How's this for the ultimate gaming achievement? Half-Life 2's Gnome Chompski is going to space – in real life

Drag racing in orbit with Rocket Lab


Rocket Lab is planning a 30-satellite launch via its 16th Electron launch from New Zealand. The payload will include a statue of Gnome Chompski*, presumably in an attempt to unlock hitherto unknown Half-Life achievements.

Rocket Lab has launched 65 satellites so far and plans to notch up another 30 in what the company calls its "most diverse" mission yet. The spacecraft are destined for a Sun-synchronous orbit at 500km altitude and come from a variety of customers in the US, France, and New Zealand.

As well as the first student-built satellite from New Zealand (the APSS-1 satellite for the Auckland Space Institute at The University of Auckland), the payload also includes an intriguing tech demo from TriSept in the form of the DragRacer experiment.

DragRacer will see two identical cubesats ejected, one with a tether drag device (consisting of a 70-metre length of Terminator Tape) and one without. The expectation is that the tethered cubesat will re-enter the atmosphere within weeks while the other will linger in orbit for years.

The payload also includes a pair of maritime surveillance satellites and 24 SpaceBEE spacecraft to add to a constellation that is designed to provide satellite communications to IoT devices in remote locations.

Hitching a ride on the Kick Stage will be gaming company Valve's Gnome Chompski, in 150mm 3D printed titanium form. Ostensibly to test and qualify the 3D printing technique for future spacecraft components, "the mission serves as an homage to the innovation and creativity of gamers worldwide," said Rocket Lab.

Valve president Gabe Newell has pledged to donate $1 to the Starship Children's Hospital for every person tuning in to watch the launch online.

Attached to Kick Stage for the duration, Chompski has gone through acceptance testing prior to the flight, according to Rocket Lab boss Peter Beck. Sadly, the bane of achievement-hounds will not survive its flight, burning up following the de-orbiting process.

Elon Musk's Starman – a dummy launched into space in Musk's personal Tesla Roadster in 2018 – therefore need not worry about potential gnome-botherage.

Rocket Lab has a rich history of dropping the odd surprise or two at the end of missions; its last launch showed off the capability of the Kick Stage to complete a plane change in orbit (after payloads had been deployed).

Would it be too much to hope that Chompski might reveal the ship date of Half-Life 3 in the seconds before meeting a fiery end? The launch window opens on 15 November. ®

*Not the linguist and political activist, but a garden gnome found in Valve's first-person shooter Half-Life 2: Episode 2 "inside the communications building, next to the exit door under a wooden panel with some glass bottles". Carrying the gnome to the final destination in the game unlocks the "Little Rocket Man" achievement.


Keep Reading

More evidence your work/life balance has gone to $%£*: Atlassian says user-interface interactions show hours tacked on to workday

You're probably reading this on your work laptop when you should have been down the pub

Life with Amazon's fitness band: Upload your half-naked pics to see how fat you'll look without exercise. You now sound stressed – relax!

AI-backed gizmo, app will predict your future body if you don't start training, analyzes your voice for unhappiness

RAND report finds that, like fusion power and Half Life 3, quantum computing is still 15 years away

Has anyone told the Chinese?

Bloated middle age beckons: Windows 1.0 turns 35 and is dealing with its mid-life crisis, just about

Red trousers and a Porsche or respectable middle age for Windows?

NASA to send Perseverance, a new trundle bot, and Ingenuity, the first interplanetary helicopter, to sniff out life on Mars in July

Mars2020 mission will scout for interesting rocks to bring back to Earth

You'd think lockdown would be heaven for us layabouts – but half the UK has actually started 'exercising more'

UCL study informs app that documents daily activities during quarantine

Life in plastic, with a classic: Polymer £20 notes released into wild sporting Turner art

Updated cocaine straws will be much harder to forge and hopefully vegan

Memory, all alone doing all right. Samsung dreams of the old days, life was beautiful then. Hopes punters remember happiness is a new telly

Korean giant's Q1 held up, but full 2020 outlook looks like worse than the Cats movie trailer

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020