LAUNCH PARTY: A CROWDFUNDING REVOLUTION IGNITES THE NEXT SPACE RACE

Rocket LaunchInside an old storage warehouse in an abandoned shipyard in Copenhagen, Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen have been building a one-man rocket ship they intend to send on a 15-minute, parabolic trip to the edge of space and back.

Von Bengston and Madsen’s non-profit, private space agency is called Copenhagen Suborbitals, and is probably the most extreme do-it-yourself project in the world. Von Bengston is an architect and former NASA contractor. Madsen is an engineer who founded a DIY collective that built three submarines as a hobby.

Copenhagen Suborbitals has no government grants, no investors, and no academic affiliation. Instead, they’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from ordinary people around the world who donated in exchange for a part of their dream.

Von Bengston is building the capsule. Madsen is working on the rocket that will propel it 100 miles up, past the Kármán line dividing Earth’s atmosphere from outer space. Every day the pair report to the chilly 300-square-foot workshop, occasionally joined by members of an all-volunteer rogue science army. Von Bengston has a smooth bald head and a soul patch. He talks fast and comes across as chronically happy. Madsen has ultra-blond hair and ears that stick out. They want to prove that anyone can go to space. “This project will not change anything in terms of science,” von Bengston said, “but it will change the way we look at human space flight.”

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