Steve ready for big lift-off
| SET for lift-off : The NOVA rocket.
by Emma Fitzgerald
The unveiling of NOVA takes rocket man Steve Bennett
one step closer to a space world first. He is aiming to win the X Prize
Competition where £6.25m is being offered to the first non-governmental
organisation in space. He says his company
Starchaser Industries Ltd
is on schedule to compete for the prize by 2003 with Thunderbird an
advanced version of NOVA.
|It was billed as 'the last piece of the
puzzle' and was a moment Steve Bennet has been counting down to for the past
The grand unveiling of NOVA - the world's first private piloted spaceship
- had been a long-awaited moment for Dukinfield's rocket man.
After launching Starchaser Discovery above Morecambe Bay in July last
year, £100,000 NOVA - his 14th and biggest rocket to date - will be
heading for the stars later this year.
But before Steve steps into the 33 foot rocket - capable of carrying one
person 62 miles into space - NOVA will be launched unmanned from an undisclosed
site, probably abroad.
| Daring challenge: The scientist chosen for
NOVA's first manned flight will be at the controls in this capsule. Right:
Dukinfield rocket man Steve Bennett.
Two tickets have already been sold for Thunderbird to
an anonymous couple for a mere £250,000 each. Steve described how his
dream of producing NOVA became a reality. "About this time last year I remember
sitting in the office sketching it onto a piece of paper," said the
father-of-two. "Then I got the technical drawing people to turn it into what
you see now. It feels really good to actually see it and I'm going to get
a real buzz when it's launched." He said the unveiling -at a warehouse in
Hyde - was 'time to show the world just what we have built'.
| Ready to go : Steve discusses plans with one of the
"It's OK unveiling something and saying this is what we're going to do, but
we've built this and we will fly it," said a confident Steve, aged 37. And
before he embarks on his first solo manned flight - which will take him 10,000
ft up - he admitted there's a lot of preparation. "I've been sky diving to
practice how to escape from the rocket if all doesn't go to plan and I want
to get 100 jumps in before the flight. "I've also been doing centrifuge training
where you're spun round on the end of a long arm to make you times your body
weight - similar to how you'll feel when the rocket accelerates."
Steve said just sitting in the capsule - which will come back
down by parachute with Steve inside- takes a lot of getting used to "It's
like sitting on the roof of a house, it's small and cramped. It sways
and creaks so it's important whoever goes up is used to the enclosed space
so they don't freak out before the launch." NOVA will be the star attraction
at the 'Tomorrow's World Live Event', in Earls Court London, until July 1.
Starchaser Steve hopes blast off into history books at last!
by Emma Fitzgerald in Morecambe Bay. Pictures by Andy Bellis
|We have lift off. The Nova launch in Morecambe Bay reaches
for the skies and (inset) the rocket prepares for lift off.
As the world's first private spaceship soared above the Morecambe
skyline, its creator once again upped the ante of the space race.
Nova is Steve Bennett's latest rocket - five times bigger and five times
more powerful than Starchaser Discovery which he launched successfully last
Dukinfield's very own rocket man used the same launch pad - Cartmel wharf
in Flookburgh, Morecambe - but this time the stakes were much higher.The
37ft tall Nova RLV - reusable launch vehicle - was billed as the 'last piece
of the puzzle' before Steve attempts his goal of
winning the X Prize Competition - where £6.25m is being offered to the
first non-governmental organisation to launch three people into space.
It's Steve's 14th and biggest rocket to date and is capable of carrying one
person 62 miles into space. He's planning one more unmanned flight before
stepping in the rocket himself for a trip next spring.
As the crowds of press and spectators waited patienfly for the 10-second
countdown, we were warned it was 'an experiment', and told to stay well behind
the spectators' rope. Many wondered whether this would be the launch to put
a stop to Steve's ambitious plans.
But as we saw the £100,000 spaceship blast off in a cloud of black
smoke, reaching a speed of 500mph in under six seconds, we soon realised
the former laboratory technician's dream was not so out of this world.
The rocket split in two as planned and the capsule - the top bit where Steve
will be when he attempts his manned flight - brought down safely by parachute.
The booster-the biggest part of the rocket - had 3 parachutes, but two became
tangled, leaving only one bringing it down at 35mph, more than double the
planned speed. Apart from two fins breaking off during the heavy landing,
the whole rocket can still be reused.
Steve, aged 37, said Nova was 'substantially bigger' than anything he'd done
before. He said it was capable of going all the way into space, but explained
why they kept it to an altitude of less than 6,000ft.
