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Launching a Skateboard to Space, LOL

Yes, the 121C team actually sent a skateboard to the edge of space! Inspired by the record setting space jump of Fearless Felix Baumgartner, we lofted our prototype carbon fFFB jumpiber Rover skateboard high above California’s Mojave Desert with a helium balloon.  We recorded the event with a VR camera rig provided by USC student Tong Liu. You can share this experience in VR on your smartphone and even buy the board from our Kickstarter.

You can experience the flight of the rover in VR on your iPhone or Android device while 121C spokesperson and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría provides a compelling narration. “Mike LA” relates what your viewing to his experiences during Soyuz launch to the International Space Station.

Skate Space 1

Be sure to look straight up at 1:50 – 2:00 to watch the balloon explode as the Earth’s thin atmosphere gives way to vacuum. It’s very cool. Then watch out! As our parachute deploys, the spinning that results may challenge your equilibrium and your stomach.

PLAN, PREPARE AND TEST!

Getting everything ready for launch required some serious planning and preparation. Before setting out for Mojave, we assembled the perfect Rover with Shark Wheels and Randal Trucks. We added the avionics at the USCPrep for launch rocket lab. The complete rig included: a large weather balloon, a parachute, line for the balloon, a six camera VR rig, a pole to attach the skateboard to the VR rig, a SPOT GPS tracker and a set of auxiliary USB batteries for the cameras. We also insulated the cameras against the cold.

FILL UP ALONG THE WAY AND GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP!

On the way out to Mojave, we stopped off in Palmdale for a little late night rocket fuel and arriving pretty late, we checked into a charming Mojave, CA resort.

KK Motel

As tempting as it was to stay at this fabulous desert resort, we had to head out before dawn in order to get our launch in before Mojave’s notorious winds picked up.

USE THE RIGHT TOOLS!

Using our online balloon flight prediction system, we selected an argearea just off the highway 14 near Red Rock Canyon Mojave as the best launch site. It’s a dramatically beautiful area in the early morning light. Our support equipment included a 4×4 Ford F250 filled with tools, an industrial cylinder of helium, our tracking app equipped smart phones and a dirt bike for the recovery search operation.

VERIFY!

Being the careful engineer he is, Ryan insisted on conducting a scientific quality test on the gas.

After his Donald Duck impersonation had confirmed we had indeed purchased helium, we proceeded with the fill procedure, being extremely careful not to puncture the balloon. We had a spare latex balloon, but our shot fill-smrequired pretty much the entire cylinder of gas and we couldn’t afford to blow off much of it.

With the balloon filed, we tied off the end and began to attach the rig. The lift from the balloon was dramatic and made our arms sore just holding it.

Ballon Fill-sm       ready to launch-sm

LAUNCH!

Ready to go, we phoned the local FAA tower and reminded them of our launchtake off (we’d connected with them earlier to make sure we were in compliance) and advised them of our anticipated flight path so they could notify local air traffic. Tong got the honors of releasing
the unusual craft. When he let go of the Rover we saw the ballon, the skateboard and $2,500 worth of Tong’s photo gear rise swiftly into the sky! (that’s why we made him do it, LOL).

TRACKING!

For the next hour we chased our rig across 60 miles of desert, following the location updates sent to our phones viRover flt mapa the SPOTs satellite uplink. Those only came every 10 minutes, so it was sometimes a bit of guessing game which way to go.

 

RECOVERY!

Recovery turned out to be disappointingly easy! The rig landed within a couple of miles of our target, just off Hwy 395 near Kramer Junction – you may have stoppedYaay there if you’ve driven to Mammoth Mountain to board and ski. The final GPS ping location led us right to the Rover laying on its side on some bare level ground, just a short walk off a dirt road. We unfortunately had no excuse to get out the motorcycle! (Absolutely no desert tortoises were disturbed in the making of this film.)

