Hey guys,

I recently played video game, where you can launch your own space program, you simply build a rocket, form sequences appropiately and with enough skill, you can get it to orbit or even further. This is so really interesting and exciting that I really want to start my own mini-space program. Not with real people, but for example with camera or, I don't know. I really'd like to set things up in sky, calculate all the trajectories and vectors apply gravity to it and really like get it orbiting.

I know you have like these camera's that you attach to some kind of parachute with GPS, but these are only to get object into sky and then get it down. Then get the camera, and your journey is over.

But I really want to like, wait couple hundred days for it to actually orbit and then carefully land it, somehow (don't you worry about controls ;) ). Is such thing legal? Locales don't really matter, because orbit is about entire globe.

Maybe you should start with one of those remote controlled quatro-copter/camera combinations that are the rage right now. At least the first 10 km of space are yours to explore. Once you get into military airspace all bets are off!

I recently played video game, where you can launch your own space program, you simply build a rocket, form sequences appropiately and with enough skill, you can get it to orbit or even further.

Sounds like a cool little game. Any links to it that you could provide?

I really'd like to set things up in sky, calculate all the trajectories and vectors apply gravity to it and really like get it orbiting.

The main thing is that you're gonna need a lot of fuel, and some rocket engines too...

I know you have like these camera's that you attach to some kind of parachute with GPS, but these are only to get object into sky and then get it down.

That's because escaping the gravity of the Earth to actually reach a sufficient speed to be in orbit (around 10 km/s) is a big step away from simply being able to go above the atmosphere (to come back down). The rockets that reach very far up, but don't go into an orbital trajectory (i.e., rockets that fall back down again) are called "sounding rockets".

For example, I spent some time at Esrange, in Kiruna, Sweden. They do these kinds of sounding rocket experiments. Most notable is the MAXUS rocket which can get up to 700km above the atmosphere, well above the ISS (about 400km altitude), and comes back down. You can see a complete flight (from rocket stage detachment to landing) like that here, or an actual launch, if you prefer the bang (btw, on that video, there is a large hanger tower next to the rocket, I spent a couple of days working in there on micro-gravity drop experiments with a reeling mechanism that I built).

Sounding rockets are a pretty cheap way to send stuff into space, if you don't need to hang around there for too long (as you see, it's only a few minutes). But it's still not cheap to do, because of all the equipment, testing, fuel, and safety precautions that you have to take. There are only a handful of people in the world that are specialized in this type of experiments. The ones I've met, that is, the team from Esrange / SSC (Swedish Space Center) and Moraba (Mobile Raketenbasis), they really know their stuff. NASA has some home-grown sounding rockets too, but they don't have the reputation that Moraba has.

Is such thing legal? Locales don't really matter, because orbit is about entire globe.

This is extremely illegal. Everything you might attempt to do on your own towards this is definitely very illegal. There are lots of steps involved to be allowed to conduct such activity.

First, flying even a small rocket in the air is illegal without approval from your local aviation / airspace administration (e.g., FAA). The hobbyists that launch small hand-made rockets do so illegally, technically-speaking, but they usually do that in remote places (e.g., fields or deserted areas) and/or they don't go too high, so nobody cares enough about it to arrest them (it's sort of the same as with small fireworks).

Then, sending anything that is of substantial size and weight, and sending it to a substantial height (e.g., reaching or passing through air-traffic altitudes (3km / 10,000 ft)) will almost certainly get you into some very serious trouble if anybody finds out about it, which they are likely to. For example, when Esrange launches rockets from their base, the entire airspace above northern Sweden, Norway and Finland is closed off (local flights grounded, and passing flights diverted around the area). Similarly, NASA launch facilities have authority over the local airspace to close it off.

Then, a sounding rocket that is large enough to go beyond the atmosphere on a ballistic trajectory (not even orbit yet), will attract some attention for sure, and could easily be interpreted as a ballistic missile. And that could have some serious repercutions, especially if you happen cross national borders, as it could be interpreted as an act of war, or at least, cause a major diplomatic incident. Basically, when doing such experiment, any authority who might detect or be alerted by this "missile" must be notified in advance.

