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Loki Lego Launcher in spaceOn Saturday, a handmade craft rose 78,000 feet to capture the view from the edge of space. The craft, built by two Seattle youngsters, reached speeds of over 100 km/h on its journey over central Washington.

Kimberly and Rebecca Yeung built their spacecraft out of wood and broken arrow shafts, but it flew twice as high as commercial aircraft usually travel. Attached to a weather balloon filled with helium was a flight computer tracking their craft, two GoPro cameras, and a picture of their cat next to a Lego R2-D2. Called the Loki Lego Launcher, the craft was named after that cat and the figurine.

The craft traveled the fastest right after the balloon popped at 78,000 feet, reaching 110 km/h, or nearly 70 MPH. It averaged about 35km/h (20 MPH) over its four hour and 20 minute journey.

Rebecca, 10, said the most exciting part of the launch was actually the end, when they found the spacecraft with minimal damage.

“The tall grass hid the spacecraft so well, that we even walked right past it, but thanks to GPS we were able to find it,” Kimberly said in an email to GeekWire.

Rebecca ended up spotting the orange parachute in a cow field and Kimberly, 8, picked it up after climbing over three fences to get there. While the ship was mostly intact, the namesake Loki and Lego snapped off on impact, but were quickly found nearby.

balloon paths
The projected flight path of the Loki Lego Launcher, top, and the actual path, which was quite a bit further than estimated

The spacecraft landed about 50 miles from their launch site in Stratford, WA, which is about 30 minutes north of their original launch site in Moses Lake. However, the craft wasn’t exactly easy to find, despite the on-board GPS tracker. The girls forgot to reweigh the Loki Lego Launcher after adding the ropes and tape that hold the craft to the balloon and parachute, which means that the projected path was a little short.

The “Lessons Learned” page from Kimberly and Rebecca’s project binder

“Surprisingly, the curve is almost the same,” Rebecca said. “It curves down, curves back up, bursts, and curves back down again. The difference is we miscalculated the weight of our payload, so our ascent rate was off, and the prediction calculations showed the balloon at a faster pace than it actually was, causing it to have a bigger curve than it would’ve.

“We were very lucky because our spacecraft landed right by a huge pile of cow poop, but it didn’t land in it.”

Rebecca and Kimberly learned a lot on their trip, according to their project plan binder. From “always be optimistic” to “be willing to reconstruct,” they learned lessons that will be helpful for building their next spacecraft, or whatever plan they think of next.

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