'Component issue' delays launch of S'pore space capsule

Mr Lim Seng hopes to launch the space capsule at the end of this year.
Mr Lim Seng hopes to launch the space capsule at the end of this year.TNP FILE PHOTO

A Singapore firm's ambitious project to send the first Singaporean into near space tomorrow has hit a snag, with the flight being delayed to the end of this year.

This is because the company had to design one of the components for its space capsule from scratch, after failing to get it off the shelf.

IN.Genius had hoped to mark Singapore's 50th birthday by launching a space capsule that is powered by a helium stratospheric balloon with a Singaporean on board at more than 20km above sea level.

Confirming the delay of the launch, the firm's founder and director Lim Seng said: "Of course I am disappointed that we cannot meet the deadline. It would have been a great present to Singapore." He, however, declined to elaborate what component it was.

The road to the spacecraft launch has been quite bumpy.

Besides taking more time to design and build components of the capsule, Mr Lim and his team also had to look for another country to launch the capsule.

This is because the local authorities banned the launch of space balloons or high-altitude balloons here. So the firm chose Alice Springs in Australia to launch the flight.

Leading up to the launch, tests on the space capsule were done in the Australian Outback after the craft was unveiled in November last year.

In March, the craft, which measures 2m by 2m by 3m, and weighs 400kg without a pilot, was launched in Hyderabad, India.

Carrying three laboratory rats, the craft stayed airborne for nearly two hours.

Earlier last year, some candidates who applied to pilot the craft had expressed concerns about the technology firm's efforts. Out of the 20-plus people who were shortlisted, at least three dropped out after being asked to pay for training.

They also questioned the lack of mission details.

Mr Lim, who was previously head of the Ministry of Defence's Defence Technology Office in Europe, said someone has been chosen. However, he declined to name the candidate.

He added that he and his team are on track for the launch at the end of the year.

"We're not giving up and are on track to launch in December... I've even ordered the spacesuit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline ''Component issue' delays launch of S'pore space capsule'. Print Edition | Subscribe