Oh, those crazy folk at Centurion’s House4Hack. Not content with reinventing the 3D printer so many times we’re starting to lose count and helping to host all kinds of do-gooding tech projects around the country, now they’re planning to go into space. Well, the upper reaches of the stratosphere, anyway.
A team from House4Hack – a volunteer run hackspace in Centurion – is building a High Altitude Glider and launch balloon which they hope to launch up to 40km high, primarily with the aim of getting some very, very cool video as it comes back to earth. As well as an on-board camera, the glider – an X-UAV Mini Talon V-tail – will also carry an Arduino board to control the autopilot, with an array of weather sensors to capture some data while they’re up there.
You know, because.
It’ll be floated up on helium balloons, and will deploy a parachute to control its descent via remote control.
They aren’t the first amateur team to aim for the near reaches of space (for comparison, 40KM is just a bit higher than the distance Felix Baumgartner jumped from last year in a record breaking attempt for freefall skydiving), and they’ve partnered with local weather balloon specialists HABEX to put together the equipment needed. As far as we know, however, no-one in South Africa has managed to successfully land a glider launched from that kind of altitude before.
Here’s the promo video the H4Hers have put together around their plan (with an awesome soundtrack):
According to Gert van den Berg, the whole experiment would probably cost in the region of R20 000 if they were to attempt it from scratch, but they already owned much of the equipment needed and have been sponsored by local hobby shop, High Flyer, for some of the glider components.
“We’re hoping to get some spectacular video,” van den Berg says, “From at least 20km up. Ideally, we want a controlled landing at a known location too.”
South Africa has a long tradition of flying weather balloons and the local space agency, SANSA, even hosts the only space weather monitoring station on the continent. Getting an object into the stratosphere merely for the challenge of doing so, however, is the kind of insanely difficult thing we really salute.
The glider will be in contact with a ground station using onboard radios, and the plan is to stream the video during its flight and not just record it.
The team have already begun testing their components at temperatures of minus 75 degrees Celsuis, using dry ice from a local ice cream supplier.
The plan at the moment is to launch the glider in Klerksdrop on 14th June. They’re still investigating what sort of licences and permissions are required from the aviation authority.
You can find out more about the project here and we’re hoping to report back on the 15th with a success story.