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Join us on a journey to determine the impact of sending life to space in high altitude balloons and microgravity experiments!
Join us on a journey to determine the impact of sending life to space in high altitude balloons and microgravity experiments!
139 backers pledged $15,697 to help bring this project to life.

About

STAC: Researching the Impact of Life in Space project video thumbnail
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$15,697

139

Space Technologies at Cal (STAC): We are a student organization at UC Berkeley with the goal of enabling life beyond Earth. 

Motivation for Campaign

We are launching multiple projects in the coming year and would love for you to join us on our journey of enabling space research! In order to do this we have set up a space program to test experiments in space at a low cost. We also utilize a high-quality network of university partners and industry advisors to push technologies in the space community forward through high-impact research. STAC provides a platform for these groups and advisors to collaborate and make strides in far reaching technologies that are connected to major problems in the space industry today.

We would love for you to join our journey and help lay the groundwork for our space program! 

Space Program

This campaign is specifically highlighting our High Altitude Balloon and Microgravity Programs, but STAC has many more research projects as explained below. 

High Altitude Balloon Program: 

The program's goal is to create a standard high altitude balloon (HAB) payload that can fit any experiment inside. This will enable us to crowdfund research project ideas from the community and around the world. Currently we have partnered with NASA Ames, NASA JPL, Berkeley Research Labs, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, and plan to do more!

Inaugural HAB at launch site
Inaugural HAB at launch site
Launch of our HAB1
Launch of our HAB1

A video showcasing our work from our STAC HAB-1 Launch!

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Microgravity Program:

Microgravity payloads are vessels containing groups of experiments that are carried to space on rockets. Our payloads will be used to test experiments in outer-space to further aerospace research at Berkeley and around the nation. The microgravity program will eventually consist of annual launches using standardized STAC payload designs that provide a low-mass enclosure and easy integration. 

CAD of Microgravity Experiment
CAD of Microgravity Experiment
Microgravity Experiment Standardized Chassis Render
Microgravity Experiment Standardized Chassis Render

Mini 3D Printed Model

This is is an example of what you can get if you support us. This is a mini 3D printed model of our standardized chassis for our project. We use this standard form factor for our microgravity and CubeSat projects.

CubeSat Standardized Chassis Render
CubeSat Standardized Chassis Render

More About STAC

 SO FAR, WHAT WE'VE DONE:

  • Signed a flight contract to launch our Microgravity Payload on a Blue Origin Rocket.
  • Grew STAC to 60+ members each spending 8+ hours a week across 7 projects!
  • Created a Space Tech Symposium to energize the space community at Berkeley!
  • Launched STAC High Altitude Balloon - 1 (HAB-1) successfully.

Great Network of Sponsors and Supporters

Thanks to all of our current sponsors and partners! Their support ensures that we can continue innovating and breaking through new barriers in space.

Our Sponsors and Partners
Our Sponsors and Partners

We have worked with these sponsors in a variety of areas:

  • Labs: UCSB Deepspace Lab, Space Sciences Lab - ICON, NASA Ames: Help us improve upon our research to ensure high fidelity experiments. We have monthly or semesterly chats with advisors from each of these organizations to gain expert knowledge in various fields.

Some of our current projects include:

  • Researching biology in microgravity (0g) or outer space in order to understand supporting life in a stable ecosystem off Earth 
  • Exploring energy transport for human sustainability in space
  • Developing habitable outer space infrastructures
  • Increasing human connectivity off Earth
  • Automating resource mining to enable life on extraterrestrial bodies

 ---- WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP ----

Your contribution will go directly towards future STAC launches including our High Altitude Balloon Program, our Microgravity Program, and much more.

The funds we raise from this campaign will go directly towards:

  • Electronic parts (Microcontrollers, electrical components, radio module, single-board computer, batteries)
  • Mechanical parts (Metal Rods, Brackets, Screws)
  • Machining Materials (Glass, Metal Sheets, 3D Printer Filament, Acrylic Sheets)
  • Machining costs for prototypes HAB Resources (Helium, Paracord, Balloon, Radio Tracking Equipment, Linear Actuators, GPS Module)
  • TIME 1 Resources (Laser ablation test setup equipment, Vacuum Chamber Manufacturing, C. elegans thaw and laboratory equipment)
  • TIME 1 Payload Shipment Launch Costs
  • TIME 2 Resources (CO2 Sensors, Temperature Sensors, Micro-organism laboratory equipment)
  • TIME 2 Launch Costs 
  • Other engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, and design costs 

Every perk we offer gets you directly involved in at least one of our projects and directly impacts the engineering budget for all projects. Our Budget far exceeds what we are asking for, but this will help us lay the groundwork to make all our programs possible!


