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Private space rocket crashes in desert

Commercial space race not quite up to speed

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A privately funded rocket, bound for (sub)orbit, has crashed into the New Mexico desert after something went wrong at 40,000 feet.

The UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket was carrying cremated remains, which at least will be materially unchanged by the crash, and school kids' science projects, which will not. The team behind the rocket say there is a chance the cargo is intact.

"We believe the vehicle is safely on the ground," a spokesperson for the company said.

The launch was going well - until the rocket hit 40,000ft. Reuters reports that the mission director made the following announcement over the public address system:

"Because of an unexpected aerodynamic effect, the vehicle was short of its effected range".

Onlookers said they could tell something had gone wrong when the vapour trail started to trace out a corkscrew pattern in the sky.

It was the first launch ever from the US's first official commercial spaceport, Spaceport America. [Can you imagine how much fun that meeting was? - Ed]

The 20 foot high SpaceLoft XL rocket has a total payload capacity of 110 pounds and a range of 140 miles. Connecticut-based UP Aerospace offers space on the rockets for a few hundred dollars per gram. It describes itself as the world's "premier supplier of low cost space access".

The firm has nine further launches planned over the next year. ®

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