How we launched an exclusive David Bowie coin into space for The Royal Mint
The Royal Mint’s Music Legends collection celebrates iconic musicians in limited edition uncirculated coins. Following on from their coin series dedicated to Queen and Elton John, the team at the Mint wanted to acknowledge the prince of Glam Rock, Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie.
The coin they created shows a young Bowie stood in front of the lightning bolt motif that debuted on the cover of Aladdin Sane, the follow-up to the album that shot Bowie into stardom, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. That album, alongside being considered one of the greatest albums of all time by critics, cemented Bowie’s connection in the public mind to space and space travel with the story of the alien Ziggy Stardust, sent from space to save mankind through music. Starman from the album and Space Oddity from his second album are two of Bowie’s most popular songs (and feature prominently on our office playlist!).
Bowie’s interest in and use of space imagery in his music made a space launch the perfect way to elevate the coin as a unique collectable. The Royal Mint sent us one of the 1oz silver proof coins, of which just 8,000 were minted, to be launched into space. We constructed a custom display to present the coin with minimal visual distractions, letting it shine brightly under the unimpeded rays of the sun against the stunning backdrop of our home planet viewed from space.
Our launch vehicle was made from a lightweight carbon-fibre frame held together with 3D printed flexible joints, for the ideal combination of rugged survivability with minimal weight penalty. The craft carried our cameras which filmed the coin on its journey in UHD 4K video, as well as our live tracking, telemetry and control (TT&C) computer. The flight computer allowed us to monitor the craft’s location in realtime throughout the flight, broadcasting every 2.5 seconds via radio and every 5 minutes via satellite on an independent backup system. This dualband tracking setup is the cornerstone of our launch process and has allowed us to maintain a 100% record for recovering every craft we launch.
The coin was launched into space on the 3rd of November from one of our dedicated launch sites in Sheffield and travelled to an altitude of over 35,000 metres above the Earth. The closest region of space, known as Near Space, starts at around 19km where the ambient air pressure is so low that a human cannot survive without a pressurised suit. At the peak of the flight, the coin was exposed to temperatures below -65°C and atmospheric pressure less than 1% of what we experience at sea level.
The craft was lifted by a huge bespoke hydrogen balloon, which expanded to the size of a double decker bus as it rose above 99% of our atmosphere before bursting. In advance of the launch, we used wind and weather data collected from over 10,000 sources worldwide to predict the flight path taken by the balloon. This simulation process allows us to set our launch parameters to land within a tight circle of prospective landing spots, avoiding built-up areas, major roads and large bodies of water. For the safety of other airspace users, all our flights are authorised and logged by the Civil Aviation Authority, meaning there’s no risk to civil, commercial or private planes or other craft.
The coin looks magnificent on its journey and the result is a fitting tribute to the musical legend that was David Bowie. Naturally, the launch garnered a lot of attention, appearing in national news outlets across the world including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sun.
If you’re looking for a headline-hitting marketing activity, capitalising on the mass appeal of incredible space imagery is easier than you might think. Chat to our team today to find out how we can help you conduct your very own space launch.