Detailed Project Descriptions 


HAB High Altitude Balloon (HAB) 

What's the simplest way to simulate life on Mars from Earth? Sending life to near-space environments. The Earth's atmosphere above 90,000 ft provides a close replica of Mars's atmosphere, which is easily accessible through our HAB project!

HAB is a program that enables a standardized system to test research experiments in a near-space environment. While there are a variety of space applications for high altitude balloons, the current project will focus on the long term goal of creating a reliable high altitude balloon for future STAC experiments. This way, observations can be made above the Earth’s atmosphere at a low cost.

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Assembling our microbial exposure unit
Assembling our microbial exposure unit
Blowing up our Balloon
Blowing up our Balloon

The first balloon was launched on March 4, 2018. It was equipped with a camera, electronic sensors to test the efficacy of our system, and bio-exposure units for our experiments. The first research experiment originated from a STAC member, and tested the adaptability of micro-organisms capable of surviving harsh environments on Earth to near-space in partnership with NASA. Subsequent balloon launches will contain various experiments sourced from the UC Berkeley academic community, the outside space community, as well as from within STAC. This will form the foundation of a long lasting STAC HAB program with recurring launches for years to come! 

Image at 45,000ft
Image at 45,000ft

Microgravity Payloads 

How will lifeforms, like humans, react to living in space? Scientists around the world are studying this question to no avail. However, launching a microgravity payload is the best way to test their theories about life in space!

Microgravity payloads are vessels containing groups of experiments that  are carried on rockets. Our payloads will be used to test experiments in outer-space to further aerospace research at Berkeley and around the nation. The microgravity program will eventually consist of annual launches using standardized STAC payload designs that provide a low-mass enclosure and easy integration. 

The Interstellar Microgravity Experiments (TIME)

Our first payload, the Interstellar Microgravity Experiments (TIME), will detail how being in a low-gravity environment - like space - will affect lifeforms, optics, and physical mechanics. We recently won the Blue Origin Payload Competition at Dent:Space. This achievement allows us to send a mini scientific payload onto Blue Origin's New Shepard Spacecraft through NanoRacks for free.

C. elegans & Roundworms

Our microgravity research regarding laser ablation of asteroids, revival of C. elegans (roundworms), and laser communication, works towards proving the viability of interstellar travel. Laser propulsion systems could theoretically propel nano-satellites carrying live passengers into interstellar space and these experiments provide the first incremental tests to either push this theory forward or disprove it. Our C. elegans project involves suspending C. elegans into an immobile state, and re-animating them once they are in space to see their reaction. 

C. elegans Temperature Simulation
C. elegans Temperature Simulation
C. elegans under the microscope
C. elegans under the microscope

Laser Communication and Ablation The UCSB DeepSpace Laboratory has already written papers on the applications of laser communications in space. Alongside their researchers, we will send some of their laser communication electronics into low-gravity to see if the transmission is affected in any way. 

Laser Ablation in Action
Laser Ablation in Action

Our goal for the laser ablation experiment is to include a small vacuum with an asteroid-like sample to image the plume exhaust and compare it with what we see in the lab on Earth.

Laser Ablation Chamber
Laser Ablation Chamber

TIME-2

We have been working on the next microgravity payload, after our initial set of microgravity experiments. We will reuse our chassis and electronics systems design from the TIME project to minimize engineering overhead for future STAC payload launches. 

Standardized Microgravity Experiment with TIME-1
Standardized Microgravity Experiment with TIME-1

We hope to use the second set of microgravity experiments to cement TIME as an annual project within STAC. With the payload enclosure and interface already designed, TIME will be a great platform for us to explore new and scientifically-significant research ideas every year. The microgravity payload program allows future members the ability to research their own specific interests from the vast array of topics that are affected by microgravity, and keep the future of STAC on the path towards pushing the frontier of space research. 

TIME-2, the official second set of microgravity experiments within STAC, is currently pursuing an array of biology experiments, with a focus on bacteria, stem cells, and CRISPR technology. All micro-organisms that we hope to launch into microgravity must stay alive for at least the duration of the flight, over ten hours including the pre-launch window. These organisms are difficult to keep alive and must be kept in a carefully controlled (37C and 5% atmospheric CO2) environment. We were motivated by this problem, leading to the current goal of designing a lightweight low-power incubator for TIME 2. 

TIME-2 Incubator
TIME-2 Incubator

CubeSat Deployer

The CubeSat deployer mechanism deploys a smaller swarm of Printable Circuit Board satellites (PCBsats). The PCBsats will orient themselves and communicate with each other using a combination of laser, LED, and RF technologies. The PCBSats and CubeSat deployer have a directly impact the advancement of swarm spacecraft technologies, increasing human connectivity and communications both on Earth and in space! 

