A Science Lab At The Edge Of Space
Introducing the different Science lab. We are all to familiar with the standard ‘Science lab’, whether you encountered one during school or perhaps you work in a lab for your job. This Science lab couldn’t be further from the ‘norm’, it’s at the edge of Space.
A unique, low cost opportunity to test experiments out in Space like conditions.
What’s this all about?
Since HABE 5 hit Worldwide media many people have got in touch and expressed interest in doing similar projects, asking where to start and lots of other questions. It took me a long time to collect all the components, research everything and then finally build and launch my first mission (HABE 1). Many people don’t have the time or simply don’t have the money – I was lucky that I received a significant amount of sponsorship. It got me thinking… what if I could do one big launch whereby I flew many small ‘experiments’ that people had designed. I could use my knowledge to carry out the flight safely and hopefully successfully! Thereby, offering unique access to the edge of Space on a real budget.
What’s the plan?
I’ve been thinking about how I can get as many small experiments as possible launched on one flight. The plan at the moment is to get a big big balloon (even bigger than the ones I currently use!), lots of Helium (or possibly Hydrogen due to the He shortage), a big parachute (so it falls back to Earth safely), my HABE flight computer to keep track of it, then build a big contraption/payload that will house the experiments either on the inside or outside depending on preference. I hope to fly some GoPros (HD video camera) or gobandits to film the flight too.
Who is it aimed at?
Anyone and everyone! From school children who want to bring the science they learn in the classroom to life and learn new skills when constructing their experiment to professionals looking for a way to test their equipment/experiment in extreme conditions on a budget. The HABE Lab offers a great opportunity for everyone to explore, create and learn.
As with all my flights this will be conducted with safety as the number one priority. Due to the heavier, larger payload I will use a bigger parachute that will enable a slow descent speed to be obtained. As always, it will be fully co-ordinated with the CAA (UK’s Civil Aviation Authority), with prior launch clearance being obtained.
One of the reasons I decided to setup the HABE Lab is so that others who don’t have the experience can fly their experiment safely.
What ‘experiment’ can I fly?
It’s been tough deciding how to go about setting weight and dimension restrictions for each ‘experiment’. In the ideal World there would be no restrictions, but as there are overall weight limits per launch, restrictions have to be set. There will be spaces for matchbox experiments – matchboxes are lightweight and compact making them great for holding small experiments. There are two types of spaces available:
1) Small matchbox – your experiment has to fit in a small matchbox – maximum weight: 50g
Note: dimensions must not exceed: L 8cm, W 4cm, H 1.5cm
2) Standard matchbox – your experiment has to fit in a standard size matchbox – maximum weight: 100g
Note: dimensions must not exceed: L 12cm, W 6.5cm, H 2.5cm.
There are a couple of common sense rules regarding what can fly:
- No live animals or insects
- No explosives
- No harmful chemicals
- Any radio devices must receive prior permission from myself to fly (so it doesn’t interfere with flight radio and break UK radio regulations)
- No alkaline batteries – these will fail at the cold temperatures, stick to lithiums!
If there are any questions please drop me an email.
How much does it cost?
Ideally, I would love to offer this opportunity for free, but, due to the large costs of a big big balloon, lots of helium, big parachute, fuel for the chase car, all the equipment required to build the payload, etc… I have to charge a small amount per experiment to cover the costs and time it takes to build, test, fly and retrieve the payload. Experiments will be posted back to you after the flight (included in cost).
The cost of a small matchbox space is £15.
The cost of a standard matchbox space is £25.
At these costs I hope that it is affordable to everyone, I probably won’t break even. Just think, for the price of a good pizza you could have your experiment sent to the edge of Space!
How many spaces are there on the first flight?
This has yet to be finalised as the demand is unknown. I want to fly as many as possible. The current estimates are around 50 standard spaces or 100 small spaces. Each standard space takes up approximately two small spaces. Be quick as it’s a first come first serve!
This all sounds exciting but I don’t know what to make?!
If you desperately want to send something to the edge of Space but don’t have any ideas then have a look at the list below for inspiration:
- Does a plant seed that experienced Space like conditions grow any differently to seeds that haven’t?
- Does sound travel when there’s practically no atmosphere? – have a buzzer and a microphone to listen
- Just how cold does it get? – use a temperature sensor
- Does bubble wrap pop due to pressure difference?
- Video the journey using a camera
- Are solar panels effective at the edge of Space? – send some up and log the data
- Send up a cassette tape (or similar) and observe the impact cosmic rays have (if any)
- Can _________ [insert material] survive the extreme conditions without breaking/shattering/becoming malformed?
- Place a radio receiver on board and see if you can decode messages uplinked from the ground (prior approval needed)
- Let your imagination run wild…!
When is the flight going to happen?
As soon as possible! Depending on the demand a date will be set for the first HABE Lab mission.
Currently, an early February launch is planned The launch date has been pushed back to allow for more planning and building time; I now hope to get the first mission underway towards the end of March and early April. As always, this is weather dependent – backup dates will be set in April.
What are the chances of getting my experiment back?
Like all HAB flights, there is never, ever, a 100% chance of getting it back. Anything can, and will, go wrong during flights. They may burst early, land in a tree, land in the ocean, float off to another country, electronics failure… the list goes on! All of these things have happened on HAB flights before. I have been lucky – all my flights have been successfully recovered despite one getting stuck in a huge tree. I take measures to maximise the likelihood of retrieval including flying backup trackers with separate power supply. That said, there is no guarantee you’ll get your experiment back – if your experiment flies in the HABE Lab then you must accept this.
I don’t live in the UK, can I still send up an experiment?
Certainly! This opportunity is open to anyone from anywhere. Please ensure that you give the experiment enough time to arrive via international post. Depending on where you live the postage costs of returning the experiment to you after the flight might not be included in the price you pay. If you would like an accurate return postage cost please get in touch via email.
I’m still interested…
Great! Pop over to http://habe.acudworth.co.uk/lab and click on ‘Book Your Slot’; then get building!