The Rover skateboard was in perfect condition and much to Tong’s relief the VR rig and the six cameras were in great shape too. One of the SD memory cards had ejected from a GoPro on landing – but there was no loss of flight video. As you can see from the footage we reached the edge of the space, where

little planet full the thin shell of atmosphere wraps around the curve of the Earth and sun is white in a darkening sky. The cool “little planet” effect – created by stitching together an ultra wide angle view from the GoPro VR rig – dramatically exagerates that!

 

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Lunch was had at Kraemer Junction’s finest dining establishment: The Astroburger! We were pleasantly surprised that we were seated promptly despite our lack of reservations.

Atroburger

Where, after a hilarious chase back and forth across Hwy. 395, some running around the desert and a few bites on the hands, we managed to rescue this lost dog – obvAstro Dogiously named “Astro.”

 

With the mission accomplished, it was obviously time to go skate the trench over by the Mojave power distribution facility.

TRENCH

 

BUY THE BOARD!
The actual first Skateboard in Space is hanging in our production facility now. If you would like to own this unusual bit of history and topic of conversation, you can Recoverypurchase it on our Kickstarter campaign! Just scroll all the way to the bottom and be the first pledge of $2,500 by the deadline of July 30. This complete Rover skate board is in remarkably perfect condition after the flight – it has a small circular hole in the middle of the deck where the mast for the VR rig attached.

 

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We Get Letters!

Thank you so much for my 121C Board. It is everything that I thought it would be. It is such amazing quality and greatly exceeded my expectations.  I found your company while I was searching the Internet for a gift for my boyfriend. He is obsessed with things that are made out of carbon fiber. He is also an avid skateboarder so naturally I searched for a carbon fiber skateboard. I wanted to find a skateboard deck that was completely made out of carbon fiber.

4

After searching through many cheap “carbon fiber decks” that were actually a sticker that looks like carbon fiber on a wood board, I finally came across 121C Boards.  I read all of the information on the website and watched all of the videos and immediately knew that this was what I wanted to give him. Naturally I gave it some time, searched the Internet more and could not find anything that compared to this product. I then purchased the Space Inspired Aileron board. Living in Louisiana, we do not have many quality skate shops like we are used to having from when we lived in California.

 

He was extremely excited to have a quality board again. All of our local skate friends love this board and have all tried to buy it off of him! I hope to one day be able to get another one for myself but for now I will just have to let him have all the fun. I have been highly recommending your company to everyone that asks about the board. Thank you again for developing such a unique and functional board! Cannot wait to see what you all develop next! We will definitely keep following 121C boards! Best of luck in all of your future endeavors!

– Cassidy Sims, Lafayette, LA

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Pricing!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer a great opportunity to blog about product pricing. We often hear from folks who’d like us to sell a 121C complete for the price of a Penny board. We know the Aileron is the best cruiser board in the world and we also realize that it costs far more than a penny (or a nickel, LOL). It’s not a surprise that quality and price usually go hand in hand and there are reasons for this.

While we do solve an environmental problem, it’s important to understand we use perfectly good upcycled (scrap but new) material and not “recycled” (reused stuff.) Our aerospace prepreg Carbon Fiber requires special handling, transportation and even expensive, refrigerated storage. It’s far from “free.”

Picture1The aerospace grade material in the Aileron is so expensive that if we purchased it new, our cost for the Carbon Fiber alone would be more than what we charge for a complete build with trucks and wheels. With it’s 22 layers of the best CF we’d literally have to sell this board for over $1,000!

This is one reason why nobody else makes anything like it. Most other deck makers simply lay a single thin layer of inexpensive, consumer grade “wet layup” CF over a wood or fiberglass board and then plaster their adverts with “Carbon.”

We’ve also invested years in engineering, R&D and in optimizing manufacturing and logistical processes. Our boards have to be carefully cured at high temperatures and pressures, water jet cut, and hand finished in processes that are vastly more expensive than those required to stamp out plastic boards.

sharkstackedpkg400wWhen it came to choosing components for our completes we chose, the finest, Made in USA trucks, wheels and bearings. We know that the folks at Randal trucks and Shark Wheel are as proud of their gear as we are of ours. Also, because we aren’t in the business of peddling components, we are happy to sell you a deck and point you at our suppliers so that you can save a few $ and have some fun by building your own.

