Two British schoolboys who designed satellites which caught the eye of astronaut Tim Peake are heading to the site of some of history’s most iconic space missions for a rocket launch.
Simon Shemetilo, 16, and 14-year-old Craig Alexander are heading to Florida’s Cape Canaveral – the iconic site of countless landmark NASA take-offs over the years.
“It’s going to be amazing to see where a lot of famous launches took place,” Simon told Sky News.
This time, it’s British company Inmarsat having its latest satellite technology carried into orbit.
It will form part of a network called Orchestra, which is designed to upgrade communications in challenging environments around the world, including at sea.
Teenagers Simon, from Tower Hamlets, and Craig, from Reading, were invited to go to watch after winning a competition in which hundreds of entrants had to think of ways satellites could improve life on Earth.
‘Exactly the innovation we need’
For both boys, who are Scouts, fighting climate change was a key inspiration.
Simon came up with a network of satellites “that work together to increase speeds of data processing and storage”, making them both more energy efficient.
Craig’s idea was to use satellites to collect solar energy from the sun, in the hope that it could be beamed down to Earth and provide a “cheap and eco-friendly” renewable.
Their ingenuity impressed judge Major Peake, who retired as an astronaut last month.
“These two really caught our eye,” he said.
“They used their Scout skills to develop their ideas to reduce the environmental impact of data storage by building a ‘space cloud web’ and harness clean solar energy from satellites.
“That is exactly the kind of ingenuity and innovation we need for the future of space.”
‘They can help save lives’
Simon and Craig will spend five days in Florida, and will tour NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, as well as watching Inmarsat’s launch of its I-6 F2 spacecraft.
Both are fascinated by the ever-increasing role of satellites, which are regularly taken into space by private companies like Elon Musk‘s SpaceX.
The UK’s first attempt at an orbital rocket launch last month was also carrying satellites.
Simon said: “They can help with navigation, save lives at sea, in military zones like Ukraine, and can help communicate with people and get aid.”
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Spaceflight would be ‘pretty cool’
But there’s nothing quite like the thrill of a crewed mission into space, and the Scouts are excited about NASA’s Artemis mission to return humans to the moon and Musk’s desire to colonise Mars via the Starship craft.
Should an invitation to board a civilian spaceflight ever come his way, Craig is playing it cool.
“I like the idea,” he said.
“It would be pretty cool to go to space.”
Inmarsat’s mission is targeting a mid-February launch date.