STAC is also interested in this technology because it is an incremental step towards improving the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of recent work on directed energy (laser) propulsion of small wafer-scale spacecrafts. This technology has led to a technically-sound conversation on achieving relativistic interstellar spaceflight. All of these concepts come from NASA-funded work through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concept programs DEEP-IN and DEIS, led by Professor Philip Lubin of the UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group.

Deployed Sprites
Deployed Sprites

Our 3U CubeSat will deploy several PCBSats that are held within the CubeSat. This CubeSat will act as a communication link and mothership for all the PCBSats once they are deployed. We will have altitude control, a radio link down to Earth, GPS, and numerous other electronic components within the CubeSat. 

CubeSat Standardized Chassis Render
CubeSat Standardized Chassis Render

Each individual PCBSat will deploy individually and in a controlled manner to enable laser communication testing between the two. Currently, we are using the KickSat Sprite board (see their previous Kickstarter) as our base model for the PCBSat design. In addition, we will add magnetorquers and maximum power point tracking (MPPT) to expand the PCBSat functionality. This will provide a great technological and scientific demonstration of PCBSats for in-space missions.

KickSat PCB
KickSat PCB

AI Resource Rover

In collaboration with the NASA Ames Space Portal Office's Lunar Commercial Operation and Transfer Services (LCOTS) concept, we will contribute to the manifestation of a moon resource base by prototyping an autonomous resource rover. The autonomous rover is designed to be capable of detecting, collecting, extracting, and returning lunar resources back to the central lunar base for further refinement. The prototype will consist of a robust mechanical body capable of navigating the terrain, an end effector for sifting through lunar regolith, a resource extraction module, a resource collection module, and a resource storage unit.

AI Resource Rover Water Collection Unit
AI Resource Rover Water Collection Unit

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) team focuses on writing and simulating the execution of reinforcement learning algorithms for autonomous control. This task is similar to developing a self-driving car. However, a rover’s driving environment differs greatly from that of a car, presenting challenges that we seek to address. Primarily, the terrains of Earth, Mars, and the Moon are fundamentally different. Self-driving cars are normally tested on paved roads, while a rover operates in a far more unruly landscape. We use imaging data from NASA Ames and JPL, among other resources, to provide information about the landscape to both our rover’s decision-making processes and the terrain simulation software. Most importantly, the driving impetus for the AI team is that the rover cannot accept and use real-time expert navigation efficiently.

AI Rover on the Moon
AI Rover on the Moon

 Smart Extraterrestrial Environment Design (SEED)

How would you live on Mars once you get there? With the recent hype around colonizing Mars, most people have not considered how humanity would sustain itself once it gets there. A biosphere, sustainable ecosphere, is the solution!

SEED is a manufactured replication of a sustainable, self-contained, terra-like ecosystem that would provide humanity with a means to survive extraterrestrial establishments. The biosphere would provide shelter, production of goods, and power for energy-efficient regenerative systems. Agriculture can be processed for food, biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and other resources. SEED can serve as a direct way to supply astronauts and space colonies while minimizing commercial orbital transport load.

Biospheres will open a new dimension of production in space beyond the mechanical and electrical systems of NASA's current capabilities and will serve as a home which models our own. Therefore, SEED is the gateway to sustained life on planetary bodies. The environment aims to implement 'smart' controls and operation software to maintain the biome's equilibrium and continuous function.

SEED Housing Stress Tess
SEED Housing Stress Tess
SEED Electronics
SEED Electronics

HOW STAC WORKS 

Space Technologies at Cal (STAC) is a community of 62 Berkeley student researchers working on high altitude balloons, microgravity experiments, CubeSat deployers, and more. We are not a typical engineering club that focuses on a set competition but rather focus on making strides in innovating space technologies.

STAC community at Berkeley!
STAC community at Berkeley!

We are a student organization that meets three times weekly with two general meetings and one four hour design meeting on Saturdays. Each STAC project has a group of project members with one team lead, Engineering experts help all teams with issues they may face in a particular engineering subfield, and the leadership core consists of a group of execs as well as development officers. The STAC member structure is organized to encourage collaboration, productivity, and collective thinking.

An overview of our projects that we work on within STAC.
An overview of our projects that we work on within STAC.

REWARD CATEGORIES

STAC Swag Kit

This will come with a mission patch, stickers, and your name on the website! Should ship very quickly!

Send a Message and Name a worm!