We position the price of Aileron to compete with the best quality exotic wood boards from companies we respect like Arbor and Loaded. Rest assured we are always looking for ways to optimize our processes and reduce the price you pay. However, there are already
plenty of cheap plastic and wood skate decks out there and the world doesn’t need another Globe. Like Tesla or Aston Martin, price is not our primary focus and we will never sacrifice our commitment to quality to lower the price.

We are planning to offer some new models at a variety of prices and are preparing a new crowdfunding campaign to finance the tooling for an exciting smaller and less expensive deck.shop

Finally, we’d like to remind you that your Aileron was built by skaters in Southern California, the heartland of skating, and not by children slaving in some offshore sweatshop. We care about the community we live in and are proud to employee our friends and neighbors. They care as about your ride as much as we do. Buy one today and share the pride that comes with quality.

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We Get Your Requests for New Deck Designs!

We get a lot of great feedback from 121C fans via email and FB messaging. Keep sending your comments and ideas!

The top requests are for:

  1. A Smaller, Less Expensive Board
  2. A Downhill Board
  3. A Trick Board

We hear you and we are planning to address all of those segments! We are working carefully and investing a lot of time on development of the world’s best downhill and freestyle boards for release next year.

We plan to release a smaller (and lower priced) board even sooner. We will launch crowdfunding campaigns to cover the tooling on those once we’ve toughly tested the prototypes. The trick board is also on our list and like all our products we won’t release it until it is the best product money can buy.

Here’s a sneak of one prototype for the small board we are testing. We are thinking of calling it “The Rover” in homage to NASA’s plucky Sojourner rover from the pathfinder mission.

rover

A prototype we’ve been riding around USC (we probably won’t go with pink wheels, LOL).

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Aileron Goes East

IMG_1231The first production 121C Aileron was shipped to Jake Watkins, a freshman at Cornell. Jake is riding his his Space Inspired Aileron with Shark Wheels around campus, and showing a little SoCal style as the East Coast foliage changes colors.

Jake shared with us that his Aileron is not only a sweet ride, but actually paying off! “Got my board, I love it. Actually made about $30 so far of people trying to snap it!”

We are pretty sure Jake will keep making bank on that for a long time. If you haven’t seen it yet, checkout the R&D testing in our engineering video.

Production is ramping up and our Kickstarter supporters should be enjoying theirs in the next few weeks!

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The Martian

We LOVE the book and film, The Martian! However we do take exception with the scene where our protagonist is tasked with modifying his Mars rover by cutting a big hole in it. Astronaut Mark Watney somehow accomplishes this by drilling a LOT of holes through the vehicle’s thick carbon fiber shell with his rock sample drill and then jumping on the roof. In the book it specifically notes the material is CF and that he drills over 750 holes.

Our experience with machining this material suggests this is one of the few technical inaccuracies in an otherwise engineering savvy work. CF is incredibly strong and abrasive. It simply destroys most drill bits designed for easier materials like metal. Carbon fiber is typically machined using carbide or better yet DIAMOND drill bits. To avoid destroying tooling and minimize environmental dust, we are utilizing water jet cutting in our production boards.

A masonry bit designed to penetrate relatively benign material like soil and rock is not going to get very far. Poor guy would probably need a hundred of them – something not suggested in the text or film . . . and it still would be pointless. When Watney jumped on the roof of the rover and it collapse we had to giggle, both because it was a great moment of physical comedy in the film and because we know how damn strong space grade CF is. Poor guy could jump on that roof until the end of time, particularly in Mars’s weak gravity – which also renders the amusing Earthbound equivalency test JPL runs in the film kinda bogus. Still, we love The Martian.