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Amateur team's Nexø I rocket shows that space exploration is risky business

Copenhagen Suborbitals’ Nexø I rocket looked bound for orbit for the first minute after it launched from the Sputnik floating platform. “That is so beautiful,” said a commentator on the launch’s live feed. “What a wonderful sight! That is Nexø I functioning perfectly! What a treat, what a treat.”

But the commentator’s excitement quickly turned to confusion. “Oh, hey, what’s happening now?” he asked as a voice over the radio called out that the rocket was losing power. Less than 30 seconds later, the rocket from the first-ever fully crowdfunded, nonprofit space exploration startup met its end in the ocean off of Denmark’s eastern shore.

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The flight may be deemed a failure but, considering that it was created by an amateur organization of 55 members who only work on the project in their spare time, the fact that it launched in the first place must be considered an achievement. At least, that’s how Copenhagen Suborbitals’ communications director, Mads Wilson, sees it.

“Today was never more than a test,” Wilson told TV2 Denmark.  “We needed to test parts. And a very big part of the rocket worked. And then there were some things that did not work.”

Copenhagen Suborbitals’s ultimate goal is to send a manned mission to space aboard a capsule on the Spica rocket, of which Nexø I and its successor, Nexø II, are steppingstones.

After the Nexø I landed in the sea, a salvage boat was sent out after the rocket. It has since been recovered and returned to the team’s warehouse on the Copenhagen harbor, where the team will investigate the technical trouble. “Now we are home and we’ll find out what it was [that did not work] so we can correct it and get a better flight with Nexø II,” Wilson said.