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Open Source Outer Space

How a couple of guys are building a homemade rocket ship for the masses.

Anyone with enough brains and balls can build their own rocket and fly it to space. Or at least that’s what the non-profit, open source space project Copenhagen Suborbitals wants the world to realise.

Last September, we scuttled out to Denmark to meet the pioneers behind this new wave in do-it-yourself space exploration to find out how these backyard space rockets are made. Founded in 2008 by Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen, Copenhagen Suborbitals is now comprised of a coterie of 20-plus specialists determined to create the first homemade, manned spacecraft to go into suborbital flight.

If successful – a manned launch is projected for sometime in the next few years – Denmark would be the fourth country in the world, after China, to successfully launch a manned rocket into space. What’s exceptional about such a feat, if completed, will be Kristian and Peter's ability to do so on a shoestring budget of a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, versus the tens of millions of dollars it costs government-funded agencies and the rising tide of private companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic or Bigelow.

Testing of Launch Escape System and its Tycho Deep Space capsule with crash-test dummy Randy on board. (Credit: Thomas Pedersen/Copenhagen Suborbitals.)

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