I think the folks doing “garage engineering for high tech” are the balloon people. They’re the ones scrounging equipment, improvising environmental tests in their garage freezers, etc. and, most important, appearing to have fun.
- Jim Lux (W6RMK), Senior Engineer at NASA/JPL
The Kua Fu Initiative:
Like most ambitious children at one point in my young life I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut, to feel the weightlessness of space and look back on our planet with wonderment and awe of our existence. This project is my way to satisfy that long ago once dreamed desire and I want to take everyone who has ever had that same dream with me.
The aspiration to explore what is over that next hill or above the clouded sky has lost the luster it once held over most of us. This summer with our first launch, I plan to share a journey of exploration to help rekindle that spark of wonderment and exploration.
In 2011 the last manned American space shuttle returned to earth for decommissioning and with it our ability to reach the stars as a single nation. Where the government has pulled back the private sector has pushed forward with great advancements! This project will not reach those lofty heights, but we can set our goals “nearer”, or more precisely “near space” as it is affectionately called.
Our goal is to launch a payload capsule into the lower stratosphere with the intent to record HD video and photography of the curvature of the earth and surrounding areas. Secondary to this is to take research readings in the lower atmosphere, track ascent and descent patterns, and provide a way for everyone to come along for the journey. In order to do all of this we need your help!
The current launch date for this project is August 9th-11th weather permitting and then a second launch in early December. If both of these launches are successful we hope to have a launch every three months in 2014 scheduled during night and meteorological events. For all of our donors of any level a Facebook group has been created so you can see our progress first hand and know that your support has been well placed in this endeavor.
Our capsule to hold the payload is being designed for our final build as you can see from examples below. The current plan is to have four to six HD cameras, a simple flight computer, two GPS tracking systems for redundancy, and a simple sensor array for atmospheric readings.
With your generous contributions we will be able to acquire all of the items (in addition to what we already possess) to make this possible, here is a complete list of “where the money goes”.
(1) Capsule, Styrofoam base
Various lengths of PVC structure
(4-6) HD Cameras
Simple flight computer
Simple sensor array
LION to Lithium battery exchange
External memory drive
Miscellaneous small items
History of Kua Fu:
Kua Fu (Chinese: 夸父) is a giant in Chinese mythology who wished to capture the sun.
There a many interpretations of this legends most of which have been very badly translated, misinterpreted, or just incorrectly passed on. Modern retellings from these recent translations often represent Kua Fu as overconfident, egotistical, or even a thief. These translations mainly come from a single source, the over simplified American children’s book “Kua Fu Races with the Sun”. Unfortunately this is also where the always trustworthy Wikipedia references the legend as principal source material. For those interested a Chinese translated version of the legend will be provided for reading. This is a free aside to the main purpose of our mission but every name carries the weight of its history.
Should this project find support above and beyond our achievable monetary goal we have some exciting plans for ALL of our backers of every level! For every $200 above our goal we can add additional cameras, equipment, and rewards for our supporters.
Risks and challenges
Risk vs Reward:
The major risk of this flight is losing the entire payload by way of non-recovery upon descent. Precautions made via a GPS, back up GPS, and even offering a reward for retrieval on the capsule with local Ham operators hope to alleviate this. Local wind patterns in a north to north eastern trajectory measured over average time and considering weather conditions have given us a general landing area. This will provide us an expected range to focus our efforts with local help should the unfortunate happen.
“The Near Space Solution
Obviously the costs described above are not showstoppers for everyone; after all, many universities and AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, launch their own satellites. The costs involved are more of a problem for most individuals and small groups. In this book I present a solution that works in most cases for these people while increasing the exposure to space related activities. The solution involves designing a satellite for missions into near space as opposed to space (or deep space). What is near space? Near space is that region of the earth’s atmosphere between the altitudes of 75,000 and 330,000 feet. The Good to Know section at the end of this chapter discusses several properties of near space. Read that section and you’ll see just how closely near space matches the real space environment. But first, take a look at how affordable near space can be, in both dollars and time, compared to the cost of launching a satellite into orbit.
Amateur Near Space Exploration as an Affordable Hobby
To fly a mission into near space requires more than purchasing a helium-filled weather balloon. You also need to construct a near spacecraft, recovery parachute, launch equipment, and a telemetry station. In addition to spending money building the elements of your program, you will also spend time building the program and chasing missions.”
Exert from “Near Space” © Parallax Inc.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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