High-altitude weather balloon being released from a Nevada Desert launch site

THE LAUNCH PROCESS

 

Launching your own space flight sounds like the stuff of science fiction. Our unique space launch service brings the majesty of space within your reach, but to take full advantage of this opportunity, you might have some questions about how we make it happen.

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THE SCIENCE OF A SPACE LAUNCH

Our space balloons use lighter-than-air gases to travel through our atmosphere to the closest region of space. In Near Space, the vacuum overhead is black and the blue of the atmosphere is reduced to a bright, thin haze on the curved horizon of the Earth, presenting our home planet in all its glory.
 

Over the course of 120 minutes, the gas carries the balloon into space to altitudes exceeding 100,000 feet (36km). Here, above 99.5% of the gas that makes up our atmosphere, the space balloon will reach the size of a two storey house before bursting.
 

The Armstrong Limit

At higher altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature due to the decreased atmospheric pressure. When the atmospheric pressure drops below 0.0618 atm (6% of what we experience at sea level), water boils at the normal temperature of a human body, making the environment completely uninhabitable. Usually reached at altitudes of around 19,200m above sea level, this pressure point is called the Armstrong Limit and marks the boundary to Near Space, the closest region of space to Earth.

 

Beneath the space balloon, our bespoke launch vehicles carry our client’s payloads, cinema-grade camera equipment and our cutting-edge flight computer system which provides telemetry, tracking and control capabilities, plus the all-important parachute that returns our craft safely to Earth for recovery by our team.
 

Launching a balloon into space wouldn’t be possible without substantial preparation. Our engineering team are adept at aerospace design, constructing bespoke payloads and mounting systems for your project. Meanwhile, our operations team handle all the logistics of coordinating legal clearances, flight paths and launch operatives required for a space balloon launch.

Sent Into Space scientist pointing to a 3D model of flight path prediction planning a space launch

PLANNING THE LAUNCH

Our unique relationship with the UK Space Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority means we can launch from over 15 sites across the UK with less than a week’s notice and secure clearance to launch from a new site in under a month. We maintain a stock of all consumables, manufacturing materials and equipment required to conduct multiple launches each week, so we’re ready to launch whenever the call comes in.

In the weeks preceding our launch, we collect huge volumes of weather data from meteorological organisations across the globe. Our state-of-the-art climate modelling software utilises cloud computing and decentralised processing to create a highly detailed weather model to predict future airflow patterns. By precisely controlling the ascent rate, burst altitude and descent rate of our flight, we can manipulate those air currents to create an optimal flight path for conditions on the day.

Sent Into Space scientist conducting fieldwork during a tracking exercise

THE LAUNCH EVENT

While every project is unique and our timetable is adaptable to achieve different goals, each launch day proceeds according to roughly the same schedule.

On arriving at our designated launch site, the team unpack all our equipment and assemble the flight train which connects each component to be carried by the balloon into space. At this point, our tracking technician activates and verifies our tracking systems are functional.

Tracking

To ensure constant communication with the craft in flight, we run two parallel tracking systems. One uses line-of-sight radio to communicate continuously throughout the flight, while a secondary system broadcasts a location every few minutes via satellite internet. Our tried and tested approach means that we’ve never failed to recover a craft upon landing.

 

Once everything is set up, the team begin to fill the space balloon. Unless there is a safety risk, we use hydrogen gas, the lightest element in the universe and an environmentally friendly renewable resource. The specifications of space balloon, the size of the parachute and volume of gas used are all calculated in advance during the logistics phase to give us the optimal flight path with a secure landing location.

With the balloon filled to requirements, it is sealed and connected to the flight train. Final systems checks confirm all core flight computer systems are operational before we activate the cameras and any subsidiary electrical or mechanical systems specific to this flight. With cameras rolling, the team reel the balloon into the air and release.

A Sent Into Space recovery vehicle driving through countryside to retrieve a spacecraft after landing

THE RECOVERY JOURNEY 

As the space balloon rises through the atmosphere, our recovery team maintain live communication while travelling to the projected landing site. The craft takes up to 2 hours to reach peak altitude, with another hour between burst and landing. Live telemetry data allows the team to update flight path calculations while in transit and narrow down the landing radius to a few metres. In the unlikely event of mission-critical weather changes, our cutdown mechanism allows us to detach the balloon into space early and return the craft safely to Earth for relaunch at a future date.

Landing Predictions

Using live weather data collected daily from thousands of sources worldwide, we can model the flight path our space balloon will take to over 99% accuracy for the majority of the flight, determining the landing site to a 1km radius before the balloon even leaves the ground.

In 95% of cases our recovery team are on-site to see the craft descend; where the landing site is particularly far from road access, it may take several hours to recover. Our team are trained and equipped for a range of remote recovery situations including tree and water landings. With the craft recovered, a shot from peak altitude is transmitted to the office team and our crew return the equipment for post-launch breakdown and evaluation for future flights.

 

All aspects of the launch day can be captured on film alongside the hero flight footage, to tell the amazing story behind your space launch.