"If you're going to build a boat to sail around the world, you sail it round
a marina first to check what it's capable of," said the father-of-two. "We
need this test flight to see if it meets its objectives."
| Back to Earth: The Nova rocket hits the ground with
a bump after the parachutes fail to open and (inset) Steve Bennet.
Checking the new mobile launch tower, the capsule parachute
descent, the booster system and onboard computers were just a few of the
flight objectives. Nova was Steve's fifth launch at Morecambe Bay and possibly
his last in the UK. 'After this I want to launch it to higher altitudes,
but we're restricted with how high we can go with this in the UK," he said.
"The higher you go the bigger launch area you need." Steve runs his own company
- Starchaser Industries Ltd - from Salford University and earlier this year
opened a new Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in Hyde.
He'll soon be opening another office in America - Cape Canaveral
was his obvious choice! He now has 12 permanent staff and 25 part-time
And with sponsorship from the likes of Microsoft and the Discovery Channel,
he's certainly not short of investment.
The space fanatic reckons he has the best chance of winning the X Prize and
is hoping to do so with Thunderbird - an advanced and 30 per cent bigger
version of Nova - by the end of 2003.
But the prize - for which 21 other teams are competing worldwide - is just
part of his ultimate aim to 'open up the space frontier'. He reckons regular
passenger flights aboard Thunderbird-type space ships could start as early
"Space tourism will be worth $10bn by 2010 and we've got to make sure we
have a piece of that pie," he said. "I've always dreamed of flying into space
- flying aboard a rocket, now we've got one. There are a lot of doubters
out there and we've just proved them wrong. We have just physically demonstrated
in the most dramatic way possible that we have what it takes to deliver "There
are a lot of people out there talking about it, but we're out here walking
the walk and making it happen." [The Advertiser 29/11/2001]
Let's take pride in rocket man Steve
Editor - The Starchaser project
based in Hyde is set to go for another big target with their latest rocket.
In the past, the exploits of this talented team of local engineers
has put a series of projectiles high into our skies.
On a single occasion they had a problem,and inevitably that's one that
gets the mention in the media.
In truth this is a sophisticated project,which deserves the acclaim
since its successes have in fact been as good as many national
or European financed rocket efforts.
The image of Steve Bennett and the Starchaser team of
being a garden shed bunch of amateurs is way off the truth and
you all know it!
It's high time our local media portray these people in a way
that shows pride in their amazing feats,and acknowledge what an asset they
really are here in Tameside.
[The Advertiser 5/7/2001]
|HE MAY be known nationwide as 'the rocket
man', but nobody's followed Steve Bennett's success story more than those
closest to home. And to congratulate his achievements so far, the dad-of-two
was presented with a public service award by the people of his home town
Dukinfield. Steve has high hopes of winning the £6.25m X Prize Competition
by being the first independent rocket maker to launch three people 63 miles
into the atmosphere. In November he launched Nova - his 14th and biggest
rocket to date - above Morecambe Bay Nova is capable of carrying one person
62 miles into space and Steve is planning one more unmanned flight before
stepping into the rocket himself for a 10,000ft trip this spring. The space
fanatic reckons he's in with the best chance of winning the prize and is
hoping to do so with Thunderbird - an advanced version of Nova - by the end
The award was presented to Steve at Dukinfield's district assembly by chairman
Cllr Brian Wild who praised his success. "Steve told me in 1996 that he'd
gone full time to promote his rocket," said the former mayor "It's a great
achievement what he's doing. Every time Steve's on TV he puts Dukinfield
on the map and it's a great pleasure to give him this award." Steve, aged
37, said: "It really is an honour and a privilege to receive this award.
It was completely unexpected. It's nice to be recognised, I've put a lot
of work into this and it's started to pay off." He added: "We've now got
a factory in Hyde which is employing local people and we're starting to put
something back into the community "We really do want to put Dukinfield back
on the map."
[The Advertiser 24/11/2001]
Aliens have landed!
| THE aliens have landed to give people an out
of this world experience. Visitors to Ashton on July 28 need not be alarmed
if they see the odd Star Wars character or Klingon roaming the streets -
as they are just guests for the Sci-Fi day.
Characters from movies and cult TV shows will beam down to the market ground
where there will be a chance for shoppers to have their picture taken with
their favourite character. Town Centre manager Peter Hawley said: "Darth
Vader will be in town, along with storm troopers and several other characters
from the classic movie series."
