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Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
Rocket man takes off
Steve Bennett with his Thunderbird rocket prototype
Steve wants to build the first amateur space rocket
Rocket enthusiast Steve Bennett has successfully completed a launch that may take him closer to his dream of becoming the first amateur to fly in space.

His first, two-stage rocket, named Starchaser Discovery, was launched from Cartmel Wharf in Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, on Thursday.

We're really upping the ante with this launch

Steve Bennett
The former toothpaste technician for Colgate Palmolive hoped the 6.7-metre (22-ft) projectile would reach 5,700 metres (19,000 ft) before parachuting back to Earth.

He watched from a safe distance as the vehicle blasted off above the sands and into the clouds.

Spectators could see the bottom part of the Discovery fall away on a red parachute and the second stage shoot off higher into the sky.

There are several groups around the world chasing the X-Prize, an award of 6.25m for the first non-government organisation to put three people 100km above the Earth.

Dartmoor fire

Steve Bennett, the 36-year-old lecturer in space technology at Salford University, believes his proposed Thunderbird rocket will achieve the feat by August 2003.

The Discovery was his most adventurous project to date.

Discovery was equipped with a new electronics system and video equipment to record on-board pictures of the flight.

Last August, he successfully launched his Starchaser 3a rocket. Eighteen months earlier, he had launched a rocket on Dartmoor in Devon which rose only 60m (200ft) before falling back to Earth and setting fire to the hillside.

It is not known just how high Mr Bennett's rockets have reached.

The official UK altitude record is held by Hugh Gemmell and his Sheffield Rocketry Association (SRA). He sent a two-stage vehicle to a height of 4,388m (14,398ft) over remote farmland in Lincolnshire.

The mark, independently confirmed by the UK Rocketry Association, was set during a BBC competition earlier this year.

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See also:

22 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Rocket biker aims for space record
23 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Sheffield rocket breaks record
20 Aug 99 | Europe
Success for British rocket man
20 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Rocket man aims high
15 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Amateur rocket up in smoke
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