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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 15:25 GMT
Rocketeer launches from Morecambe
Rocket, PA
Good conditions over Cumbria
The UK man who says he will be the first amateur astronaut to head into space in a self-built rocket has launched his latest vehicle from Morecambe Bay in north-west England.

Steve Bennett saw his 11-metre-long (37 feet) Nova vehicle shoot up into the sky and reach about 1,525 m (5,000 ft). The rocketeer said the launch was 85% successful.

He had said before the launch that he expected Nova to get to 1,800 metres (6,000 ft). Two of the three parachutes bringing vehicle components back to Earth also became entangled.

The blast-off in Cumbria came as news was released of another launch at the weekend using the most powerful, privately built rocket motor ever to fly over the UK.

Two passengers

The motor lifted the Deimos-2 vehicle, constructed by the Mars rocketry society, to an altitude of 2,134 metres (7,000 feet). Mars has its sights set on launching scientific and educational payloads.

Deimos-2, Mars
Deimos-2 could lead to commercial launches
Mr Bennett, on the other hand, wants to win the $10m (7m) X-Prize. This award, from a US foundation, will go to the first non-governmental outfit to put people on a rocket 100 kilometres (62 miles) above the Earth.

X-Prize entrants must also demonstrate the reusability of their spacecraft by flying twice within a two-week period.

At the moment 17 teams, including ex-Nasa employees and astronauts, are in the running for the prize.

Thursday's blast-off at Morecambe Bay would pave the way for a manned launch next year, Mr Bennett said. Mr Bennett said two anonymous middle-aged Britons had already paid out 250,000 for a seat on one of his rockets.

'Walking the walk'

The Cumbrian event was designed to test aerodynamics, launch and recovery systems on the current generation vehicle.

"I have always dreamed of going up in a rocket. Now I've got one and we have proved it works," said the Salford University lecturer.

"We have just proved the doubters wrong. We have physically demonstrated in the best way imaginable that we have what it takes to deliver.

And he added: "There are a lot of people promising and talking the talk, but we are out there walking the walk."

Bennett, PA
Bennett: Space tourism will be big business
Nova lifts off
The rocket blasted off from Morcambe Bay on schedule
See also:

22 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
British experts claim rocket success
06 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Rocket man takes off
02 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Rocketeers smash UK record
26 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Mars attacks rocket records
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