Rocket man takes his space quest to stately home

Macclesfield Express - - CHARITY ROUND-UP -

AN en­tre­pre­neur has taken a fur­ther step in his quest to launch a tourist trip to space with a rocket test in ru­ral Mac­cles­field.

Rocket fan Steve Ben­nett made it his life’s goal to send a manned mis­sion into space af­ter be­com­ing hooked on science as a young child.

The for­mer Sal­ford Univer­sity lab as­sis­tant set up his own com­pany, Star­chaser, in 1992 as he bids to make his dream a re­al­ity.

An au­di­ence of hun­dreds of chil­dren from more than 20 schools were there to wit­ness his latest experiment in the grounds of the Capesthorne Hall es­tate in Sid­ding­ton, Mac­cles­field.

The 12ft rocket, a col- lab­o­ra­tion with the Univer­sity of Ch­ester, was test­ing vi­tal elec­tronic sys­tems that he hopes will be used aboard Star­chaser’s fu­ture ‘space tourism’ rock­ets.

It was also car­ry­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal GPS pack­age from the Univer­sity of Manch­ester, air qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing experiment as well as two on­board video cam­eras.

The max­i­mum al­ti­tude for the re-us­able rocket was lim­ited to 3,000 feet so as not to in­ter­fere with the op­er­a­tion of the nearby Lovell ra­dio te­le­scope at Jo­drell Bank. And af­ter reach­ing a top speed of more than 200mph, the rocket was safely brought down us­ing a para­chute.

Mr Ben­nett said he hoped invit­ing lo­cal chil­dren to wit­ness the dra­matic test would help in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists.

He said: “This coun­try needs more sci­en­tists and engi­neers. What bet­ter way to in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion than with the spec­tac­u­lar launch of a large scale Bri­tish rocket?”

Pro­fes­sor Nick Avis, ex­ec­u­tive dean of the fac­ulty of science and en­gi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Ch­ester said: “We are de­lighted to be in­volved in this pro­ject, which links nicely to our new science and en­gi­neer­ing pro­grammes at the UK’s first en­gi­neer­ing fac­ulty for more than two decades.

“Our stu­dents will have the op­por­tu­nity to un­der­take in­dus­trial place­ments as part of their de­gree pro­grammes at com­pa­nies such as Star­chaser In­dus­tries and we look for­ward to work­ing closely with them on their fu­ture am­bi­tious projects.”

It is hoped a suc­cess­ful flight will lay the ground­work for the launch of a manned space mis­sion be­fore the end of the decade.

Pic­tures: Matt Rat­cliffe

●● The Tem­pest rocket takes off from Capesthorne Hall in Sid­ding­ton

●● The rocket com­ing back down to earth

●● Steve Ben­nett

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