WATCH: A real life Rocket Man with a plan that’s out of this world
PUBLISHED: 18:20 19 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:58 20 February 2019
It’s a long way from NASA but a Norfolk field could provide the launch pad for a rocket made by a man hoping to train people to go to ‘infinity and beyond.’
It might seem truly out of this world to imagine rockets taking off from the green fields of north Norfolk – but Ben Jarvis of Raptor Aerospace is making and launching rockets to help create the Neil Armstrongs and Buzz Aldrins of the future.
Mr Jarvis, from Wymondham, intends to provide hands-on experience in how a rocket is assembled and flown – something he says is desperately lacking in the UK which, despite only seeing two astronauts go into space in the last 50 years, has got a space industry which is growing by 20% a year.
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Not only will he provide training but also education for school children and sixth formers in a bid to inspire people to go into the industry which also involves all kinds of associated skills such as engineering, IT and graphic design. He is also going to hold rocket building workshops for the public.
“Up to now, people tend to think unless you are Elon Musk or you live around the corner from NASA or wear a white coat in a lab in the US, you can’t possibly work in the space industry. But this simply isn’t true,” said Mr Jarvis.
He grew up with his visual effects father inventing things and blowing things up in the back garden and when he was 14, realised you could actually buy your own mini rocket. He went on to go into product design but as a hobby started making his own rockets – the biggest he has ever built professionally was 32ft tall, 4ft diameter and weighed over half a ton. His rockets, which can cost up to £15,000 to make, can aid in all kinds of things to do with launching a real rocket; from testing computer systems to locating them if they land in water. Built on a miniature scale, Mr Jarvis reckons the ‘physics, the paperwork and the safety procedures are all the same.’
After take-off, the rocket which has an onboard computer and GPS location tracking device, reaches its altitude and then, when it starts to fall back down, breaks up in the air about half a mile high, landing gently and safely by parachute, just like a normal rocket. The furthest he has sent one is 50,000 feet up – equivalent to one sixth of the way into space. Most go 20,000 to 30,000 feet high but Mr Jarvis will be launching scientific research payloads up to 400,000ft or 110km, over the 100km boundary of space by later next year.
Most only go into the air for about 20-25 seconds with the longest being up for about three minutes.
The launch has to be done within CAA, Civil Aviation Authority, guidelines, at a designated location and weather permitting and Mr Jarvis has to have a special licence to even be able to purchase the fuel and store it. He is hoping to get permission to launch from a field near Aylsham.
And would he ever go up in space himself? “I’ve launched about 1200 rockets and seen enough blow up so I’ll be keeping my feet on the ground,” he said.
For more information see www.raptor-aerospace.com