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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK


Rocket man aims high

Local residents came to see the launch

The BBC's Ralph Blunsom:"Morecambe Bay echoed to the sound of 9 solid rocket motors"
Salford University lecturer Steve Bennett has launched another successful rocket in his on-going attempt to send man into space.

The UK amateur rocketeer launched his 6.6 metre (22ft) Starchaser 3A over the sea at Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. It soared through the clouds and then gently glided back down to earth on parachutes.

[ image: Starchaser 3A floated back down]
Starchaser 3A floated back down
Steve Bennett, a former sugar worker with Tate and Lyle, is building up to an attempt to put a rocket into space. His ultimate goal is manned space flight.

There is a $10m (£6.25m) prize on offer from a US foundation for the first non-governmental body to launch three people 100 km (62 miles) into space. The university lecturer believes he is now well on course to claim the so-called X-Prize.

"It's another notch on the bedpost," Mr Bennett said. "I have launched this rocket 100 times in my head. I think about it and dream about it over and over, and it's really nice to see it happen."

UK record

Mr Bennett said before the launch that Starchaser 3A would go to a height of 6,000 metres (20,000ft).

Mark Jones reports from Morcambe Bay
If independently confirmed, this would be a record for a UK rocket. The existing record stands at just over 4,200 metres (14,000ft).

But the university lecturer was cautious about claiming a new mark: "We will have to take it [the rocket] apart and look at the computers."

[ image: Part of Steve Bennett's success is down to good publicity]
Part of Steve Bennett's success is down to good publicity
His space technology students watched the latest launch from a bunker half a kilometre away on the Cumbrian coast.

"We are well on our way now we have had two successful launches," said Jubilant Christopher Haynes, 20. "The principles are the same to building Starchaser 4. It is just a case of scaling them up. We should be there in four years time. We are very confident."

Starchaser 3A will be launched again. It is a testbed for components on future vehicles. One of those will be eight metres (26ft) long. "That would be the interim rocket between this and the passenger-carrying rocket which we will be launching in 2003," said Steve Bennett.

[ image:  ]

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