Matt Kingsnorth & Phil St Pier are friends from Romford who together just sent a model X-Wing into space.
The self-titled ‘Essex Space Agency’ used a high altitude ‘Weather balloon’ to send the model of the iconic X-Wing snub fighter up as part of Project Helium Tears; a self-funded, amateur attempt to photograph the Earth from the edge of space.
There was no kickstarter, promotion or crowd funding. Just two mates who; “…are more sci-fi that scientist! Neither of us went to university, but we still thought we’d take a punt anyway!” [Matt]
[Matt] “It all started because I’d seen people like James May putting toys up in space for TV shows. When I realised it was within the realms of possibility for an ordinary guy like me to do it, I thought ‘why not do something special up there?’ I grew up watching Star Wars and with the new film coming out in December, things just clicked into place in my head. Why not put something Star Wars related in to space then ask to go to the premiere!?”
“I asked Phil to get involved, not just because I knew he’d get a similar kick out of it, but because he’s a keen modeller.”
“I did all the project planning and technical bits to track and recover the payload, while Phil designed and built us a near-spacecraft that could survive ascending 22 miles into the freezing vacuum of space and return with everything still recording. ”
The 6 month project was completed for roughly £600 each. [Phil.] “It’s about the same as an Ipswich Town season ticket… but it’s been a lot more rewarding!”
At a final altitude of 36,190m (118,000ft), the balloon burst higher than expected. [Matt.] “It’s 3km lower than Felix Baumgartner’s skydive, but he had a much bigger budget..! In fact I like to think Phil and I got up to one-tenth the height of the International Space Station, but on one-trillionth the budget.”
[Phil] “I’m sure we’ll see the new Star Wars film regardless, but how cool would it be to go to the premiere with all the stars?”