17 December 2001
News - Vehicles (Good)
Starchaser Flies
X-Prize contender reaches 1688.8 meters
by Alan Breakstone
By Alan Breakstone

On November 22, 2001, British-based Starchaser Industries successfully launched its new Nova single-seat suborbital rocket for the first time. (Click here for the CNN article.) The unpiloted test from Morcambe Sands, England, reached 1688.8 meters (5541 feet) and validated the rocket's airframe, mobile launch tower, parachute recovery system, and avionics. But while the launch provided valuable test flight data, there is much engineering to be done, including the development of a new propulsion system.
Starchaser Industries used a solid-fuel engine to power Nova on this short flight. The company is developing a liquid-fuel propulsion system for next year's piloted suborbital attempt, which will be flown by Starchaser's president, Steven Bennett.

Nova is designed to bridge the gap between Starchaser's earlier unpiloted rockets and the company's Thunderbird, which will carry a pilot and two paying passengers to the edge of space. Thunderbird is designed to win the coveted $10 million X-Prize and begin regular suborbital space tourism. Some have voiced concerns over Bennett's aggressive schedule, but he believes that Starchaser is on course to launch Thunderbird in 2003. (Click here for the BBC article.)

Space Future wishes Steven Bennett and the Starchaser team the best of luck in this historic venture. For more information on the Nova flight and Starchaser Industries, click here. To learn more about the X-Prize and its contenders, click here .
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Alan Breakstone 17 December 2001
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