The amateur rocketeers at Copenhagen Suborbitals are getting closer and closer to orbit, testing a new bi-liquid fuel combination for a hand-built, donation-funded, non-profit rocket. The group tested its alcohol- and liquid oxygen-powered TM65 rocket over the weekend, the largest amateur bi-liquid rocket in the world.
The earliest American astronauts were lauded for their bravery, but even those early Project Mercury crew capsule designs had a backup plan in the launch abort system (LAS) that, if a rocket began to explode on the launch pad, would throw the crew capsule clear of danger. The Space Shuttle has no such LAS. So now that we are returning to rocket-launched crew capsules for space travel, new methods of launch escape are emerging.
The bustling private-space industry is full of big-dreaming, thrifty innovators. Here we've ranked 15 of the most serious contenders in order of their progress toward the goal of bringing cargo and human passengers to space.