Reaching space so far is the business of large companies and national endeavors. However, small groups are working on achieving low cost space access using high end technology. This talk will give a brief insight into JP Aerospace, "America's other space program" and is connected to a real launch of a near space probe. From 2001 to 2004 I was working with JP Aerospace (JPA), a volunteer-based organization that is dedicated to the achievment of low cost space access. This non profit group, run by volunteers is only financed by donations and sponsoring. I will talk about my experiences with this group and about the idea of reaching space using "hacking" methods. The goal of JPA is to reach space using a lighter then air method consisting of 3 stages. The first stage is an airship that transports the payload from ground to the upper stratosphere. The second is a station in the upper stratosphere, acting as a spaceport. The third stage is a gigantic inflatable wing, that is being pushed by ion drives into orbit. To achive this final goal, a lot of small steps are being made to test technologies that are needed. At JPA, these steps are called missions and I was able to participate in several of them. The challenge with each mission is, that you don't really have a budget. You need to work with the parts, that are available (mostly from previous missions) and stuff that you can buy at high end places like "Home Depot" or "Radio Shack". My personal goal was to obtain some high resolution digital imagery from "up there". It has been achieved with the mission "Away 25". I will talk about some of the missions I was participating in and a bit about the oddities and weirdness that is connected with private space projects. As a demonstration, I would like to launch a weather balloon on site. This project is now about 50% completed. Instead of using amateur radio, I will rely on the dense cell phone network of Germany together with GPS. If the mission works out, we will get high resolution digital pictures from an altitude of up to 100.000 feet. Of course, these images can be published on the camp web page. If I may, I would like to auction off a large poster (90cmx2.8m) of a panoramic picture from 96.000 feet that has been made by Away 25 to finance this mission.
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