“Mad” Mike Hughes was killed on Saturday after trying to take off in his homemade steam-powered rocket near Barstow, California.
Hughes was in the process of having his exploits filmed for Homemade Astronauts – a new television series on the US Science Channel.
The Science Channel confirmed the tragedy on a Twitter post:
“Michael ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket. Our thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch & Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey.”
Videos shared on social media have shown Hughes taking off in the Californian desert before plummeting back to earth just a few moments later. A parachute can be seen trailing behind the rocket just after take-off.
The rocket, which was propelled via steam being pushed through a nozzle, was assembled in his backyard at a cost of around $18,000 (£14,000).
Hughes, with assistance from his non-flying partner Waldo Stakes, had reportedly been hoping to reach an altitude of 5,000 feet (1524m).
He has previously completed a homemade rocket launch to a height of 1,875 feet (572m), although he needed a parachute landing on that occasion.
The 64-year-old is well-known for his belief that the earth is flat. However, he had apparently not been trying to prove this theory through his latest attempt.
“I believe the earth is flat,” Hughes told Space.com last year. “[But] this flat earth has nothing to do with the steam rocket launches. It never did; it never will. I’m a daredevil!”