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Sent into Space - The DIY Space Mission

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by Startacus Admin

For eons mankind has gazed heavenward in utter awe at the endless expanse of space but for most this is where our direct link to the great abyss ends.  

Although the super rich Virgin Galactic promises a fleeting glimpse of near-earth space, for the average Joe or Johanna such experiences remain frustratingly out of reach. That is why we were very excited to come across a pair of intrepid students from Sheffield University who have developed a business which will allow anyone to launch their own space mission - you won't personally be able to go into space but you can certainly send something there!

Sent into Space is the brainchild of Chris Rose and Alex Baker who for just £350 will supply you with a kit containing everything you need to launch your very own payload of personal items 37km sent into space Chris Rose and Alex Bakerinto the air and glimpse the edge of space via the fitted camera.  It sounds like amazing fun so we caught up Chris to find out a bit more about this exciting new startup.           

Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about you and Alex's backgrounds and how you first became interested in sending things into space?

Well I think it’s fair to say that we have always been interested (or at least awestruck) by space in general - I think to some extent most people are. Our backgrounds are in Mechanical Engineering, we are currently just writing up our PhDs although our fields of research are wholly unrelated to space (and far less glamorous).

Our first efforts in near space exploration really came from nothing, it was one of those 'wouldn't it be cool if...' moments. We were sat in our office and were toying with the idea of a novel photography project. By lunchtime we had set ourselves the challenge of photographing the earth and atmosphere from near space, with our own (cheap) camera.

We were of the opinion that sending things into space would be a rather complicated and costly business, can you tell us a little bit about the science behind it and why the price seems relatively low?

Well the science and technology involved in a project like this are, in principle relatively straightforward. The complexity comes with trying to do this correctly in order to both maximise the impact of the results and the reliability and reproducibility of the project. This comes over time and it is this experience we have utilised when designing components in order to make this as easy and intuitive as possible for the non-specialist. Throughout the development process we have kept cost in mind as we were keen to make this as accessible a project as possible.

The basic premise of a typical launch involves sending a payload with your personal items, visual recording systems, data acquisition units and tracking technology skywards attached to a very large meteorological balloon filled with helium. As the balloon gets higher the atmosphere thins as it rises and the pressure drops. This pressure gradient between the inside of the balloon and the lower pressure outside causes the balloon to expand. The balloon will eventually reach its elastic limit and burst at peak altitude leaving the payload to safely descend back down to earth on a parachute whereupon its  gps systems will relay its position back to the operator. Needless to say it's great fun.  

You have the dubious honour of being the most unique and possible most bizarre start-up that we have ever featured, when did you first think that this could make a viable business?

sentintospace.comHa ha, well we will wear that badge with pride. I think the thought first crossed our mind when we were no longer able to stay on top of emails and web contact from people wanting to do this themselves. Rather than advising people on materials or equipment that were adequate, or would 'do the job', we decided to invest our efforts into developing a dedicated kit that contained specifically tailored technology for such a purpose.

With the launch of the website just around the corner have you been getting a good response and who do you think would be most likely to avail of your services?

The resultant images and videos speak for themselves really and comments left on results we have achieved have been very positive. This is the sense of  satisfaction we want to share with others as they post up and share their own results. People have been very patient throughout the development process but soon we hope we will be able to revel in the results others share through our website On there people can find everything they might need such as advice, tutorials, forums, results galleries and a place to buy all they might need to conduct  their own launch.

To be honest there's no typical demographic that should be drawn to this kind of thing more than another. The feedback we get comes from all ages and backgrounds.

It’s such a unique business you guys must feel like you are in uncharted territory, ideally where do you see the business going over the next 5 years or so?

If there is one thing we have learned thus far it’s that you never do know what is round the corner. We are really keen to develop the social networking side of things to encourage people to share their pictures and videos of what they have been up to really easily. Just spend a few minutes killing time on YouTube you can see that people can be brilliantly creative, we want to see just what interesting and funny things people are doing with our stuff.

Thanks Chris and best of luck to you and Alex, we will certainly be keeping a close eye on the website to see the images which come back from the first missions and we are looking forward to seeing you pop-up on social media sites!  

It’s a real inspiration to see what two men with a balloon and an idea can achieve, and we hope it stands as testament to the fact that the sky really is the limit! The website will be fully up-and-running in October so be sure to take a look!

If you like this feature on two young entrepreneurs 'doing their thing' then you might also like to read: 

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Published on: 9th September 2013

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