS are more modern. But if one wants to have folks live to tell the tale, SpaceX's solution seems to look good. But Vigin Galatic with White Knight 2, and SS2 look like fun. I'm hoping all these companies succeed.

Now if only someone could work out the math kinks for Anti Gravity.

Re:Looks like they are about 5 years behind SpaceX (5, Informative)

Kristian vonBengtson (3027633) | about a year ago | (#45361891)

We have an annual budget of app. 400.000 dollars.. so yes,, very much cheaper.. We are hitting app 1:5000 in cost so far... But bare in mind that this is not a commercial project - we are doing this for fun and to challenge ourselves.. So, we cannot be compared with SpaceX..

Re:Looks like they are about 5 years behind SpaceX (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about a year ago | (#45362031)

1) You are awesome 2) You're talking to the Kerbal Space Program guys, right?

Re:Looks like they are about 5 years behind SpaceX (4, Insightful)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about a year ago | (#45362169)

I think you guys would do well to emphasize you are a non-profit, amateur group.

It looks at a glance like you are trying to do stuff commercially and so are judged based on that impression.

People would end up with a totally different impression if they understood this is basically a very advanced hobby for you and your team.

And I do not mean to say you are amateurs, just that you are not a for profit commercial enterprise. There is probably a good English word for what is between those two but I can't think of it.

Armadillo, Masten, Beal, Blu, and Virgin Galactic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45362829)

It is nice to have a different team try low cost rocketry again, but how many different ways are there to do it? Armadillo got a reusable, pressure fed rocket, that can reach about 100 km after ~$5 million, and a decade of part time work with a team including John Carmack. SpaceX had a $100 million, Elon Musk, whom is very smart in his own right, a head engineer of TRW's rocket design with ~15 years experience at the time, and many other smart people. Originally, SpaceX was an elite rocket company with top ~2 percent, in Elon's words, of rocket engineers. In the nineties, Andrew Beal spent a couple hundred million on pressure fed rockets for Beal Aerospace. by the way, Andrew Beal made lots of money from shorting banks. Jeff Bezos has a team that has been working in secret on low cost rockets for a decade. Branson hired Scaled Composites. Let's not forget XCor, and their piston pump rockets.

In the public sector. Iran&North Korea, Russia, Ukraine, France, India, China, and Japan are trying for low cost rockets. It might be a good idea to give up on low cost manufacturing, and try to get reusability working.

Re: Armadillo, Masten, Beal, Blu, and Virgin Galac (2)

Anders Feder (3382047) | about a year ago | (#45375433)

The companies you mention are all, well, companies. They are all in it for the profit, and they will protect the use of their technology as aggressively as Microsoft protect their source code and software patents. Copenhagen Suborbitals are trying to do the opposite: to make a viable rocket engine and capsule design and make it all freely available for other organizations to use and improve upon under "open source"-equivalent terms.

My first TDS-80 (0)

mythosaz (572040) | about a year ago | (#45361951)

Tandy made pretty awesome computers for the time. I fondly remember my first TDS-80; being excited to get each month's computer magazine in the mail with a demo-cassette full of programs to load.

Re:My first TDS-80 (1)

DrData99 (916924) | about a year ago | (#45362079)

Was that a successor to the TRS-80?

2 minute advertisement?! (1)

smaddox (928261) | about a year ago | (#45361965)


Re:2 minute advertisement?! (1)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about a year ago | (#45362097)

Copenhagen Suborbitals has a history of ... using ... slashdot going back to 2009 when they were a "Danish amateur rocket group"
Slashdot search for Copenhagen Suborbitals []

Re:2 minute advertisement?! (2)

smaddox (928261) | about a year ago | (#45362189)

I should have specified. There was a 2 min 20 sec long IBM commercial before I could watch the interview.

Re:2 minute advertisement?! (1)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about a year ago | (#45362245)

Oh I see. Strange I didn't see any other commercial and I do not block ads on slashdot.

Re:2 minute advertisement?! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45365979)

They still are a Danish amateur rocket group :)

Re:2 minute advertisement?! (4, Informative)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about a year ago | (#45362219)

I felt the same way. But really it is because they are not making clear they are basically an amateur serious rocketry hobby group. More professional than just hobbyists because their goal is manned missions, but not a for profit commercial company.

That makes it a lot more cool with me. Their name and their descriptions (the English ones I mean) just make them sound too commercial without some background and explanation.

Re:2 minute advertisement?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45373037)

Our mission is very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space.

This is a non-profit suborbital space endeavour founded and led by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, based entirely on sponsors,

3rd line on the front page of their site. How can it be made more clear?

Simplicity.... (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#45362261)

Everything is simple until it gets complex. The current industry learned this the hard way over decades of extremely expensive things blowing up.

It's actually not that hard (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year ago | (#45362735)

What is hard is launching a person into space safely 100% of the time. If your passenger is willing to risk their life on a 10% failure rate of the rocket, and iffy engineering on the capsule, anyone can do it a year with enough money. I hate to say it, but until we are willing to accept that kind of level of risk, like the first biplane pilots, or the first sailors going out of sight of the coast, then this space thing will take a long long time. There's no end of adrenaline junkies looking for new ways to risk their lives. It's society's extreme reactions to any failure that is slowing us down. One craft crashes and we shut down the entire manned space program for five years until we figure out who to blame. Way to go America. I hope India and China and Denmark can jump start that next wave.

Old School. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#45362889)

"plans to launch their HEAT2X lift vehicle loaded with the TRS-80 capsule"

Wow. That is old school.

No spaceship required (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45365961)

Last time I was in Copenhagen I bought a joint in Christiania and got to outter space for only 35 Danish crowns.

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