The special 'pod' is made of EPS (Airpop)
A purpose-designed ‘sky pod’ containing fragile electronic and imaging equipment and carried by helium weather balloon is making regular journeys to the edge of space to provide views of life from 23 miles (38km) high above earth.
The pod has been designed by UK company SentintoSpace and is manufactured from expanded polystyrene – a material recently renamed ‘airpop’ across Europe. It is being developed commercially for use by scientists and photographers – both amateur and professional.
Its precision-moulded internal compartments prevent the sensitive on-board equipment from becoming dislodged during the flight whilst at the same time providing thermal protection from temperatures in space falling as low as minus 50°C.
“In the past we’ve used basic styrene containers but we saw the opportunity for a purpose-designed pod for use by scientists, photographers and teachers who aim to create an engaging learning platform for science education in schools,” commented Alex Baker from SentintoSpace. “Airpop is the ideal material for ‘edge of space’ photography as in addition to thermal protection it offers very low weight for the upward flight combined with very high impact resistance for the return landing on earth.”
The highly efficient insulation offered by airpo- also means the space pod contents are protected from condensation which could seriously affect imaging, trackers, black box data recorders and other equipment during the 76km journey into the stratosphere and back.
The edge-of-space pod was designed after images taken from cameras carried to the stratosphere became popular on Youtube and other social media. The flights launched by both academics and enthusiasts, subject to CAA approval, utilise GPS tracking to ensure the pod and equipment containing the images can be easily recovered for re-use after safe descent by parachute.
Nigel Smith of Moulded Foams Limited who manufactured the space pod to the customer’s specification said: “This is a remarkable material being used in a unique application. There are thousands of uses for Airpop and this is one of the most recent and intriguing applications we have become involved with.”