Update: The TARDIS is complete!
Yes, that's right. We have built the TARDIS satellite. It's finished! The 2013 launches are dedicated, and the manifests are filling up. Now we just need the money to put our satellite into the rocket. That's where you come in.
We're sending a TARDIS into space!
November 23, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and we're extremely excited. So excited, in fact, that we almost don't know what to do... almost. Actually, we know exactly what to do: We've built a replica TARDIS and we're sending it into orbit. Yes, really! We're not talking about sticking a little, plastic TARDIS on top of a model rocket and shooting it really high into the sky (although that would be wicked cool). And we're not going to tie a TARDIS to a weather balloon (which, by the way would also be pretty flippin' awesome). No, we're putting a TARDIS into the payload bay of a real, actual, honest-to-goodness, rocket, and launching it into a Low Earth Orbit.
Low Earth Orbit is where satellites need to be to actually "orbit" the Earth, not just fall back down. So, we're talking about sending this thing, really, really, high... space high. The international space station is in Low Earth Orbit. Seriously. The guys on the International Space Station will be able to look out their windows and say: "Check out that police call box floating by."
How far along are we?
Pretty far, actually. The TARDIS is built. That's right. We've completed the satellite. The satellite is constructed from really light weight aluminum (because weight is a huge issue) and it is a scaled-down version of the actual TARDIS. Our satellite is only about 1 foot tall - because again, weight is a major factor. However, the light on top functions (powered by solar cells in the windows.) And that means that when we put this thing in space, there will be a TARDIS with a blinking light orbiting the Earth. SWEET!
But then we thought, what if we put some other stuff inside? So, we did. There is a camera, a GoPro Hero 3, regularly recharged by the solar panels, which will take photos of the Earth from orbit. It's not the Hubble or a spy telescope, but it should give us some pretty sweet pics. A magnetic, passive attitude control system is in place which will keep the TARDIS's camera pointing toward the planet. We initially installed a hard drive, but there are issues with a hard drive operating in zero-gravity, so we've switched to SSDs for memory. The SSDs are ready to be uploaded with information. We felt really dumb about the hard drive thing until we learned that NASA made the same mistake. They put standard hard drives in every computer on the International Space Station, then realized none of them would work in space.
Now all that is left to do is take the TARDIS to the aerospace company that will be carrying it into space. We will pay them for the launch, based on the size and weight of our satellite, and that's it. One TARDIS in orbit. But, we have to pay them. That's why we're here on Kickstarter. Putting satellites in orbit can be expensive.
If we reach our funding goal, the TARDIS that you see in the video will be the one that we send into space. Now, of course, we'd like to put a full-size TARDIS into orbit, but that's an even more expensive proposition. There is limited physical space inside the rocket, and as we've already mentioned, weight is an issue. If, however, we receive more funds, we can build a bigger TARDIS, possibly even full size.
What if we get more money?
We've already said this, but when you're talking about putting stuff into space, your primary concerns are size and weight. The bigger it is, the more space it takes up inside the rocket. The heavier it is, the more thrust you need to get it into space. So, what will we do with more money? Build a bigger TARDIS.
Every dollar over the $33,000 means that our TARDIS can be a little bit bigger. We could put a full size TARDIS in orbit with $382,000. It's a crazy amount of money, we know, but it's not out of the question if we got a lot of support. And we are talking about a full-size TARDIS... in space...
Can we really put a satellite into orbit for only $33,000?
Good question. First, let's just say that we couldn't do it for that price if the TARDIS were the only thing inside the rocket. You may not know this, but rockets are really expensive!
Our TARDIS will not be the only thing inside the rocket, though. We will be sharing payload space with other satellites which are being put into orbit by universities and research groups and private companies. These satellites are designed to monitor weather patterns, and track migratory animals, and do zero-gravity experiments, you know, really serious stuff that's nowhere near as cool as launching a TARDIS into space. So, we're sharing the cost of the launch. That's why we can do it for that price.
As if being a part of putting a TARDIS in orbit were not cool enough, we're giving away some pretty nifty rewards, too. See, there will be SSD memory cards inside the TARDIS satellite. And on those cards will be all the information about our backers. That's right. There will be a TARDIS orbiting the Earth, and inside will be your name, your personal message, and even your photos or videos... In space! How awesome is that?
Our production company will be filming the entire project for a short, documentary film, and that film will also mention our backers in a special thanks at the end. We will set up a web site where people will be able to watch the film about the orbiting TARDIS. We will also post images taken from the TARDIS itself - pictures from space. The site will also have all of the information that is stored on the TARDIS's SSDs. So any time you like, you can visit the web site and see what's in that TARDIS. Cool, huh?
How will we do it?
The first step is building the TARDIS, and that's already been done. We based our construction on the specs from the original show, and used a piece of official Doctor Who merch as a template, even cannibalizing some of the components so we didn't have to make every single piece from scratch. We used light-weight materials to ensure that our finished satellite would be as easy as possible to get into space.
The second step is putting this blue box into space. That's the tricky part, and we're going to leave that to the Rocket scientists... literally. We're basically just buying a ticket for our satellite to ride into space. All we have to do is raise the money to pay for our ticket as it were.
That's it. As crazy as it sounds, it's a pretty simply project, really. The TARDIS satellite is finished and ready to fly. Now, we just need your help to make it happen.
Risks and challenges
As you can see, the TARDIS satellite is done, and it is fully functioning, but stuff can happen. Remember when they spent $2,500,000,000 to put the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit and couldn't get the lens to focus? Yeah, so do we. Stuff can happen. We've built our satellite using the simplest components to limit as much as possible the chance that something will go wrong, and we don't anticipate problems, but we have to be up front and say that despite our best efforts it is possible that something might not work properly. Worst case scenario? The antenna does not properly deploy and the satellite cannot transmit images. This would be sad, but remember, there would still be a TARDIS in orbit, and all your names and messages, pics, movies, and music will be in it. And you'll still be able to visit the web site where you'll be able to see all of that information, and know it's up there, orbiting on...
The other area of concern is obviously the launch itself. After all, the whole thing could explode. It has happened, rarely, and even more rarely today, but, things can go wrong. Also, for anyone who has watched and waited for a rocket launch (think about space shuttle missions) sometime there are delays from things like weather, equipment malfunction, electronics issues, etc. that can cause a launch to be delayed or scrubbed for another day. And since we are sharing payload capacity to make this mission affordable, we are subject to the launch manifest, and that too can effect the launch date. It's no different than buying a ticket on a 747. If there are mechanical issues, your flight will be delayed. What we're saying is, things can happen when you're putting a rocket in space, but these launches take place all the time without incident. There are thousands of satellites in the sky, dutifully going about their business, and more and more are added every time we turn around, so it isn't exactly "risky."Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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