Private Space Flight Carries on Proud Aviation Tradition: Zero Leg-Room

Over the past several years, there has been an explosion of private investment in the space industry. SpaceX may be the best known, with its founder investing $100 Million of his own money and a tremendous amount of time and energy in the hopes of developing a fleet of privately operated rockets. Richard Branson has also entered the fray with his Virgin Galactic space tourism project. And Robert Bigelow, a Las Vegas hotel magnate, has grand plans for a private space station/hotel.

Another player in the commercial space race that you may not have heard of is Copenhagen Suborbitals, which just conducted a successful booster test last week. The test was a major step for the Danish company.

XLR-2 hybrid rocket motor test from Sonny W. on Vimeo.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is currently developing a series of suborbital space vehicles designed to validate and test performance, paving the way for manned space flight on a micro-size spacecraft, or MSC…

Two rocket vehicles are under development: a small unmanned sounding rocket, named Hybrid Atmospheric Test Vehicle, or HATV, and a larger booster rocket named Hybrid Exo Atmospheric Transporter, or HEAT, designed to carry a micro spacecraft into a suborbital trajectory in space.

Both boosters systems will be hybrid rockets using epoxy as solid propellant…

Before the spacecraft goes into a zero gravity parabola, the booster system will be jettisoned. After a while of atmospheric re-entry, the spacecraft will be slowed by two episodes of deployed parachutes. Finally, the spacecraft will touchdown on land.

It will not be possible for the astronaut to move around inside the MSC. Only the arms will be free “to operate a few (backup) systems like grabbing on to handles or a vomit bag, as well as additional oxygen mask and the MSC abort system, if necessary after touchdown.”

It’s that last bit that’s drawn Copenhagen a bit of bad press. In fact, Gizmodo compared the idea to a cruel form of punishment:

How’s this for a nightmare scenario: you’re crammed into a rocket the size of a closet, only large enough for you to stand up in. The top is a clear dome so you can see out, but it’s too small for you to bend your legs, let alone walk around in. You are then launched into space. Aaauuughghghghhh!

It’s also been described as a “one -man Roman candle ride into space”. Though it doesn’t look like an entirely pleasant way to travel, if given the opportunity I’m pretty sure I’d pop a few Valium and try to enjoy the crazy, claustrophobic ride.