This wasn’t the kind of rocket launch plenty of other have used to put a man into space. Rather, the gospace.sg project used a high altitude balloon of the type used by NASA and Russia to take science payloads and in the past astronauts to the edge of space.
Gospace said on its website this project started out in 2012 as an idea of entrepreneur and former defence engineer and scientist Marvyn Lim Seng, who promised former Singaporean president, the late Lee Kuan Yew, that he would send a Singaporean into space.
Lim has entirely funded this project himself and has so far mounted three unsuccessful attempts. He chose the Australian outback because of its wide open spaces.
The first launch attempt scheduled for 2015 was delayed due to a missing component.
The second in 2018 was postponed for a year because of earlier than expected jet stream winds of more than 200 km/h along the intended flight path.
For the latest attempt last week, the passenger was Lim himself with the objective to cross the Armstrong line in the space capsule Quantum 1.
The Armstrong Line, at 20 kilometres above sea level, is the altitude that air pressure is so low that water boils at the normal temperature of the human body. That’s regarded as the edge of space.
But during the take-off as the balloon rose, the capsule bumped into the ground as it disengaged from the launch crane. That caused unspecified damage that resulted in capsule depressurisation.
Put simply, this means that gas that was needed to sustain the survival of the occupant was escaping.
After 19 minutes of steady ascent it was decided to abort the mission at an altitude of 7.3 kilometres.
The capsule landed smoothly about 25 kilometres north-west of the launch point. Lim was uninjured but disappointed.
“We’re sorry that we didn’t manage to get the first Singaporean into space for our country. However, I am tremendously pleased with the team for exercising independent leadership. Ultimately, the attempt is more significant than the outcome. Our journey continues,” he said.
Lim isn’t giving up.
“After the launch today, Mr Lim has set his sights to reach further up into space,” said a gospace Facebook post.
“We’re talking about uncharted territory here. As you may know, space is a vast area and there are a lot of opportunities for scientific and technological discoveries, not just about satellites. We’re currently discussing and testing out space laser communications and other related ideas with like-minded companies.”
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