What was Project Hermes?
Project Hermes was a crowdfunded initiative to launch a weather balloon containing public messages to release them into the atmosphere. Hence, the name “Hermes”, the messenger god. It was funded in early 2015 and launched in September 2015.
Some interesting links:
Extended Launch Video
This video was originally released exclusively to Backers and painstakingly edited by myself over about 4 days.
Short Launch Video
This video was released publicly after the launch.
The content below is copied from the Project Hermes Website and Kickstarter Campaign. It was written during the Campaign.
What will we be doing?
Inside the payload carried by the weather balloon, we hope to include two HD cameras recording continuously, which should produce some amazing footage of our upper atmosphere, the curvature of our planet, and the darkness of space. An Arduino will be used to make flight electronics to record data from the flight, including temperature and pressure.
For just £5 pledged to our Kickstarter campaign, you will be able to have your name or message of your choice (must be appropriate) released into near-space when the balloon reaches maximum altitude and pops.
We are looking to secure sponsors from companies who manufacture the equipment we need. If they are able to generously provide us with free or discounted equipment, we will spend any leftover funds on backers’ rewards and filming.
How does it work?
A high quality weather balloon filled with helium will be attached to a parachute and payload (polystyrene box containing cameras, and other equipment) with strong cord. The entire payload will be heated by a small heating pad to keep everything running in the sub-zero degrees temperature.
All of this will be taken up to approximately 100,000 feet, where the balloon will pop in the near-vacuum conditions. By this time, the balloon will have expanded a large amount due to the decreased pressure at high altitude. The cameras will have captured some beautiful footage, and we hope to capture video of all the backers’ messages being distributed.
The payload will then start to descend, the parachute will deploy, and it all will descend at approximately 5m/s (11 miles per hour) until landing.
How will we recover the payload?
Inside the payload, we will be including a SPOT Satellite tracker, which will allow us to trace the balloon’s position when on the ground, even if there is no cell phone coverage. The SPOT tracker will cut out when it reaches its maximum altitude due to its legal limitations, but will start tracking again upon its descent.
There will also be a small GSM GPS tracker as a backup failsafe option. This will give us the best chance of recovering the payload.
Why should you fund us?
We need your funding to help buy the special equipment required for Project Hermes – there’s a whole host of things we need – balloon, heater, cord, parachute, trackers, helium gas, cameras, flight electronics, and other various items for construction. In return, we have rewards for our backers! Everybody who pledges will have their name put on our website. Depending on your Kickstarter pledge amount, you can also have your name printed on the payload, your name projected into space on paper, receive the raw HD footage from the cameras, get a high quality printed picture from the flight or have your very own small object (under 30g) sent into the stratosphere!
If you have a company you would like to promote, you can also have your logo sent up to near space on our balloon should you purchase the Sponsor Pack.
As with any unmanned flight, there is always a certain risk of losing the payload, whether it be due to tracker malfunction or a fault with the balloon/parachute.
To minimise these chances, we will be using two tracking devices, and reliable well-made and rugged equipment. We will also be constantly monitoring the winds and we will not launch the balloon if the payload is predicted to land anywhere inaccessible.
In the unfortunate but unlikely event that the payload is lost, we will not be able to refund pledges, however every backer will be contacted with an explanation and apology.