People in Space: Peter Madsen

30th Aug 2021
People in Space: Peter Madsen

One of the most controversial figures in the space industry, Peter Madsen, is currently in prison for murdering journalist Kim Wall. 

A talented kid

Madsen began to take an interest in rocket science from an early age. He gained an interest in learning about rocket fuel throughout his time in elementary and secondary school, thanks to his physics and chemistry teacher. In 1986, he created and successfully launched his first rocket, a copy of the American ICBM MX Peacekeeper that stood one meter tall. He soon started welding and studying engineering to learn about submarines.

In 2002, Madsen and Claus Nørregaard constructed the UC1 Freya, the first private Danish submarine, using cash raised from businesses and organisations. He was the first person to have built a submarine by himself in Denmark. He was also in charge of constructing the notorious UC3 Nautilus and the UC2 Kraka, two additional similar vessels. Nautilus was one of the biggest privately built Danish submarines.

A brilliant scientist and space inventor

He was one of the founders of Copenhagen Suborbitals along with fellow Danish architect Kristian Von Bengtson. The amateur rocket club quickly attracted a number of members, and the group went from strength to strength. The club went on to build a number of rockets under the leadership of Madsen and Von Bengtson and even forayed into the manufacture of submarines.

Peter Madsen and Von Bengtson parted company in 2014. Both of them left Copenhagen Suborbitals over the course of the year.

The amateur rocket club had a number of successes while Madsen was around, performing several launches from sea using Peter Madsen’s submarine to take the launch pad out to sea.

The killing of a journalist and prison sentence

Swedish freelance journalist Kim Wall visited Madsen at his submarine to take an interview. She was killed and dismembered by the inventor. The incident took place on August 10, 2017, miles offshore from Køge Bay, Denmark. Madsen told police he had dropped Wall off on shore the previous evening, but they did not believe him. He was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Peter ended up in prison in 2018 after being found guilty of the murder of journalist Kim Wall onboard his submarine UC3 Nautilus. Madsen claimed that Wall had died of carbon monoxide poisoning on the submarine, and it was an accident. But he was later found guilty of the murder and dismembering of Kim Wall.

A failed attempt to escape from prison

In 2020, two years after being convicted, Madsen attempted to escape from the Danish prison where he is serving life for the murder.

Madsen was captured about five minutes after his escape and about 500 meters from the prison. The killer managed to briefly escape from prison after threatening an employee with what seemed to be a gun and explosives; however, he was quickly apprehended by armed police just minutes later. The prison staff who were chasing him saw him jump into a white van and informed the police. 

Netflix documentary

In 2022 Netflix released its documentary movie ”Into the Deep: The Submarine Murder Case”. Directed by Emma Sullivan, the film begins by following Madsen’s attempts to become the world’s first amateur astronaut. It ended up being instrumental in his conviction for murdering journalist Kim Wall.

“Into the Deep” was praised as one of Netflix’s best true crime documentaries.

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