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Tech firm makes third attempt to launch first Singaporean into space

SINGAPORE — After two failed attempts including an 11th hour cancellation last year, technology firm IN.Genius is hoping to be third time lucky as it attempts to send the first Singaporean into the edge of space this month.

A view of IN.Genius' previous testing phase at Alice Springs, Australia.

A view of IN.Genius' previous testing phase at Alice Springs, Australia.

SINGAPORE — After two failed attempts including an 11th hour cancellation last year, technology firm IN.Genius is hoping to be third time lucky as it attempts to send the first Singaporean into the edge of space this month.

The mission, which will take place on April 26 (6am) in Alice Springs, Australia, will see a Singaporean astronaut — who has not been named yet — strapped in a capsule attached to a high-altitude helium balloon.

If all goes well, the capsule will ascend to the Armstrong line — 20km above sea level — and detach from the balloon once it reaches a height of about 25 kilometres. The capsule will then complete its descent back to earth with a parachute.

The third attempt by IN.Genius comes over a year after Mr Marvyn Lim Seng, its founder and director, had to call off its launch at the same location in May last year. This was due to safety concerns arising from “incredibly strong winds” that could have torn the balloon in half, he added.

He had first planned for a 2015 mission in conjunction with Singapore’s 50th birthday celebrations but that was scrapped due to an equipment issue.

Based on the data gathered so far, Mr Lim told TODAY that he is optimistic about his latest launch attempt, though he cautioned that wind conditions can be very unpredictable.

More details, such as the identity of the Singaporean astronaut, will be announced at a later date.

“ We want to conquer this space because from 20 to 100km (above sea level), nobody’s there,” said Mr Lim, who was speaking to students at the ISS International School at Paterson Road on Friday (April 5).

“If we manage to put our presence, even as a small country in near space — 20 to 40km (above sea level) — it is a very valuable virgin land to understand and conquer.”

The project could potentially enable cost effective testing of space equipment in near space, without having to undertake the costly process of launching rockets or satellites, added Mr Lim in an interview.

“With stratospheric balloons, you can bring it up to near space whereby you already have the harsh environment of space. You don’t have to break an arm or leg, and you can test your equipment and bring it back (to earth).”

One example of space equipment that could be tested in such conditions at a lower cost could be laser communication technology, said Mr Lim, as it requires long distances, the environment of space and radiation data, among other factors.

“A lot of people ask why we do this. The better question is why we care to do this. It is because we want to give back to the nation as I feel that we have been very privileged,” Mr Lim added.

“It is always easy to tell others that they must dare to fail or take risks. What I hope to do is show by our own action, that we’re taking a big risk and champion a change in the mindset of Singaporeans that we as Singaporeans can do it.”

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Space Singaporean Lim Seng In.genius

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