Encyclopedia Astronautica
Starchaser 5



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Starchaser 5
British manned spacecraft. Study 2004. X-Prize suborbital ballistic spacecraft concept of Starchaser Industries, Cheshire, England. The concept used a rocket powered vertical takeoff followed by a parachute descent to land.

This reached an advanced stage of engine and component hardware test in the course of 2003 and was set for first flight in 2004. However the total vehicle never progressed beyond mock-up stage before SpaceShipOne won the X-Prize. As of 2006, Starchaser was formulating a new business plan, and seeking investors to allow it to complete development of a suborbital space tourism spacecraft to compete with SpaceShipTwo and New Shepard.

Starchaser Industries began life as an experimental rocket test program set up in 1992 by Steven Bennett. In 1996, his team successfully launched the 6.7 m tall Starchaser 2 rocket, which qualified as the largest privately-built rocket ever to flown in Europe. In November 2001, Starchaser successfully launched the 12-m tall Nova, which included a one-person crew cabin. By the summer of 2002 the original Thunderbird capsule / Starchaser 5 rocket had grown into a two stage vehicle incorporating four strap on boosters. It became clear that this design was significantly overpowered for the purposes of winning the X-Prize. By early 2003 a simpler, smaller and more lightweight launch vehicle that would carry a more compact capsule was sketched out. The new capsule was dubbed Thunderstar and would be carried aloft using a modified Starchaser 5 launch vehicle. Full-scale rocket engine tests were conducted in April 2003. Starchaser successfully performed manned parafoil drop tests of the Nova capsule in July 2003. A launch of the three-person Starchaser Thunderbird X Prize vehicle was scheduled for 2004, but there were still problems in engine fabrication. In 2005, following the winning of the X-Prize by SpaceShipOne, Starchaser's development plans were descoped to concentrate on development of the Skybolt sounding rocket. Skybolt could deliver 20 kg to 130 km altitude. As of 2006, Starchaser was reviewing its business plan. After this review, Starchaser hoped to obtain investors to allow it to complete the Starchaser space tourist vehicle in competition with the ongoing SpaceShipTwo and New Shepard programs.

The two Churchill Mk 3 lox / kerosene engines of the Starchaser would provide a total impulse of: 23.544 MNs, an average thrust of 294.3 kN, and boost the vehicle to a maximum speed of 1323 m/sec (Mach 4.25). The capsule and rocket would separate, the capsule reaching 158 km altitude, the booster 127 km.

The Churchill Mk 3 engine was designed to deliver 15 metric tons of useable thrust for a burn time of up to 70 seconds. The first Churchill rocket engine, the Mk 1, underwent an extensive series of tests including five static firings and produced the specified 0.5 metric tons of thrust. The Mk 1 provided validated data from which to build the larger Mk 2 rocket engine. The Mk 2 followed a similar series of seven static test firings which culminated in a long duration burn of 53 seconds. This engine performed perfectly and proved the reusability of the engine. The Mk 2 developed 3-metric tons of thrust and provided crucial data for the design of the Mk 3 rocket engine. All three engines were regeneratively cooled using the kerosene fuel, which first passed through the cooling jacket before being injected into the combustion chamber. The cooling was so efficient that following the long duration burn of the Mk 2, the engine was only mildly warm to the touch.

AKA: Thunderbird.
Gross mass: 17,000 kg (37,000 lb).
Height: 27.15 m (89.07 ft).
Diameter: 1.60 m (5.20 ft).
Span: 4.80 m (15.70 ft).
Thrust: 294.00 kN (66,093 lbf).

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • X-Prize The X-Prize competition was an attempt to promote commercial civilian spaceflight in a manner similar to the prizes handed out in the early days of aviation. Ten million dollars was to go to the first team to fly a vehicle capable of launching three people into space (defined as an altitude of 100 km in a suborbital trajectory), twice in a two-week period. The vehicle had to be 90% reusable by dry mass. For purposes of the two flights, the competition accepted flight by one person and ballast equivalent to two others at 90 kg per passenger. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
Associated Propellants
  • Lox/Kerosene Liquid oxygen was the earliest, cheapest, safest, and eventually the preferred oxidiser for large space launchers. Its main drawback is that it is moderately cryogenic, and therefore not suitable for military uses where storage of the fuelled missile and quick launch are required. In January 1953 Rocketdyne commenced the REAP program to develop a number of improvements to the engines being developed for the Navaho and Atlas missiles. Among these was development of a special grade of kerosene suitable for rocket engines. Prior to that any number of rocket propellants derived from petroleum had been used. Goddard had begun with gasoline, and there were experimental engines powered by kerosene, diesel oil, paint thinner, or jet fuel kerosene JP-4 or JP-5. The wide variance in physical properties among fuels of the same class led to the identification of narrow-range petroleum fractions, embodied in 1954 in the standard US kerosene rocket fuel RP-1, covered by Military Specification MIL-R-25576. In Russia, similar specifications were developed for kerosene under the specifications T-1 and RG-1. The Russians also developed a compound of unknown formulation in the 1980's known as 'Sintin', or synthetic kerosene. More...

Starchaser 5 Chronology


1997 February 7 - .
  • Starchaser LEXX launch. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully launches LEXX vehicle..

1998 March 20 - .
  • Starchaser 3 launch. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) unsuccessfully launches Starchaser 3 vehicle..

1999 March 5 - .
  • Starchaser Tempest launch. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully launches TEMPEST vehicle..

1999 August 20 - .
  • Starchaser 3a launch. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully launches Starchaser 3a vehicle..

2001 May 2 - .
  • Starchaser 5 subscale tests. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully launches SHARP 1 vehicle..

2001 July 6 - .
  • Starchaser 5 test. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully launches Discovery vehicle..

2001 November 22 - .
  • Starchaser 5 subscale vehicle test. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully launches 1-man NOVA vehicle unmanned..

2002 April 14 - .
  • Starchaser 5 fairing tests. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully launches SHARP 4 and SHARP 5 investigating fairing thermal loads..

2002 October 8 - .
  • Starchaser 5 engine tests. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) tests X PRIZE vehicle hybrid and liquid propulsion systems.

2002 December 16 - .
  • Starchaser 5 pilot training. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) undergoes parafoil pilot training in Florida..

2003 April 3 - .
  • Starchaser 5 capsule unveiled. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) publicly unveiled the Nova mark II capsule in the UK..

2003 April 9 - .
  • Starchaser 5 engine test. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully tested a bi-propellant liquid rocket engine. "The liquid oxygen/kerosene powered system generated some 2,200 kilos of thrust for 15 seconds." The tests will continue for increasingly longer periods and will eventually reach "a full 3 tonnes of thrust".

2003 April 10 - .
  • Starchaser 5 capsule shipped to America. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) publicly unveils the Nova mark II capsule in Florida. The parachutes will be fitted in Florida before shipping the capsule over to Arizona for drop tests..

2003 June 10 - .
  • Starchaser 5 engine test. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Summary: Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) successfully tested their bi-propellant liquid rocket engine at 2,800 kilos [6.2 Klbf] of thrust for 15 seconds. .

2003 July 22 - .
  • Starchaser 5 capsule drop tests. - . Nation: UK. Program: X-Prize. Spacecraft: Starchaser 5. Starchaser Industries (Hyde, England, UK) conducted two manned capsule drop tests from a C-123K transport aircraft at an altitude of 14,000 feet over the Red Lake Drop Zone in Kingman, Arizona, in order to practice landing the reusable craft. The main purpose of the tests was to ensure that the parachute, navigation, and landing systems function properly.

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