Skip to main content /SPACE /SPACE

Amateur rocket to attempt space record

The Civilian Space eXploration Team hopes to make rocket history this month from this dry Nevada lake bed.
The Civilian Space eXploration Team hopes to make rocket history this month from this dry Nevada lake bed.  

By Richard Stenger

(CNN) -- Federal officials have given final clearance for the launch of what engineering hobbyists hope will be the highest amateur rocket flight beyond the edge of space.

The Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) plans later this month to blast its unmanned Primera rocket from a dry Nevada lake bed to a height of more than 60 miles.

Fifty miles high, widely accepted as the edge of space, is the minimum altitude for which the U.S. Air Force awards astronaut wings.

"The rocket is ready and so are we. This is the culmination of years of work by a wonderful team," said CSXT founder Ky Michaelson, a retired stunt man who holds numerous rocket-powered speed records.

Michaelson, also known as the Rocketman, and his group had to scrub a June attempt because Mother Nature turned nasty at the Nevada launch site.

"Last time we had a problem with windstorms," said Michaelson, adding that they were preparing this time around with a specially equipped van. "So if we have any wind problems we'll shut the door instead of hang on in the tents."

CSXT postponed the original September 2001 launch date because of the 9/11 attacks. The Minnesota-based group tried to cross the space threshold in 2000, but the earlier rocket fizzled out at roughly seven miles when wind shear tore off a fin.

The upgraded model is a 17-foot, 511-pound, single-stage vehicle, powered by solid rocket fuel similar to that in the detachable boosters that push the space shuttles into orbit.

The Primera is expected to reach its lofty goal within 90 seconds, which would break CSXT's previous world record for amateur rocket speed of 3,205 mph.

The flight time should last 10 minutes, after which the rocket will be about 25 miles downrange.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the remote desert location where CSXT will send off the Primera, and the Federal Aviation Administration approved the September launch.

"All systems are go. We're more confident than ever," said program manager Jerry Larson.

"Our obstacles [in June] were high winds and narrow launch windows. Historically the winds are less in September. And our launch windows are much broader. I like our odds for making history," he said.

The launch is scheduled to take place sometime from mid-to-late September, but the exact date and location will not be announced until just before liftoff for security reasons, CSXT said.

Previous amateur launch milestones include a 1996 shot by the California-based Reaction Research Society, which sent a rocket payload up 53 miles.




Back to the top