Also, a sounding rocket or a rocket that is meant to make it to orbit but ends up falling back down (or a stage of the rocket that detaches before orbit) is a major risk to the local population below. This is why these experiments are not conducted anywhere near dense population, most of the (known) sounding rocket experiments are conducted in some desert in the US, in northern Sweden (where Esrange is), in the middle of Australia, or in the middle of the ocean or some remote island. Space missions are typically launched in the middle of the ocean, on the coast towards the ocean (e.g., Florida, French Guiana), or in some very remote area (e.g., Russians launch from Baikonur in the desert of Kazakhstan). And I know about the kinds of precautions and risk calculations that they do (and are required to do) in those situations, and they are not trivial. You basically have to take all weather conditions into account, run randomized simulations of all possible flight paths, and calculate the probability (or risk) of danger or fatalities to the local population. This is greatly simplified when nearly all of the local population is composed of reindeer and moose (north of Kiruna).

If you launch a rocket (whether you intend to go to orbit or not, it doesn't matter) without doing all those risk assessments, you are recklessly putting people in mortal danger. That could get you in jail for the rest of your life, especially if a fatality does occur.

If you do make it to orbit, you will have to face a number of U.N. affiliated authorities that will not be happy with what you're doing. The US airforce will most likely get involved or have their eyes on you (they'll certainly have their eyes on your satellite). You might argue that the U.N. doesn't really have "power", officially-speaking, but you certainly will not be left without consequences... because a lot of people will be angry at you for completely subverting their authority.

And finally, if you hope to communication with your satellite somehow (e.g., to get images from that camera), then you will have to contend with the tele-communications authorities, especially the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is also U.N. organization. You cannot transmit on a radio frequency (especially not those that are required for reliable communication with satellites, which are closely regulated). In most countries, it is a major felony to transmit on a radio frequency that you are not allowed to transmit on. In fact, one of the major hurdle for amateur projects in space is getting a communication frequency allocated to you (it can take several years of red-tape to get this done, so I've heard).

So, the thing is, all of these considerations and laws make it woefully illegal to attempt to send something into space without "official" steps taken. However, it is very possible to send things into space, you just have to be serious about it and go through all the official steps. And believe me, the engineering work and money involved in creating a space-worthy rocket far exceeds the amount of paper-work and money required to get all the necessary approval to launch it. It helps a lot if you can associate yourself with people who are already in the thick of it.

For example, like I have mentioned, if you want to launch a sounding rocket, for real, then you'd better see what can be done with the people who already have experience with that. They sometimes have opportunities to launch sounding rocket experiments for free (well, you still have to make the experimental rig yourself, and have the money for that). For example, there is the REXUS/BEXUS program (for Europeans and Canadians), which is really awesome (you can take my word for it! Here is a video from a mission one of my friends was a part of).

It is also very common for universities (and even high-schools) to create what is known as a "cube-sat". This is a tiny satellite (10cm cube) that can be piggy-backed along with the launch of a real satellite. Basically, when they launch a real big satellite, there is usually a bit of room left where they can squeeze in some cube-sats that will be ejected from the main payload at some point when it reaches orbit. This can be very cheap to launch (30,000-60,000$ or so) and be a very challenging and interesting project to do for a team of enthusiastic students (and some supervisors with experience, hopefully).

Otherwise, if you really want to do rockets, you will probably have to stick to small rockets that don't go too high. To start working on the kinds of rockets that could go into space, or further into orbit, you'll have to wait until you are "older" and can work for a company or organization that does that kind of stuff "for real".

The other cheap way to send stuff to space (as in, beyond the atmosphere) is through a balloon flight into the stratosphere. I was part of such a project and it was a lot of fun (and work). You can see our final assembly montage and a video of the launch, and of the flight.

@mike_2000_17 Mr. Mike! Geez! If there was text reading game, you would be final boss!

Sounds like a cool little game. Any links to it that you could provide?

Maybe not a link, but a name, by which you can easily find it, Kerbal Space Program. Just, don't underestimate it, it's really physics based, so anything you calculate will actually happen, except if you run debuggers or cheats.

Thanks for answers and videos.