Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

DIY space probe made in a garage

John Burch, left, Mark Newby-Robson and Kevin Godfrey, plan to launch a home-made space probe
John Burch, left, Mark Newby-Robson and Kevin Godfrey, plan to launch a home-made space probe

Four friends are planning a space mission on a shoestring - building all their equipment in a garage on a budget of just £500.

The science buffs from Suffolk, who call themselves the Sudbury Space Society, plan to launch a probe as high as 125,000 feet to the edge of space.

The mission is the result of a drunken conversation in their local pub but they hope it will inspire children to get involved in science.

Chief engineer John Burch, whose home garage in Sudbury has served as a workshop for the project, said: "We want to show the traditional idea of the inventor in their garden shed is still thriving. With ingenuity and adaptation you can achieve things that would cost NASA a small fortune."

The space society - also made up of Kevin Godfrey, Mark Newby-Robson and Simon Grice - will launch a 50ft wide helium-filled balloon complete with monitoring and video equipment.

Many of the components have been adapted from items bought on eBay. This has included using a desktop printer and a nail varnish dryer to make circuit boards. The probe will stream data and images back to earth for analysis.

On-board equipment will include a magnetometer to measure the Earth's magnetic fields and an accelerometer which will measure speed, providing an insight into atmospheric pressure. Solar panels have been included to warm the equipment in the face of expected -50C temperatures.

At the end of the mission a controlled explosion will release components and parachute them back to earth.

Mr Godfrey, who works in marketing and only studied science up to O-level, said: "Like most crazy ideas this started in the pub and we had drank a lot of cider at the time. But when we began to talk about it we realised this might be possible."

Mr Godfrey added: "We think this is the first time a project of this kind has been launched on such a small budget and we can set an example to get others excited about science."

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