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El Reg space bureau firms up PARIS kit list

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Our Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) programme is moving briskly along, and we've now put together an initial kit list for both the main payloads and Vulture 1 vehicle.

PARIS: Sponsored by Peer 1First up, after mulling the main payload, and just what we need it to do, we decided that we didn't really want to get bogged down in complex electronics packages, since the launch of Vulture 1 is the principal mission objective.

Projects such as Robert Harrison's Icarus and Cambridge University Spaceflight have already done magnificent work skirting the edges of space, and we doubt we could better their efforts.

So, the main payload's job will be to record the ascent and release of Vulture 1, with any images thereafter a bonus. Since we're not really bothered about tracking the entire flight of the main payload, we're restricting ourselves to an off-the shelf GPS tracker, which delivers location via SMS, and a back-up mobile phone doing the same job.

Of course, this system certainly won't work above a certain height, but once the payload's returned to Earth, we'll be able to track it down and recover it.

The main payload's image capability will comprise a Canon compact (model TBC), suitably programmed with the Canon Hack Development Kit, and Kodak Zx1 video camera. The former is for capturing general views on an intervalometer setting, while the latter is dedicated firstly to videoing just what happens to Vulture One as it ascends with the main payload and the plane's release. After that, it can get some nice video footage of the rest of the main payload flight.

All the above main payload bits and bobs will operate independently, so if one piece of kit claps out, it's not too much of a problem.

Under the styrofoam box containing the main payload will be Vulture 1. This, of course, we do need to track for the entire flight, so we're delighted to announce that the aforementioned Robert Harrison is putting together a lightweight GPS/radio transmitter package for the aircraft, full details of which will follow in due course.

Vulture 1 will also carry a miniature camera, the Eco Flycam 1, so expect some spectacular pilot's POV shots as the vehicle glides its way into the history books.

And the design of Vulture 1? Well, it's sketched on paper, but we're waiting on the payload to determine the final weight and therefore the size of the plane.

Finally, the pesky Vulture 1 release mechanism has been causing us plenty of sleepless nights. For the moment, we're going with a pressure-activated system, viz: a glass syringe filled with a small amount of air at ground level which will, via the expansion of air at altitude, allow us to rig a simple but hopefully reliable mechanical release mechanism.

If it sounds a bit Heath Robinson, well it is, but we reckon it's probably the option least vulnerable to the rigours of high-altitude flight. To be honest, the prospect of entrusting the release to some form of electronic device gives us the willies, and anything involving burning release cables is, given the "Paper" bit of the PARIS acronym, probably best left well alone.

More news follows. Our next priority is to get the main payload and release mechanism assembled and tested, at which point we'll be ready to put together Vulture 1. ®

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