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SPEARS joins the 19-mile-high club: Intimate snaps

Spaceplane test flight mission photos for your viewing pleasure

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Pics and vid The Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team is just about done sifting through the photos and vid from our recent test flight of the Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System (SPEARS) control board, and we hereby present highlights for your viewing pleasure.

Click here for a bigger version of the LOHAN graphicRoll over the photos for the name of the snapper in question, or for a bigger version in a new window where available.

Since this is a photo-round up, we're not going into much written detail about the flight. There's more on our heroic Playmonaut's 113,00ft stratodangle here, while you can get details of the SPEARS element of the mission - the control board which fires the rocket's igniter at an altitude of around 19 miles (100,100ft) - here.

We'll bring you full coverage of the mission trackers and Raspberry Picam rig in a dedicate piece next week.

On Saturday 13 July, we assembled at Blighty's Baikonur (Brightwalton in Berkshire) for the big event, to find Dave "Pi In The Sky" Akerman sitting in mission control behind his improbably expansive wall of monitors:

Dave Akerman sits at his mighty bank of monitors

Dave does do low-tech too, though, as this snap of him knocking together lunch proves. Look closely, and you can see the obligatory bacon sitting with the burgers on the barbie. Lovely:

Dave man the barbecue

Neil Barnes was the man charged with SPEARS-fiddling, a task which appears to have knocked a couple of years off his life:

Neil Barnes programmes the SPEARS board

Myself and Anthony Stirk, meanwhile, got on with prepping the Covert High Altitude Vehicle (CHAV), a peripheral bit of fun designed to have a pop at our own Guinness World Record for the highest launch of a paper plane...

The CHAV aircraft

... and here's Anthony Stirk wrangling a miniature tracker into the CHAV fuselage:

Anthony inserts a tracker in the CHAV's fuselage

With the CHAV prepped, Anthony and Dave posed for this fetching portrait of two blokes with plane...

Dave Akerman and Anthony Stirk pose with the CHAV

...before the whole team assembled at the village hall for the obligatory pre-flight group shot:

The test flight team pose with the payload before the flight

From L-R we have rocket motor geezer Paul Shackleton, custom igniter chap Rob Eastwood, apprentice boffin Katarina Haines Barbosa, the aforementioned Anthony Stirk, Neil Barnes and Dave Akerman, plus Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) vet John Oates.

Some of you have questioned whether I was actually at the event, having not yet appeared in published photos. I was, and here I am attaching the CHAV to the main payload...

Lester Haines attaches the CHAV to the main payload box

...and explaining how in the future paper aircraft missions will be levitated by amazing anti-grav telekinetic power alone:

Lester Haines with the main payload box

Those powers will also extend to firing solid-fuel motors for rocket-powered spaceplanes simply by staring at them very hard. Until then, we'll have to rely on custom igniters, seen below during fettling by Paul and Rob:

Paul and Rob connect the custom igniter

While the lads got on with assembling the kit, the unsung heroes of stratospheric missions - their partners, on hand to lend moral support and pitch in the with the photography - wisely decided to seek the shade:

Julie and Anita and Katarina relaxing at the launch site

It's a tip of the hat to Julie Akerman (left) and Neil's missus Anita Wegner, seen here with our apprentice boffin.

Dave's the LOHAN hydrogen head honcho, so he's the one who gets to inflate LOHAN's mighty orbs...

Dave Akerman inflates the balloon

...although it was John and Rob who ended up holding the impressive engorgement:

John Oates and Rob Eastwood with the fully-inflated balloon

For those of you who missed the live feed of the launch, here's a tasty time lapse sequence video of the whole thing, with a bit of music thrown into the mix:

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