How Smart Homes Alter Human Behavior – IEEE Spectrum
We’re in a new era of spaceflight: The national space agencies are no longer the only game in town, and space is becoming more accessible. Rockets built by commercial players like
Blue Origin are now bringing private citizens into orbit. That said, Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic are all backed by billionaires with enormous resources, and they have all expressed intentions to sell flights for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Copenhagen Suborbitals has a very different vision. We believe that spaceflight should be available to anyone who’s willing to put in the time and effort.
Copenhagen Suborbitals was founded in 2008 by a self-taught engineer and a space architect who had previously worked for NASA. From the beginning, the mission was clear: crewed spaceflight. Both founders left the organization in 2014, but by then the project had about 50 volunteers and plenty of momentum.
The group took as its founding principle that the challenges involved in building a crewed spacecraft on the cheap are all engineering problems that can be solved, one at a time, by a diligent team of smart and dedicated people. When people ask me why we’re doing this, I sometimes answer, “Because we can.”
Our goal is to reach the Kármán line, which defines the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, 100 kilometers above sea level. The astronaut who reaches that altitude will have several minutes of silence and weightlessness after the engines cut off and will enjoy a breathtaking view. But it won’t be an easy ride. During the descent, the capsule will experience external temperatures of 400 °C and g-forces of 3.5 as it hurtles through the air at speeds of up to 3,500 kilometers per hour.
I joined the group in 2011, after the organization had already moved from a maker space inside a decommissioned ferry to a hangar near the Copenhagen waterfront. Earlier that year, I had watched Copenhagen Suborbital’s first launch, in which the HEAT-1X rocket took off from a mobile launch platform in the Baltic Sea—but unfortunately crash-landed in the ocean when most of its parachutes failed to deploy. I brought to the organization some basic knowledge of sports parachutes gained during my years of skydiving, which I hoped would translate into helpful skills.
The team’s next milestone came in 2013, when we successfully launched the Sapphire rocket, our first rocket to include guidance and navigation systems. Its navigation computer used a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope to keep track of its location, and its thrust-control system kept the rocket on the correct trajectory by moving four servo-mounted copper jet vanes that were inserted into the exhaust assembly.
We believe that spaceflight should be available to anyone who’s willing to put in the time and effort.
The HEAT-1X and the Sapphire rockets were fueled with a combination of solid polyurethane and liquid oxygen. We were keen to develop a bipropellant rocket engine that mixed liquid ethanol and liquid oxygen, because such liquid-propellant engines are both efficient and powerful. The HEAT-2X rocket, scheduled to launch in late 2014, was meant to demonstrate that technology. Unfortunately, its engine went up in flames, literally, in …….