Having designed and built hundreds of rockets over the past three decades, from lightweight model rockets through to full size commercial sounding rockets, Ben's experience is unique in the UK. The projects below are a few of the key learning milestones in Ben's career, covering both personal projects, amateur group projects and commercial projects.
DATE: 1994 - 1996
Nemesis III was the third true 'high power' rocket Ben built, and at the time, by far the largest at almost ten feet tall. Constructed in 1994, before APCP solid fuel motors (needed to fly something this big) were even available in the UK, the rocket was eventually launched for the first time at the IRW event in Scotland in 1996 on a cluster of seven 'G' and 'H' class motors.
In 1998 at the age of 21 Ben set himself the goal of designing and building a 'Level 3' certification rocket that was small enough to be carried in luggage from the UK to the US and to achieve his L3 certification at the legendary 'BALLS' amateur rocket launch held each summer in the Blackrock desert in Nevada. The all composite 'Transient Glory' rocket successfully flew to over 14,000ft, Mach 1 and set the first officially recognised UK amateur rocket altitude record.
Although Ben had become the first UK citizen to fly an 'M' class rocket motor and achieve 'Level 3' certification in 1998, it wasn't until 1999 that he flew such a powerful vehicle in the UK. Primary Koncern was styled after various Soviet ICBM's and was an experiment in 'extreme clustering' as it utilised a central 'M' class APCP solid fuel motor surrounded by over 60 smaller motors.
Having formed the 'M.A.R.S' team in the mid 90's Ben set the team the goal of pushing the UK altitude record above 50,000ft in the summer of 2000. The team chose the unusual 'boosted-dart' design for their Phobos EAV rocket which, although it failed to break 50,000ft due to a separation problem, did successfully fly to 35,000ft and accelerated to over Mach 2 in less than 2 seconds.
In early 2001 the MARS team decided to head back to Nevada but this time to launch an altitude attempt using the 'B4' hybrid rocket engine the team had developed themselves. The events of 9/11 prevented the US trip at the last minute so the team instead built and flew the massive 'Deimos 2' rocket to a lower altitude from Scotland to flight-test the new B4 engine. The whole project was conceived and executed in less than 3 months.
Originally due to be launched from Nevada in 2001 (hence the rocket name), the Deimos Odyssey was a massive 22ft tall, slender sounding rocket, built to achieve the highest possible altitude from the 250kg thrust 'B4' hybrid engine developed by the MARS team. The rocket was shipped to the US and the 7-strong MARS team met it in Nevada and pulled off a perfect launch to over 24,000ft and Mach 1.2.
As the MARS team worked towards suborbital launch capability it was realised that the use of high-thrust solid fuel 'boosters' would compliment the long-burn of the B4 hybrid engine to achieve much higher altitudes. Phobos 5 was a test vehicle designed to test the operation of a unique booster-separation mechanism Ben designed that used two counter-rotating rings. The vehicle was test flown successfully on three solid fuel motors to ensure operational safety.
In 2004 Ben was asked to build a rocket that was roughly equivalent in size to a Scud ballistic missile for a Hungarian TV illusionist. The finished rocket stood nearly 30ft tall and weighed almost half a metric ton at launch. It was successfully flown in 2005 from an island in the Danube river in Budapest using a 60KNs cluster of APCP rocket motors, landing safely in the river.
In 2010 Ben undertook an International PR stunt to launch a working prototype of the new 'Bigtrak Jr' robot-rover toy onboard a custom designed rocket. The 'X20-Samurai' rocket was a unique octagonal ducted cone based on Ben's proprietary design and successfully flew from a site in California returning video footage for a viral promotional video campaign.
Skyrora - SSR
In late 2017 Ben was approached to help UK launch company 'Skyrora' develop and fly a small atmospheric sounding rocket that would be used as a training tool and a test-bed for flight systems for their larger suborbital and orbital launch vehicle development. The first full power supersonic test of this vehicle took place in summer 2018 from a private launch range in Scotland.