Pictured: Peter Hawley with a Cyberman.
[The Advertiser 19/7/2001]
I told you I didn't think he was part of Sci-Fi
Aliens invade town centre
| Close encounter: Ten-year old Zoe Waterhouse with a
new alien friend.
||Space fans were also
given the chance to see an exclusive exhibition on the work of local rocket
man Steven Bennett and his Starchaser project Town centre marketing manager
Peter Hawley said: "As far as I am concerned the day was a complete success.
"We must have had a couple of thousand people wandering through the exhibition
and it was as much fun watching people's faces as anything as we took the
Daleks around the shops and stores."
It is also expected that around £200 has been raised for Willow Wood
Hospice from donations given by people having their photograph taken along
with their favourite characters.
[The Advertiser 2/8/2001]
|SHOCKED shoppers were given an
extra-terrestrial treat when aliens came to visit. Ashton centre was invaded
by Daleks, Star Wars characters and
monsters on Saturday as the market place and shopping centres were taken
out of this world for a special Sci-Fi day.
As well as a squadron of storm troopers
running around with Darth Vader, visitors also had to he on the alert for
the odd Cyberman from the cult Doctor
Who series and the occasional Star
No one can hear you scream
Sally Eyden ventures into space with Sam Neill as guide
to the BBC's new odyssey
|Remember the space programmes of yesteryear
when Sir Patrick Moore squinted through untamed brows to point
out the Plough to the public? But now,after 40 years of space
education via the Sky At Night,things are about to change at the
The corporation has decided that 2001 is the year to unveil its latest
space odyssey with actor Sam Neill at the helm of
Space,a very different sort
of galactic journey. Where Moore only had a shaky, standard issue telescope
and a BBC window which opened out onto the stars, Space has an apparently
bottomless budget and an infinite number of special effects including
a nifty contraption called a Virtual Space Zone - a futuristic gizmo set
deep in the mountains of New Zealand. This allows Neill to interact
directly with a virtual universe throughout the six-part
|In the first programme,Neill holds
a swirling star in his hand and steps into the cosmos to shed
skin and muscle to become a talking skeleton. The series is
meant to inspire young and old to contemplate the mysteries
of the Universe. "What would you think if I told you that everyone
came from outer space?" Neill says with the drama usually reserved for
You may think that Neill,a big screen actor not a scientist,is
a strange choice to present the BBC's small screen venture in space,but
he claims he was "compelled" when approached by the producers. "When
I was sent the material,I was somewhat sceptical about it
- it didn't seem to be my area at all - then I read it and it made
me sit up, I thought,'I haven't really done anything like this before,why
not give it a go and see if I can pull it off?'"
This he has done with the same sort of expertise and panache that made his
Hollywood films such as Dead Calm ,The Hunt For Red October,and The Horse
Whisperer so successful.
Neill also admits he has gained a thirst for space facts."Did you know
that for every grain of sand on our whole planet,there are a million stars
in our universe?" he asks.
"I'm now quite happy to be a dinner party bore with all kinds of space
He and the rest of the production team hope others will become
as inspired as they did during the filming. Producer
Richard Burke Ward explains "Space is
about our relationship with the universe - how the things going
on up there affect our lives on Earth. If you think the universe is a big
irrelevance,Space will make you think again."
It certainly does. The series is awe-inspiring eye-candy which
combines computer wizardry with stunning cinematography shot in picturesque
and diverse locations. Subjects as far ranging as the
Big Bang to black holes
are explained by leading experts,along with riveting experiments - one which
re-creates an exploding star in a laboratory. The sky's no limit.
Rocketman Steve inspires launch of new space song
by Sam Lister
|FORGET Lennon, Hendrix and Bowie - Denton duo
Bynatone have shunned the rock and roll hall of fame in favour of space man
Electro pop pairing Rachel Elwell and Alan Lewinsky were so impressed with
the Dukinfield scientist's bid to launch into space they have written a song
Starchaser, named after Steve's rocket project, is a space-sounding track
made using an Omega
computer and a theremin. It's the band's debut single and came
out on the Arden City College-sponsored record label Raw Fish.
Alan aged 26, said: "I read about him in the Advertiser a couple of years
ago and was just amazed by what he's doing.
| Song writers:Alan Lewinsky and Rachel Elwell have written
and performed a song dedicated to Steve Bennet.
