By July 15, 2019 Read More →

Launch of balloon marks the beginning of a new space era

July 13 saw the launch from Shetland Space Centre of a stratospheric balloon as a test of a system that will eventually deliver small satellites into orbit.

Developed by Bristol-based B2Space, the balloon was a scaled down version of its ‘Rockoon’,  carrying complete sets of instruments, trackers and control boards up to a height of around 37km, as well as beam back images from an on-board camera.

B2Space co-founder Valentin Canales said that the purpose of the test flight was to confirm the company’s ability to operate from Shetland by gathering data, adding to theoretical studies carried out on the last 15 years of weather data.

The technology for launching a rocket from a high altitude balloon is an evolution and improvement of a 1950s concept proposed by the US Navy. It takes advantage of skipping the highest density part of the atmosphere which allows a more optimised design and a more cost-effective solution to launch small and micro satellites into low earth orbit.

B2Space is working on the project with the European Space Agency, and believes it will support a case for a permanent base in Shetland, not only launches into orbit but also for performing near space operations such as testing satellite components in conditions similar to the ones faced in orbit.

Declaring himself satisfied with the test launch, Mr Canales said: “We have a large amount of data to analyse, but from what we know already we can confirm that we intend to set up a base here in Unst in preparation for future launches. Interest from ESA and the UK Space Agency is huge. We know the technology will work, and this launch was the first step, with many more to come.”

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