Category Archives: Space participation

Video: Abby Garrett and “Go for Launch” comic books for kids

Check out this Epic Future Space interview with author and artist Abby Garrett who has created a series of terrific comics for youngsters on the theme of rockets:

A cover from one of the “Go for Launch: Merlin & His Friends” books, which brings to life the SpaceX rockets:

GO FOR LAUNCH: Merlin & His Friends – children’s books written and illustrated by Abby Garrett

The cover of the first Go For Launch book:

GO FOR LAUNCH COMIC VOL. 1: 32-page Go For Launch Comic Vol. 1.

See some of the pages in the books on her COMICS webpage



Video: Copenhagen Suborbitals launches Nexø II rocket

The non-profit, all-volunteer group Copenhagen Suborbitals today successfully launched their Nexø II rocket from a floating platform in the Baltic Sea. The liquid fueled propulsion system appeared to work well and the rocket returned via parachute for a soft splashdown. Here is a video of the livestream of the event (the launch happens at around 1:35:33):

[ Update: This video shows the rocket’s flight from three cameras on the vehicle:


The group is working step-by-step towards launching a person to 100 kilometers in a rocket that they will build.




“Launchboxes” provided by Purdue for K-12 student experiments on suborbital spaceflights

A Purdue group has developed a simple box for grade school kids to fly experiments on suborbital spaceflights of the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket vehicle:

Purdue School Launchboxes available to send school experiments into space

Standing less than a foot tall and weighing a few ounces, the rectangular box doesn’t seem like much but Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics hope it will represent the first step for schools nationwide wanting to conduct zero-gravity experiments in space.

A few aluminum Launchboxes already have been shipped out this summer and more interest is expected as students return to K-12 schools across the nation, said Steven Collicott, professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

Collicott said the Launchboxes allow schools to focus on the experiments they want to send up on private suborbital rockets and also expose students and teachers to Purdue engineering.

“Teachers should be thinking and working with students about what’s going inside the box and the purpose of their experiment, not how to house it on the rocket,” Collicott said. “These Purdue School Launchboxes enable more schools to fly their own original experiments to space by taking this mundane, low-tech stumbling block out of the way for teachers.”

The 8-inch by 4-inch aluminum Launchbox being distributed by Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics is intended to help K-12 schools prepare experiments to launch aboard suborbital rockets. (Photo/School of Aeronautics and Astronautics)

In December, Collicott and his students finished a two-year project working with second-graders from Cumberland Elementary School in West Lafayette to send up an experiment aboard a Blue Origin rocket launch to determine whether fireflies could light up in space.

Compliments from Blue Origin officials about the box used for the firefly experiment led Collicott to look into possible production. His findings: Launchboxes were so inexpensive that they could be given away to interested schools and other organizations.

“We email the schools some computer files for 3D printing the plastic end caps,” he said. “Then we ship them the pre-formed aluminum for the box plus the fasteners and instructions for assembly.

“It’s a simple solution that stayed simple.”

Once completed, the boxes are 8 inches by 4 inches and allow schools to work within the 1-pound payload limit. The boxes are strong enough to support a 15-pound weight to prove that their strength is sufficient for the stresses of the launch to space.

The Blue Origin New Shepard rocket reaches space at a height of 60 miles in the air, much higher that any balloon or aircraft.

“That flight opportunity is now available to schools all over the world at roughly half the cost of high school football uniforms,” Collicott said. “Any school district in the country that plays football can now afford space flight.

“Just like their athletic booster clubs, schools can finance these flights with a “Rocket Booster Club,” he added.

Schools or other organizations interested in getting a Purdue School Launchbox can email Collicott at and include “Purdue School Launchbox” in the subject line.

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084,

Source: Steven Collicott, 765-494-2339,



Build a low cost system to receive images from GOES weather satellites

A reader points me to this item about a low cost system for receiving images from NOAA’s GOES weather satellites: HRIT and LRIT Low-Cost System – SDRplay Community Forum

This setup uses off-the-shelf components, is really easy to put together, and is comparatively low in cost. A key component of the low-cost HRIT/LRIT system is a new LNA [Low Noise Amplifier] for GOES satellite reception that NooElec, Inc. has been developing (currently described as the SAWBird GOES, though the name is subject to change when it goes into volume production). The SAWBird GOES was obtained as an Engineering Sample (for a fee) from NooElec, Inc. through their support department. The key elements of the system are as follows:

1) NooElec, Inc. SAWBird GOES w/power option ($24.95 plus $4 shipping; contact
2) PremierTech ANT-GRID-24DBI antenna ($12.83 plus 24.25 shipping from Provantage, LLC; PN PREK014;
3) 50ft active USB extension cable ($11.98 on Ebay at [50FT High Speed 480Mbps USB 2.0 Active Repeater M/F Extension Cable Adapter Cord 607841309417 | eBay  – updated selection]).
4) N male to SMA male connector.
4) male-to-male SMA connector.
5) Low cost tripod.