"I admire his enthusiasm. He will either look like an absolute
fool or he will be a hero and will be on the front cover of every
"He is a man following his dreams and that's very inspiring. I would love
to enter the competition on his website to win a place on the launch, but
Rachel won't let me because she doesn't think I will come back down in one
Bynatone got together in May last year, and have played 15 gigs in Manchester.
They have even been asked to sign a copy of Starchaser for one of their fans.
But their hero has yet to hear the track.
Steve said: "I'm quite keen to hear this song. It's nice to be an inspiration,
quite flattering, but I will have to wait until I hear it before I give an
opinion. I would encourage everyone to live their dream."
Hear Bynatone perform Starchaser live at Club Suicide, Rockinghams, Manchester,
this Saturday from 9pm.
[The Advertsiser Feb27,2003]
Florida bound for Starchaser
by Barbara Canning
|THINGS are hotting up in the Tameside space camp as rocket man Steve
Bennett prepares for the next stage of his exciting race to the stars.
Pioneering space engineer Steve will be jetting off to America on 10 July
as he prepares to take his Nova II rocket capsule on its first ever test
"I've been looking forward to this for quite some time.
"We have been waiting for this from about May and it's taken three months
to get it here but now it's finally going to happen," he said.
Steve, who comes from Dukinfield, told the Advertiser that he will first
fly to Florida to oversee the final stages of the 1,000 square foot parachute
for the Nova II, before travelling to Arizona for the start of the trials
on 21 July.
"We're doing a minimum of three drops and the parachute people want to put
their test pilots in the first two but I'm hoping to do the third one," he
He said once the capsule is dropped from the transport aircraft at 14,000
feet, the pilot will then guide the 200kg capsule to the ground - similar
to a glider plane.
But Steve said the trip will not be all work-orientated as he hopes to take
in some of the local sites with his wife Adrienne and their kids Max and
Tabitha. He added that should the trials go well, he aims to launch himself,
the Nova pod and the Nova rocket, 30,000 feet into space by 2004, which will
then pave the way for their three-man launch and the $10m X-prize for the
first private manned rocket flight.
Space fans can get a chance to see Steve and his rocket before the launch
when Starchaser industries open up their doors this Sunday
As well as the 11m high Nova rocket, visitors can check out the project's
unique engine system, a four-billion year-old meteorite and also get a chance
to fire their own paper rockets into the stratosphere.
For your chance to get involved, call in on the team at Unit A, Adamson
Industrial Estate, Alexandra Street, Hyde.
The doors open from l0am to 6pm and admission costs £3 adults, £2.50
concessions or free to club members.
[The Advertiser July3,2003]
WOULD like to respond to Mr Britnell's letter on the moon landings (Readers'
letters 19 February). There is no real evidence that man actually landed
on the moon. I quote from the letter 'The moon landing was successful history
and has proved this to be correct'. This is not historical fact. A book I
have read on the matter points to the fact that it was a mission impossible.
NASA had so many obstacles to overcome. There were a lot of inconsistencies
with the photographs taken, and the 1960s could not have achieved such a
feat. Why have we not gone back to the moon since the first expedition with
all the advancements of today's technology? It's because I believe it was
filmed in a studio,just like the film Capricorn One. Also there was the space
race between the USA and Russia. Whoever got to the moon first achieved power
in the eyes of the world.
Rooney Street, Ashton
IN REPLY to last week's letter about the moon landing I am among those who
do not believe we ever landed on the moon and that we were subject to the
greatest hoax of the 20th century If you read up on the subject you will
find it was almost impossible to achieve, radiation belts, flag waving on
the moon etc.
THE moon landings took place on known facts. Neil Armstrong's helmet was
peppered with holes seen under an electron microscope caused by cosmic radiation,
impossible to fake. Moon rock was also presented to
Manchester University as payment for vital
equipment. I'm sure the geologists there were satisfied they were genuine.
Lastly three astronauts died in a tragic accident whilst practicing for the
mission. I can't believe people who knew them would collude at deceit and
thus downgrade their ultimate sacrifice.
[The Advertiser Thursday,Mar 12 09]
Lots of evidence of moon landings
I READ with incredulity the letters of Mr Pickering and Mr Wood (Letters,
12 March) with regards to the so-called hoax of the Apollo moon landings.
One doesn't even need to consider the scientific evidence to disprove the
hoax theory. Saturn 5 moon rockets were built and that's a fact. Three of
them still exist and are on public display in Alabama, Florida and Texas.
