Blast-off from Otterburn

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THE usual peace and quiet of Redesdale was interrupted on Monday by a huge rocket being launched into space.

Manchester-based Starchaser Industries, founded by Steve Bennett, fired the eight metre-long Skybolt 2 missile almost a mile into the sky from Otterburn on Monday morning.

Mr Bennett, who set up the company 25 years ago, claims he is just a few years away from launching people into space and said these tests will help him achieve that.

Otterburn was one of the few places in the country suitable for launching the rocket. While it is designed to travel 100 kilometres to the edge of space, the maximum altitude for the first flight was limited to avoid interfering with commercial air traffic and to ensure a safe landing within the Otterburn Danger Area.

The rocket blasted off the launch vehicle successfully, filling the miles and miles of surrounding moorland with the sound of rocket fuel burning.

"We're really pleased with that launch, the rocket went really well, it flew nice and high exactly as it should do," he said.

"Then it split apart in its separate pieces, which is one of the key tests we were doing, and two of the three parachutes deployed, which is not a bad day.

"Next for us is a much bigger rocket, that was an 8.3m rocket but we have a 12m rocket big enough to carry a person and we'll be launching that within 18 months."

Despite some huge players in the space tourism market, such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, Mr Bennett said he was confident Starchaser Industries would have a part to play.

He added: "We've built and launched some big rockets and it's been a long hard road, but we're nearly there and we're just a couple years away from launching people on holidays into space."

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