01 October 2018
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Balloon goes up on threaded inserts

Sales at threaded insert manufacturer Fitsco have been high this year, says the company, but now have quite literally gone stratospheric.

A recent application has seen Fitsco’s Screwfit brass inserts for plastics used as part of a project that takes UK launched near-space craft clean through the troposphere and into the stratosphere, upwards of 40km, where air pressure is less than 1% of that at ground level and temperatures drop below -60°C. This is even higher than the 85,000 that the once top-secret Lockheed SR71 Blackbird is stated to have flown at.

The balloon programme is the brainchild of former Sheffield University Engineering PhD students Alex Baker and Chris Rose who decided on a grand challenge for themselves – to see if they could take a picture of the Earth from the edge of space. Thus was born their business, Sent Into Space, to become one of the UK’s most interesting and innovative technology-based businesses to have emerged over recent years. The company has already established a reputation as a global leader in making the use of near-space and its further exploration an almost daily occurrence.

Sent Into Space designs, manufactures, launches and recovers special balloon payloads that ascend high above the Earth into near-space, taking with them anything from cameras and scientific experiments to instantly recognisable brand images carried aloft for a number of household names. Alongside their commercial arms, special programmes such as Classtronauts allow schools and universities to launch their own packages into near space at an affordable cost as key learning, research and testing opportunities.

The programmes are said to provide unrivalled hands-on involvement for all participants – and launches have proved especially popular in the education sector, with junior schools from across the country benefiting from successful projects with Sent into Space.

Although the specific application of Fitsco’s threaded inserts are a closely guarded secret on the Sent into Space programme, their use is clearly a matter of some gravity to Fitsco, which has been supplying leading OEMs and innovators with quality British-made inserts for almost 30 years.

So next time an engineer asks, “What on Earth is that?”, the answer may well be beamed down via a live link from a Sent into Space balloon payload, featuring Fitsco Industries’ Screwfit threaded inserts.

Brian Wall

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