From the Seattle Times:
Saturday, June 24, 2000, 12:00 a.m. Pacific
Inventor building rocket in back yard
by Gordon Gregory
Newhouse News Service
BEND, Ore. - Brian Walker, a toy inventor with no college degree and almost no flight experience, plans to blast himself into space next summer in a rocket he is building in his back yard.
Walker, who looks more like a middle-aged TV junkie than an astronaut, is spending a quarter-million dollars to fulfill a lifelong ambition.
"I'm planning on being the first private human being to go to space in a home-built rocket. . . . I'm out to demystify space travel," he said.
It sounds crazy.
But an aerospace engineer says Walker's rocket design is simple enough to work. And a former astronaut who met him last year at a space tourism symposium thinks Walker has the right combination of guts, audacity and know-how to pull it off.
However, Walker will have to overcome a lot of obstacles before he can go into space, including persuading the Federal Aviation Administration to give him a license to launch his craft.
Walker plans to power his 9-foot-tall capsule with custom hydrogen peroxide rockets built by a Florida company that specializes in making rockets to power superfast cars and motorcycles.
The 44-year-old is building the capsule in a warehouse-sized shop on his Bend-area property. He also has built a backyard centrifuge, which he'll use to acclimate his body to high gravitational forces.
Walker has designed and built hundreds of devices. He gets royalty checks from 18 of his inventions, including an air-powered toy bazooka sold at Wal-Mart and a laser light show device found at Target.
Soon, he'll be constructing a 30-foot-long launch trailer he plans to tow into the Alvord Desert just east of Steens Mountain next year for his solo flight.
Many skeptics would tell him he is nuts to think he can blast himself into space and return in one piece. But since he was a kid watching the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights on TV, Walker has longed to be an astronaut.
He knew he'd never make it at NASA because all the early astronauts were career military men. "I just didn't see myself going through a military life to get there," he said. "As an 8-year-old kid I said, `Well, I'm going to grow up and build my own rocket.' "
For the past three years, he has put his intellect and energies into figuring out how to do it.
Walker's space capsule will have three thrust nozzles at the top of the engines and immediately below the capsule, and three at the nose of the capsule, allowing them to lift the craft upward.
Most of the weight will be behind, and gravity will keep the rocket pointed upward.
The fuel will be hydrogen peroxide that flows over a silver screen. The silver is a catalyst that causes the peroxide to instantly expand 600 percent and generate steam heated to 1,380 degrees. That steam will be used to give the rocket its lift.
The capsule will sit on top of 10, 14-foot tanks of 90 percent hydrogen peroxide containing some 7,000 pounds of fuel.
When the tanks are empty, says Walker, they and the main engine will be jettisoned and guided back to Earth on a parachute-style wing controlled from the ground by an assistant.
After the fuel tanks and main engine are jettisoned, the capsule should be hurtling upward at about four times the speed of sound.
Walker figures the peak of his trajectory would be about 160,000 feet, or 30 miles above Earth.
(According to NASA, that will put him on the edge of space. Most scientists define space as beginning at 62 miles, or 100 kilometers, above Earth.)
Walker will be wearing a Russian-built anti-G suit and two other special suits that will give him a pressurized, heated environment.
As the capsule begins its descent, says Walker, a small drogue parachute will deploy and retrorockets in the rear of the capsule will fire, slowing the craft from an estimated 600 mph to 300 mph or less.
At about 10,000 feet, Walker says he'll deploy a large parachute-style wing to glide the capsule to a soft landing in the Alvord Desert.
He has had some experience flying paragliders. He will have radio communication with the ground and a locating device.
Robert Frisbee, senior engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., said Walker's plan should work in theory.
Frisbee said the engines are simple - although hydrogen peroxide at high concentrations is highly volatile and tricky to handle - and can produce an enormous amount of power.
"There's nothing inherently wrong with this," he said, adding, "It'll be a wild ride."
Walker will have to get FAA clearance before he launches his rocket. The FAA will review the design of the craft as well as the flight plan before considering issuing a license.
Walker acknowledges there are serious risks, but he thinks his plan is limited enough to succeed.
"I'm not going orbital. I'm not going to the moon," he said. "I'm only carrying so much fuel. I can only go so high, and when I run out of fuel, I'll come back down."
Copyright © 2000 The Seattle Times Company
Yeah, I heard about this guy a while ago and last I heard he was in Russia doing the zero g training thing. He has a pretty extensive website, check it out at: www.rocketguy.com
Actually pretty cool story, guy makes a fortune selling toys and achieves his dream of building and flying his own rocket.
Kinda like the old Andy Griffith TV show back in the 80's where he built a rocket out of various scrap parts, the fuselage of Andys rocket was composed of a cement truck mixer. Seems he planned on going to the moon to salvage all the NASA junk left up there and sell it back on Earth for a prophet. Pretty heady stuff.