Northumberland,Sept12:ENTREPRENEUR Steve Bennett successfully launched a rocket almost a mile into the sky yesterday in his latest bid to take tourists into space.
His firm Starchaser Industries fired the 26ft-long Skybolt 2 Research Rocket off the back of a flat-bed lorry at an MoD site at Otterburn, Northumberland.
It reached its maximum height of 4,000ft before breaking into three sections which returned to earth by parachute.
Delighted Steve, 53, hailed the 30-second flight a success and claimed he was close to being able to take space tourists on the trip of a lifetime.
He said: “We’re really pleased with that launch, the rocket went really well. It flew nice and high exactly as it should do.
“It split apart in its separate pieces, which is one of the key tests we were doing, and two of the three parachutes deployed, which is not a bad day.
“Next for us is a much bigger rocket. That was an 8.3m (27ft 2in) rocket but we have a 12m (39ft) rocket big enough to carry a person and we’ll be launching that within 18 months.”
Despite competing against major firms in the space tourism market including Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Mr Bennett is confident his company will have a role to play.
He said: “One of the things we want to do is make space tourism a reality. We want to be launching people into space and this rocket was carrying various systems and experiments that will allow us to do that.
“I set up Starchaser 25 years ago, we’ve built and launched some big rockets and it’s been a long hard road but we’re nearly there and we’re just a couple years away from launching people on holidays into space.
“Space tourism is a big cake and there’s a slice for everyone.
“There’s some people out there with a little bit more money than us but we’ve got a fantastic team of people. We’ve got the University of Chester behind us and we’re going to make this happen.” Steve has been fascinated with rockets since childhood when he built small ones powered by sugar in his back yard.