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Thursday, 12 September, 2002, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
All-British rocket goes for record
Tests flights have been successful
Tests flights have been successful

British engineers are about to make an assault on the UK and European altitude record with an advanced rocket - called Deimos Odyssey - launched from the US.


We have done the groundwork and are sure that soon we will send our rocket into space

Ben Jarvis, Mars
Two years ago, the London-based Mars Advanced Rocketry Group set the current mark when it went to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada and successfully launched its Phobos EAV rocket to almost 10,670 metres (35,000 feet).

That record-breaking flight used a rocket engine designed and developed in the US.

Now, the same team is returning to break its own record with an entirely British-built rocket of a much more advanced design and twice the size. The vehicle has already been successfully tested on the ground.

"We are going to exceed the record using an all-British rocket - the most advanced ever developed in Britain," Ben Jarvis of Mars told BBC News Online. "Our next goal is to send it into space."

live pictures

The Mars team has spent two years developing a new kind of rocket engine called a "hybrid motor", which uses a combination of liquid and solid fuel.

Engineers hope for a second success
Engineers hope for a second success
The team says that the hybrid system has many advantages over solid fuel rocket motors and is also cheaper. The propellant for one launch of the new rocket costs one tenth of a solid fuel rocket motor of similar performance.

The new rocket is called Deimos Odyssey after the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The vehicle will produce a quarter of a tonne of thrust for over 25 seconds, lifting it to well in excess of the team's altitude record.

As well as equipment to monitor the rocket's performance and to establish its altitude, the launcher will carry a series of still and video cameras that will transmit live high-resolution video to the ground and back to the UK via a satellite link.

Space launch

If this launch is successful, the next Mars mission will be into space, which is 10 times higher than the group's current altitude best.

Hybrid motor performs
The hybrid motor is put through its paces
The Mars team has been working towards the goal of launching a rocket into space for the last five years by building and testing ever larger and more complex test rockets.

A space bid would require a scaled-up version of this rocket but, Mars says, only by a factor of four.

"We are very optimistic," Ben Jarvis said. "We have a superb rocket that has been tested and is the basis for a launch into space.

"We have done the groundwork and are sure that soon we will send our rocket into space."

See also:

25 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
02 Oct 00 | Science/Nature
22 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
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