Copenhagen Suborbitals and Exploring “Horrible Deaths”

Kristian von Bengtson (left) and Peter Madsen, founders of the Copenhagen Suborbitals (Credits: Bo Tornvig/Copenhagen Suborbitals).

There is no question that Copenhagen Suborbital has broken ground in the do-it-yourself (DIY) space movement. Founded in 2008 by Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen with the express goal of launching themselves into space, the organization has designed and tested a whole family of rockets and a capsule that has significantly evolved over time. The organization has advanced in sophistication and inspired a whole generation of DIY space ventures.

For the most part, the Copenhagen Suborbitals’ tests have gone well, but recently von Bengston spent some time exploring the darker side of launching and the risks a spacecraft crew faces, whether your vehicle is made in your own garage or by a government agency replete with professionals. In an article on Wired entitled “Top 10 Most Horrible Deaths in a DIY Space Project,” von Bengston explored, in a mixture of dark humor and factual accuracy, the fatal risks that he himself undertakes in his quest to get to space.

von Bengston’s list of Top 10 Most Horrible Deaths in a DIY Space Project (Credits: Copenhagen Suborbitals/Wired).

As alert readers pointed out, this list is not all inclusive. Readers chimed in with their own contributions, ranging from chemical exposure to disintegration on reentry.

It is too early to say if Copenhagen Suborbital’s unorthodox approach to space exploration will result into a sophisticated suicide plan (as von Bengston suggests is possible in his itemization) or in a breakthrough in space technology. Either way, the organization’s transparent approach to design, testing, and documentation is contributing to making their effort an interesting case study, capable to inspire people into thinking outside the box.

Below, some of the vehicles that have been keeping Copenhagen Suborbitals busy:



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About the author

Andrea Gini

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Andrea Gini is a content strategy consultant specialized in companies of the space sector. He is founder of Space Safety Magazine, where he held the position of Editor-in-Chief until March 2015. Between 2011 and 2013 he worked in the European Space Agency in the Independent Safety Office, which overviews the utilization of the International Space Station. He previously worked as Software Developer, IT Consultant, and trainer of Java-related technologies. Andrea holds a BSc and an MSc in computer science from the University of Milano, a Master in Communication of Science from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste and a MSc in Space Studies from the International Space University.