Chi­nese firm sends tor­toise into space, nearly

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA in Urumqi

A fly­ing ma­chine car­ry­ing a spe­cial “pas­sen­ger” — a tor­toise — reached an al­ti­tude of 12,000 me­ters on its maiden flight on Thurs­day night in North­west China’s Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion.

Luan Lin, co-founder of the Kuang-Chi Group that in­vented the de­vice, said her team had ex­pected Trav­eler II to reach 20,000 me­ters. How­ever, prob­lems with com­mu­ni­ca­tion and re­mote con­trol be­gan when it reached 12,000me­ters over Bostan Lake, and the team had to give up.

Luan said the set­back would not dampen the team’s en­thu­si­asm for in­vent­ing ve­hi­cles for near-space travel.

The main cabin of Trav­eler II has a di­am­e­ter of 2.5 me­ters and weighs more than 1met­ric ton. It has a life-sup­port sys­tem ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing an en­vi­ron­ment suit­able for hu­mans. The cap­sule is lifted by a he­lium bal­loon 40 me­ters in di­am­e­ter. The tor­toise was there to pro­vide ex­per­i­men­tal data, test­ing the cabin’s en­vi­ron­ment.

“This is our se­cond gen­er­a­tion pro­to­type. We can now com­mu­ni­cate with near-space from Earth and use so­lar en­ergy to drive the pro­pel­ler dur­ing the flight,” Luan said.

How­ever, as the flight did not reach 20,000 me­ters, life­sup­port sys­tems and the pro­pel­ler were not fully tested, she said.

The test site was cho­sen for its lack of com­mer­cial or mil­i­tary flights. How­ever, win­ter at Bostan Lake is ex­tremely harsh. The test flight was orig­i­nally sched­uled for Sun­day, but was post­poned due to bl­iz­zards and strong gales.

Luan said the Trav­eler se­ries will give hu­man trav­el­ers a su­perb sense of safety and trav­el­ing com­fort. The Shen­zhen­based com­pany plans to even­tu­ally take six peo­ple at a time on flights to al­ti­tudes be­tween 20,000 me­ters and 24,000 me­ters.

In ad­di­tion to pas­sen­ger flights, the Trav­eler II also has po­ten­tial for com­mu­ni­ca­tions and me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions through re­mote sens­ing. The near-space craft could also cap­ture data for cosmic and so­lar physics.

“Near space” refers to al­ti­tudes be­tween 20,000 and 100,000 me­ters, an area that has yet to be ex­plored by hu­mankind.

The Kuang-Chi Group be­gan work on the Trav­eler pro­gram in Fe­bru­ary last year. Its Trav­eler I reached an al­ti­tude of 21,000 me­ters over NewZealand in June.

Liu Ruopeng, pres­i­dent of Kuang-Chi, said the com­pany plans a test flight with hu­man pas­sen­gers next year.

Kuang-Chi Group, founded in 2010, is a global in­no­va­tion com­pany. Orig­i­nat­ing from a five-per­son team, the com­pany has ex­panded to a global com­mu­nity of 1,400 em­ploy­ees in­volved in in­dus­tries in­clud­ing aerospace, smart cities and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. Its sub­sidiary, KuangChi Science, is listed in Hong Kong and Aus­tralia. It also has an over­seas firm, Martin Jet­pack, mak­ing per­sonal fly­ing equip­ment.

JIANG WENYAO / XIN­HUA

A worker ex­am­ines Trav­eler II be­fore the fly­ing ma­chine starts its maiden flight in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion on Thurs­day.

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