In 2010, Alex Baker and Chris Rose were studying their PhDs in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield. They would often find themselves discussing crazy engineering challenges. One day, the pair stumbled across a video from the 1950s of US Air Force Project Excelsior, showing Captain Joe Kittinger carried up to the edge of space by a giant helium balloon and setting the record for the longest freefall in history. Inspired by Joe’s jump, they decided to see whether they could take a picture from space using a similar method.
Over the next few months, Chris and Alex researched equipment, bought a weather balloon for sale on eBay and a satellite tracker and built a payload out of remnants of foam found in their department’s workshop, documenting their efforts on video as they went. On 17th December 2010, they launched from a snowy field in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, recovering the payload several hours later in Essex. From the camera footage, they stitched together a panoramic image of the Earth and called the project a success, uploading the video of their launch to YouTube.
That was that. Or at least, Chris and Alex thought it was, until the video started getting hundreds of thousands of views. News outlets started getting in touch to discuss their work. Schools, businesses and private individuals all began sending emails asking for advice on how to do it for themselves, or asking whether Chris and Alex could do a launch for them. They were invited to give a TED Talk. In short, with little effort their project had gained massive traction, right back in the early days of social media. The pair realised they had a potential business on their hands.
FROM THERE TO HERE
After securing their PhDs, Dr Rose and Dr Baker registered Sent Into Space as a company in July 2011 and began offering space launch services to schools and businesses. Over the years, they designed and developed new technology and equipment to cope with the many challenges felt by a space launch. As they identified areas for development, they also brought in experts in business, marketing, engineering and video production to increase launch capacity and services. In time, they also identified new uses for their launch services: environmental testing for aerospace and avionics components, data capture for scientific research and even offering a memorial service for scattering cremated ashes.
Today, Sent Into Space has launched over 500 flights to the edge of space, from sites all across the world, for some of the world’s biggest companies. Our 12-strong team are drawn from all walks of life, but all share a passion for space exploration and pushing the frontier of what we can achieve. We’re always improving our services and looking for the next great adventure. If you’ve got a challenge for us, we can’t wait to talk to you.