'Weather patterns' delay Singaporean's attempt to travel to edge of space

'Weather patterns' delay Singaporean's attempt to travel to edge of space

Space 1
SAF pilot Yip Chuang Syn and the capsule that was initially supposed to take him to space. (Photo: Shahul Hameed)

ALICE SPRINGS, Australia: A pilot with the Republic of Singapore Air Force was forced to delay his attempt to travel to the edge of space because of "weather patterns", said the project's deputy campaign director Patsy Ong on Monday (May 14).

Yip Chuang Syn who has been flying for more than 20 years, was set to traverse altitudes that surpass his experience and go where no Singaporean has gone before. 

"In some ways, I've always dreamt of going to space. While this isn't exactly going into space, you know, it's still going to the Armstrong line, which is something no Singaporean has achieved before," Mr Yip told Channel NewsAsia before his attempt. 

But his planned take-off in the capsule from Alice Springs in Australia was not to be - at least for now.

The flight was cancelled on Monday - one day before the actual take-off date. 

"Most of us didn’t see it coming because when you are into a mission, you want to achieve it and make it happen," said Ms Ong about Mr Yip's endeavour.

Mr Yip had arrived in Alice Springs for the final preparations on Friday.

According to Ms Ong, Mr Yip had done a "full dress rehearsal and conducted a two-hour test in the capsule".

However, despite being technically prepared for the flight, the team was "not in control of weather patterns" and added that it was "too windy to send a man up in space".

"The wind has grown stronger and obviously the arrival of jetstream (fast moving air currents in the atmosphere) has definitely put a stop to our mission at this stage because it’s way out of our limits.

"The amount of risk involved is exponential," said Ms Ong.

As for when the project can be resumed, advisor to the mission Professor Lui Pao Chuen said that it would take six or 12 months.

"There are so much resources put together for the mission and we got to wait six months or 12 months for the next window. So the next window is not going to be 2 weeks time. It’s going to be in six months or 12 months," said Professor Lui.

MULTIPLE DELAYS

The ambitious project was led by innovator Lim Seng who is the founder of Singapore-based technology firm IN.Genius in order to "break boundaries".

"The whole purpose (of the project) is to break boundaries, break mindsets, do difficult things. 

And as I always say from Day 1: Our intent is to show our fellow citizens that we, from a small country, can also do this if we put our minds, hearts and guts together," said Lim Seng.

Lim Seng first announced his idea in February 2013 to send the first Singaporean across the Armstrong Line, which is 20km into space.

He aimed to do this using a stratospheric helium balloon that is typically used by space agencies like NASA to conduct scientific missions.

"It's just very interesting to be able to just have somebody, a leader, a visionary like Lim Seng, to set this goal where we can try to work together to try achieve this for Singapore."

The flight was originally planned for take-off in 2015 during the SG50 celebrations, but faced delays "due to various reasons", said the team.

Despite the setbacks, the team continued to perform two stratospheric flight tests in Alice Springs in May 2016 and was given in-principle approval for a man flight in Alice Springs by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA).

Following this, the space suit's interface design was confirmed in January 2018 and Lim Seng announced the official flight date to be on May 15.

Source: CNA/mn

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