Celebrating the safe return of the world’s first launch of a live animal to near space.
New breakthroughs have been made by Kuang-Chi Group in its manned near space project since the successful launch of Traveler II last year. The Kuang-Chi developed Traveler III on October 25th, 2017was successfully launched in Xinjiang, China along with a live turtle as passenger. The Traveler III ascended into near space, 21 kilometres above sea level, for experimental tasks. At 8:25am the same day it was retrieved after it successfully landed in the designated area for its return to earth. Upon opening the capsule, it was joyfully discovered that the turtle was safe and unharmed, the team proudly transported the new near space Traveler to back to headquarters.
Traveler III lifted a turtle into near space and conducted a series of life support and safety tests, in which to verify the feasibility of several manned space technologies currently in research & development. The successful launch marks a grand, new level reached in near space technology.
“The Traveler III entered near space to collect data about life support &safety, space environment and telecommunication conditions, as well as testing the feasibility of seven techniques we’ve mastered at same time, all of which will lay a solid foundation for the follow-up sustainable manned flights. We give an exciting results and reach our goal as scheduled.” said Dr.Zhou Fei, project team leader.
In recent years, many countries and research institutes have doubled their efforts in the exploration of near space. Compared with other aircrafts, an aerostat is less expensive and can be called back for repairs and maintenance. It also can stay aloft for a longer time and carry greater weight without the consumption of too much power and energy. In addition to functioning as low altitude satellites for the monitoring of earth conditions, an aerostat can also be used as a tourist vessel for personal travel to near space. As a result, aerostats have become one of the most popular near space aircrafts across the world.
“The success we’ve made in this launch is hard-earned” said Zhou Fei. “Near space is a new field that lacks the accumulation of previous experience and technology, which means that we have to start from scratch. Although we conduct tests again and again, there are still a lot of unpredictable problems in the near space. Unlike traditional aircrafts such as airplane and rocket, an aerostat requires a stricter release condition of proper airspace and suitable weather conditions, which imposes more challenges for us. For example, the wind speed on the ground cannot exceed 3 meters per second so as to ensure that the aircraft can move on the pre-set orbit. Moreover, the weather condition on the ground is more capricious than that in the near space, making it the biggest risk for air inflation and release on the ground” Dr. Zhou Fei added.
Another key technology breakthrough is the capsule design. To cope with various environmental challenges, Traveler III has adopted a special material developed by Kuang-Chi group in the construction of a super-pressure capsule, with high strength, low-temperature resistance, anti-radiation, ultraviolet-proof and other beneficial properties.
Ensuring that humankind may travel in near space of extreme conditions safely, comfortably and for longer duration remains the primary goal for the development of manned aircraft technology to near space. Traveler III, in this mission, has contributed results that verify and will lead to the upgrade of life support and safety systems of future near space vessels, leading us closer to the attainment of our long-term goals of near space travel.
It was in February, 2015, that we witnessed the official initiative of the manned near space project for Kuang-Chi group. Since then, our exploration has never ceased. Four months after the project launch, Kuang-Chi successfully released China’s first commercial near space platform – Traveler I, reaching 21 kilometres above sea level to carry out a series of tests including high-speed telecommunication, maritime surveillance and optical monitoring. The following year in August,2016, Kuang-Chi Future Technology and Near Space Technology R&D Centre were established in Haikou, southern China, with the purpose to build up a world-class institute with independent aerospace, aviation research and development capabilities further improving our comprehensive R&D ability in near space exploration industry. Later that year in November, 2016, the test launch of Traveler II fulfilled its data collection mission. This year in October, 2017, the successful launch of Traveler III marks another bold step forward in our efforts to bring near space travel into reality.