Tuesday saw the Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) team down at QinetiQ's hypobaric chamber in Farnborough, testing the crucial Vulture 1 aircraft release mechanism.
We've mulled, and rejected, electronic or pyrotechnic solutions, and were always keen on a purely mechanical, pressure-driven device.
To test such a device, though, we needed a proper facility, and QinetiQ very kindly came to the rescue with an offer to host the event. It explains that we had the use of "a three-compartment hypobaric chamber capable of achieving simulated altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet with an initial rate of climb of 40,000 feet per minute. The chamber dimensions are 5.7m × 3.7m × 2.4m high and it can accommodate up to 8 persons in its largest compartment.
“The chamber facility includes a vacuum reservoir enabling rapid decompressions of the chamber to take place. Rapid decompressions with a pressure change of 70 kPa in 0.1 second are attainable, which equates to a decompression from 8,000 ft to 65,000 ft.”
Yes, yes, we hear you cry - but what were you testing, exactly? Go directly to the next page for a previously-classified photograph and technical details...