(HRIT/LRIT refers to High Rate and Low Rate Information Transmission.)

GOES 16 Full Earth Image

More information and resources:

Premiertek Hi-Gain outdoor antenna from Provantage



Video: Virgin Galactic VSS Unity rocketplane reaches 52 km on third powered flight

On Thursday, the Virgin Galactic‘s VSS Unity rocketplane reached Mach 2.47 in speed and 52 kilometers in altitude on the vehicle’s third test flight with the hybrid motor firing. This video shows highlights of the test:

If the program continues to make steady progress, the vehicle should cross the border of space this year,  perhaps within two or three more test flights. (Whether VG will define the 100 km Kármán line as the threshold to space or the USAF’s 80 km, has not been clarified yet.) Then sometime in 2019 they could begin taking six paying passengers at a time to space on a regular basis. Currently about 700 people are holding tickets for flights on Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo vehicles. The current ticket price is $250,000.

Blue Origin is on roughly the same time schedule with the New Shepard vertically launched system. New Shepard vehicles have reached over 100 km eight times on test flights since 2015 but without anyone on board. Unity, on the other hand, always has two pilots and will carry up to six passengers. The six passengers on a New Shepard will ride without pilots and instead rely on autonomous control.

Virgin Galactic posted the following statement about this week’s test:

Into the Mesosphere at Mach 2.4

Virgin Galactic’s Third Powered Flight on July 26th 2018

Virgin Galactic test pilots broke Mach 2 this morning, as VSS Unity took her third rocket-powered supersonic outing in less than four months. After a clean release from carrier aircraft VMS Eve at 46,500 ft, pilots Dave Mackay and Mike “Sooch” Masucci lit the spaceship’s rocket motor, before pulling up into a near vertical climb and powering towards the black sky at 2.47 times the speed of sound.

The planned 42 seconds rocket burn took pilots and spaceship through the Stratosphere and, at an apogee of 170,800 ft [52 km], into the Mesosphere for the first time. This region, often referred to by scientists as the “Ignorosphere”, is an under-studied atmospheric layer because it is above the range of balloon flight, and in the future is an area we can help the research community explore further.

After a safe landing back at Mojave Air and Space Port, Chief Pilot Dave Mackay summed up the experience:

“It was a thrill from start to finish. Unity’s rocket motor performed magnificently again and Sooch pulled off a smooth landing. This was a new altitude record for both of us in the cockpit, not to mention our mannequin in the back, and the views of Earth from the black sky were magnificent.”

Sooch added:

“Having been a U2 pilot and done a lot of high altitude work, or what I thought was high altitude work, the view from 170,000 ft was just totally amazing. The flight was exciting and frankly beautiful. We were able to complete a large number of test points which will give us good insight as we progress to our goal of commercial service.”

Every time VSS Unity is tested on the ground, or in the skies, we gain invaluable experience and fresh data. This continuously improves our modelling and helps us optimise objectives and test points as we progressively expand the flight envelope. Today’s test, among other things, gathered more data on supersonic aerodynamics as well as thermal dynamics.

VSS Unity lands after its third powered flight.

As it has been on previous flights, Unity’s cabin was equipped to gather data vital to the future safety and experience of our astronaut customers. These cabin analysis systems record a host of parameters that are designed to help us further understand the environment inside the cabin during powered flight – temperatures, pressures, humidity, acoustics, thermal response, vibration, acceleration and even radiation.

The carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, was piloted today by Todd Ericson and Kelly Latimer.

Congratulations to everyone at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company today for achieving another significant step towards commercial service. With VSS Unity, VMS Eve and the pilots safely back on the ground, we will now analyze the post-flight data as we plan and prepare for our next flight.

For downloadable assets from today’s flight please visit our Press FTP.