Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe is the first prototype spacecraft designed and built by CS. It is named in honor of the Danish astronomer Thyge Ottesen Brahe (1546-1601). It was originally designed to fit the largest rocket CS believed itself capable of building at the time of its conception in 2008. Thus, it has a diameter of just 64 cm which means the astronaut will be in a half sitting and half standing position, as seen in the original concept drawing below. The top of the spacecraft is an acrylic dome which provides the astronaut a full view of the sky during the flight to and back from space. The spacecraft is now retired after its flight on June 3rd 2011, carried by the HEAT-1X rocket.

Conceptual design scetch of the Tycho Brahe spacecraft by Kristian von Bengtson, 2008.  

The spacecraft has a number of subsystems for astronaut life support, recovery, onboard telemetry and navigation system. The recovery section is found at the bottom of the spacecraft. This holds a drogue parachute and three main parachutes with a total area of 145 square meters, to provide a gentle landing at sea.

Tycho Brahe spacecraft systems overview.

Tycho Brahe spacecraft systems overview. By Kristian von Bengtson.

The recovery section also holds electronics, a camera and antennas for video and data transmission during flight. Data is provided by a custom build Inertial Measurement Unit which monitors flight performance such as heading, acceleration and velocity. Data is supplied to Mission Control in real time at a rate of 20 Hz. A Weibel Doppler radar system is used to track the spacecraft during flight, and for this purpose the spacecraft is also fitted with a transponder unit.

Tycho Brahe

Kristian von Bengtson testing systems inside the Tycho Brahe spacecraft. Photo: Bo Tornvig

The Tycho Brahe spacecraft was launched on June 3rd 2011 on the HEAT-1X rocket. Sadly, the rocket veered of course shortly after lift off, and the engine had to be cut after 15 seconds of flight. During flight the spacecraft had acquired a high lateral velocity which caused the parachutes to partially tear at deployment. This caused Tycho Brahe to impact the water at about 200 km/h and sustain significant damage.

June 3rd 2011, launch of the HEAT-1X rocket carrying Tycho Brahe. Photo: Thomas Pedersen

June 3rd 2011, launch of the HEAT-1X rocket carrying Tycho Brahe. Photo: Thomas Pedersen

The HEAT-1X booster itself also suffered from torn parachutes, and impacted the ocean at a very high speed, which caused it to break apart and sink. The last image ever captured of HEAT-1X is from the video camera on board Tycho Brahe shown below, the booster stage with its drogue chute deployed is seen at the right edge of the frame.

Tycho Brahe onboard camera

Onboard view from Tycho Brahe shortly after separation from the HEAT-1X booster. The booster is seen in its drogue chute at the right side of the frame. The last glimpse we ever got of the booster as it sank to the bottom of the sea after landing.

Tycho onboard view

Onboard view from Tycho Brahe as it impacts the water. The impact is so strong that the acryllic dome is torn off and the spacecraft is flooded.

After flight the Tycho Brahe spacecraft was recovered by CS’s own recovery crew, working closely together with the Danish Naval Home Guard ship MHV 903 Hjortø and her crew. The spacecraft suffered some dents and bruises from the high speed impact, and most of the electronics suffered damage from being flooded with water. Tycho Brahe has since been on display at the Tycho Brahe Planetarium in Copenhagen.


CS recovery crew recovers the Tycho Brahe spacecraft in collaboration with MHV 903 Hjortø. Photo: Bo Tornvig.


Following the flight of HEAT-1X and Tycho Brahe, CS has grown significantly, and so has our ressources. Thus, we are now able to build rockets and capsules significantly larger than HEAT-1X and Tycho Brahe. Because of this CS has adopted a more conventional capsule design, and abandoned the original half standing and half sitting type spacecraft.

Watch the entire flight from a astronauts point of view in the video below:

Or Watch the 10 minute HEAT-1X/Tycho Brahe sea launch video: