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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Speed record for UK rocket
Rocket blasts off, Mars
The rocket blasts off from the Nevada desert
(Image by Mars)


British rocket engineers are celebrating the successful launch of their Deimos-Odyssey hybrid rocket from the Black Rock desert in Nevada, US.

Although a minor malfunction prevented the rocket from exceeding the 10,700 metres (35,000 feet) altitude record held by the team, it did reach 7,600 m (25,000 ft) and score a number of impressive firsts.

During its flight, the vehicle reached 1,600 km/h (992 mph), the fastest that any UK hybrid rocket has ever travelled.

"Our next goal is space," Ben Jarvis, of the Mars advanced rocketry group (Mars), told BBC News Online via satellite link from the Nevada desert.

 Click here to see Deimos-Odyssey lift off

The rocket is groundbreaking in many respects being the largest hybrid rocket ever built in the UK, including military rockets. It is also the most powerful UK-built hybrid rocket motor ever.


Although we didn't break our all-out existing altitude, considering that part of the nozzle was lost at launch, the flight was remarkable

Ben Jarvis, Mars
A hybrid rocket motor utilises a mixture of solid and liquid fuel and combines the advantages of the improved control of liquid fuel and the convenience and power of solid fuel.

After launch several minor technical problems caused the peak altitude to be lower than predicted, however the rocketeers are ecstatic that their vehicle reached an altitude of 7,600 m, a record for a hybrid rocket motor.

Onboard sensors recorded that it accelerated to over 1,600 km/h during a 15-second burn of the British developed "B4" hybrid rocket motor, making it the fastest rocket ever built in the UK.

In addition, all the parachute systems operated flawlessly, bringing the two sections of the rocket gently back to the ground.

Rocket in flight, Mars
The team was aiming to break altitude records
(Image by Mars)

Ben Jarvis said the rocket carried some of the most advanced systems ever launched on a rocket not built by a government or a space agency.

Its instruments included two video systems sending live high-definition images back to the ground, a GPS positioning system and three flight computers to log altitude, velocity and other data.

The researchers say that their next goal is space, becoming the first such group to put a rocket above the Earth's atmosphere.

"Although we didn't break our all-out existing altitude, considering that part of the nozzle was lost at launch the flight was remarkable," Ben Jarvis adds.

"It is impressive that this new type of advanced rocket engine now holds second place in UK amateur rocket altitude records."

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Deimos-Odyssey hybrid
Watch the rocket taking off
See also:

12 Sep 02 | Science/Nature
25 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
02 Oct 00 | Science/Nature
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