This will include both a way for you to have your personal message included on an encrypted storage device that will fly on all our missions! (HAB, Microgravity, CubeSat)

We will also email you a picture pointing out the C elegan you name that will be flying on board our microgravity experiment!

Etch a message on the payload!

Small scale version of this!

Etching name on HAB
Etching name on HAB

Mini 3D-Printed Models 

This will be a mini 3D printed version of our HAB or MicroG Experiment or CubeSat!

Launch Party Invite!

We are excited to have you attend either our HAB or Microgravity Launch! Please join all of us at STAC here at Berkeley for this special moment in our history!

Payload Space on High Altitude Balloon!

We are offering a way for researchers to get involved in our payload! Feel free to send any experiment or device onboard our HAB to get it in the stratosphere at 30km!

Large Print Name on STAC Missions

This will be the exact size shown in this video! Everyone will be able to see your name/logo and know you are a key sponsor for one of our HAB launches!

Microgravity Mission Payload Replica!

This is one of the most exciting categories! You will get an exact replica of our first microgravity experiment! This will inculde all flight hardware!

------ STAC BEYOND PROJECTS ------ 

Check out more about stac at: stac.berkeley.edu or visit our Facebook

THANK YOU!

Big thanks to:

  • Anoushka Giri: Reward Tiers  
  • Brian Lo: Video Director  
  • James Mang: Outreach  
  • Jessica Hsiao: Pictures  
  • Karen Ni: Design  
  • Katelyn Yu: Graphics  
  • Mark Hill: Page Outline  
  • Michael Tu: Graphics  
  • Rachel He: Graphics  
  • Shaantam Chawla: Marketing Timeline  
  • Will Sharpless: Outreach  

And to all our members and everyone else who helped make our Kickstarter happen!

Risks and challenges

We are students that work solely on our own and only operate with the support we receive from our local community, industry contacts, and crowdfunded donors. This means we do everything voluntarily and are self-motivated by our own commitment to drive space research forward.

We have shown a clear path of success with our HAB-1 launch, but still have yet to fly our microgravity experiment. We also work on many projects besides microgravity and HAB projects as a means of doing research.

We don't expect many delays with our HAB program since we set the program timeline (besides minor weather issues). For the Microgravity program, we are flying the payload on ab industry rocket so the launch window for this flight is out of our control.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    STAC Swag Kit

    A special thank you kit full of STAC stickers and a mission patch will be sent to you! As well as a shout out on our website!

    Includes:
    • STAC stickers
    • STAC Mission Patch
    • Name on STAC Website
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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Send a Message and Name a worm!

    All previous perks included as well as a submission to our STAC Space Capsule and naming rights to one of the C. Elegans worms we will send into microgravity!

    Includes:
    • Name a C. Elegans Worm!
    • STAC Space Capsule Submission
    • All Previous Rewards
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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Etch a message on the payload!

    All previous perks included, and you will have a name or message (limited to 140 characters) of your choice etched on to the payload of both our High Altitude Balloon and Microgravity program! Plus, we will send you the worm you named!
    This will also include a handwritten thank you letter from one of our members!

    Includes:
    • Etched message on payload
    • Receive the C.Elegans you named!
    • All Previous Rewards
    • Handwritten "Thank you" letter
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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Mini 3D-Printed Models

    All previous perks and your choice of a mini 3D-printed models of our High Altitude Balloon, CubeSat, or Microgravity enclosures!

    Includes:
    • Mini 3D-Printed Model
    • All Previous Rewards
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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Three Mini 3D-Printed Models

    All previous perks and all three of our mini 3D-printed models of our High Altitude Balloon, CubeSat, and Microgravity enclosures!

    Includes:
    • Mini 3D-Printed Models
    • All Previous Rewards
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Launch Party Invite!

    All previous perks, and you will get a special invite to our next High Altitude Balloon Launch!

    Includes:
    • Launch Party Invite!
    • All Previous Rewards
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Payload Space on High Altitude Balloon!

    All previous perks, and you will get a 3”x3”x3” space (with mass constraints) to send a payload of your choice in one of our High Altitude Balloon Missions!

    Includes:
    • Payload Space on High Altitude Balloon (3”x3”x3”)
    • All Previous Rewards
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    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    Large Print Name on STAC Missions

    All previous perks, and your company/family name showcased and flown on a HAB with a personalized video showing of it going up! The name will also be etched with large font on our Microgravity payload enclosure, as well as posted in large text on the STAC website.

    Includes:
    • Large Text on High Altitude Balloon (with video footage)
    • Large Text on Microgavity payload (with photographic evidence)
    • Large Text on STAC website
    • All Previous Rewards
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Funding period

- (26 days)