Private rocket does short test flight

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Capitalism in space: A private British rocket company, Starchaser Industries, successfully launched a small rocket from the back of a truck yesterday and sent it about 4,000 feet in the air.

All the articles covering this event appeared to essentially be rewrites of the company’s press release, and provide little usable information about the flight. The test launch had the rocket split into three sections at 4,000 feet and return to Earth by parachute. This apparently was the intended test goal, though one parachute did not release.

Based on what I read, I must admit I am not impressed. The head of the company made a lot of claims about flying humans on a bigger rocket soon to come, but based on this launch I think that is almost all hogwash. Essentially this launch looked like a big model rocket, with little capabilities beyond that. Previous stories about this company and its head have been equally dubious. In one, he made ridiculous claims. In another, it was reported that his bookkeeper had embezzled 200K pounds over six years from the company.

All in all, I think my real issue here is with the press. I read five different stories about this launch from so-called major British news sources like the Times of London and the Daily Telegraph, and not one had the slightest skepticism, or did the slightest research. Each journalist also appeared completely ignorant of space engineering and the history of space exploration, and seemed more interested in touting the wonders to come from this British entrepreneur. As a journalist myself I found this incredibly embarrassing.



  • Matt in AZ

    Ah, the dreaded “two years away” for launching humans rears its head once again.

  • Mark in Edinburgh

    From the other side of the Atlantic I have to say it would of been more appropriate for the media to list it under model rocketry. The original proposed Skybolt was meant to be a liquid Oxygen / Kerosene sounding rocket and that was in the mid 90’s, from the images I saw the current launch was a cluster of commercial motors ? There is some serious work being done in the UK on small launch vehicles, but Starchaser is not one of them.

  • Edward

    The article did not say that the two-years-away rocket would carry humans but could carry humans but. It seems to be a poorly written way of saying that the two-years-away rocket is the version that they think will eventually carry passengers to suborbital space.

    The details are few, but I suspect that they are happy that they have succeeded with a liquid fueled rocket rather than whatever they used to fly. The objectives of the test were not clear, but parachute deployment seems to have been important to them.

    I am impressed that they are making progress, but I do not think that a five-year timeline is realistic. Five years was the suggestion in the “ridiculous claims” link. Blue Origin is taking a very long time to make sure that they will safely fly humans, and I think that this company will have a similar long lead time.

    The business aspect of today’s capitalism in space is still tenuous. Rocketry and several other aspects of space commerce are capital intensive. Generally, the more successful modern new-space companies are largely self-funded by rich owners, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Bigelow Aerospace. Amazingly, Musk, Bezos, and Bigelow did not earn their wealth in space related industries. There are some less capital-intensive successful new-space companies, such as NanoRacks and Made In Space.

    Other modern new-space companies are struggling for capital funding — these include most of the smallsat launch companies. They are getting some funding, but most likely only because of the success of SpaceX as well as the other Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract recipients. Before CRS, there were several failed attempts to commercialize orbital launches, notably Kistler Aerospace and Armadillo Aerospace as well as the attempts at VentureStar, Delta Clipper, and Roton.

    Mr. Bennett may succeed in his endeavor, but as XCOR and Virgin Galactic have discovered, it is not easy. It is rocket science combined with capital funding and the other problems associated with business.

    I wish him luck.

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