The giant rockets launched to the moon were seen by literally millions of
eye witnesses. Over half a million people were physically present when Apollo
11 set off on its journey. If they were going to fake going to the moon,
why would they fake it nine times? Apollo 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and
17 all carried men to the moon and all of these missions were tracked by
independent receiving stations all over the world, including our very own
Jodrell Bank. Then there's the moon
rock that was collected. Any geologist who has ever examined it will tell
you that it came from somewhere other than the earth. 'There is no doubt
in my mind that NASA did exactly what they said they did; they landed 12
brave men on the surface of another celestial body and brought them home
Managing director Starchaser
[The Advertiser Thursday,Mar 26 09]
Thank you for printing my letter about Neil Armstrong. When my kids were
young I used to invent rhymes for them to learn dates and sequences of things.
Here's one I wrote about Neil Armstrong:
'Neil Armstrong said,'I'll see you soon.I'm off to the moon,and from his
spacecraft we saw him climb in July '69'
GEOFF BRITNELL Broadhurst,Denton
[The Advertiser Thursday,Mar 19 09]
Sent to the Advertiser:
I am amazed by the ignorance of your contributors Mr Pickering and D Wood.
Do they not know that there is a laser reflector on the moon installed by
the astronauts which is now used to measure the distance of the moon from
us by a gigantic laser? How on earth (sic) did it get there - aliens? Please
can they also explain how one gets the picture
from the moon" without someone actually being there?
I am tired of hearing conspiracy theorists run down the achievements of mankind
- Jim Lovell and his crew nearly died in Apollo 13 trying to land there,as
was shown to us in the film with Tom Hanks. Millions of dollars are not ploughed
into building the space shuttle and the space station because the moon landings
failed.Mr Britnell is correct - it is an affront to the tragic loss of human
life that it took to reach the moon,to suggest that it was faked - some people
will pick holes in anything that they think they could not have achieved
I suggest that your two doubting Thomas's follow the advice I gave
Mr Robishaw - come to the library and check the
Library ICT Mentor
Over the Moon
I was over the moon to see that Steve Bennet had made the same point I was
trying to make with respect to the moon landings which have been criticised
by Mr Pickering and Mr Wood.But can you please add to Steve and Mr Britnell's
evidence, the fact that there is a laser reflector on the moon, put there
by the astronauts,which now measures the distance to the moon to the accuracy
of a light wavelength,and if possible a picture. I am sure that this will
silence dissenters like Mr Pickering. He only needs to
'Moon laser reflector' to find the truth of it.
22 Bamford Grove
Treading where no man has gone before
A SCIENTIST who wants affordable space travel has invented a 'green' rocket
fuel. Hyde-based Steve Bennett, who has made it his mission to reach the
stars, has developed a powerful new engine which runs on car tyres. With
the help of a £130,000 grant from the North West Development Agency;
Steve and his team created the unique engine powered by waste material. The
group fired up the engine at a test ground in Saddleworth. Although not powerful
enough to launch the rocket into space, the team believes the eco-rocket
could be used to manoeuvre space shuttles during an emergency. The rocket
uses a mixture of highly-flammable hydrogen peroxide and powdered rubber
from tyres. Steve, who lives in Dukinfield, said the unique mixture of fuel
burned produces virtually no harmful emissions. "The development of an
eco-friendly rocket motor system that can be employed to safeguard the lives
of astronauts will showcase the very best of British endeavour and innovation,"
he said. "Our ultimate aim, though, is to carry tourists into space and our
eco-engine takes is another step closer to realising that ambition." His
firm, Starchaser Industries, is based in Hyde and has already designed and
built a number of rockets. Steve plans to make his first manned flight in
LEFT: Rocket man Steve Bennet and the tyre-fuelled engine being tested
THE ADVERTISER, THURSDAY, MARCH 26,2009
Science classes are a blast
|SCIENCE classes are going off with a bang in the Tameside Rocket Science
The challenge has seen the council team up with Hyde-based Starchaser
Industries to get hundreds of youngsters learning more about rocket engines
and the science behind them. Many will get a chance to build and launch their
own model rockets. They will also be able to enter a competition to name
the company's new eco-friendly rocket which will be launched later this year
from Morecambe Bay. Cllr Ged Cooney said: "This unique chance to study will
place Tameside pupils at the forefront of practical learning about science
and space and rocket technology"
Steve Bennett of Starchaser Industries said: "Partnering with Tameside Council
will enable us to engage with an unprecedented number of children in the
local area, where we will use the excitement of rocketry to turn more youngsters
on to science related subjects." Any school interested in participating in
the scheme should contact Matt Shewbridge on 0161 882 9922.