Launching a kiwi to near space

We had a fantastic time in GSBC this year launching a kiwi -- you can watch the video here:

You don’t need a huge budget or technical expertise to build something incredible. With the launch of SSI-82, we set out to demonstrate that space is within the reach of everybody. To us, the problem with most educational initiatives is that what they build is cool, but so complex as to be intimidating. That doesn’t serve the goal of education; the best way to become educated is to get hands-on experience by launching something, and in SSI-82 we tried to demonstrate that anybody can do just that. 

The payload design was therefore kept as simple and low-tech as possible. It was primarily a styrofoam box. A hole was hollowed out with a plastic ruler -- no machining tools required! We stuck a GoPro in this hole, keeping it stable with a spare pencil we had lying around. To keep it warm in the freezing atmosphere, we didn’t go for fancy heaters, but instead just threw in a bag of water. With a fairly high heat capacity, this kept the payload interior right around 0ºC for the duration of the flight. Other than the GoPro and Spot GPS, the whole payload only cost a few bucks.

Payload interior

Of course, we also wanted to have something to keep it interesting, ideally something fun that would appeal to kids. We settled on a kiwi -- the fruit -- with googly eyes and a fake beak to look like a kiwi -- the bird. After all, what better way to encapsulate the space ballooning spirit than letting what was previously flightless fly? We want to show that even if you think you could never in a million years get into the sky, with high-altitude ballooning it really is possible. 

Payload exterior

For a counterbalance, we again used a bag of water: cheap and adaptable. By adjusting the amount of water in it, we could set the angle at which the GoPro pointed. Arriving at the launch site, we filled the balloon, tossed a SPOT GPS into the payload box, and let it fly. There are lots of hard things in space, but getting involved doesn’t have to be.

You can watch our video here: