Powered Up – Build Your Own NASA Wing Kite

| August 29, 2008
Few topics on earth get people more fired than debating which snow kite is the best.  I should know, as for years I was NASA wing evangelist and still am to a large degree.  DEATH BEFORE FOIL KITES.  Yeah, well, then I tried an Ozone foil, and, uhmmm, well, it was totally bitchin’.  And so were the inflatables.  Kiters are passionate about their sport and a large part of your kiting preference depends on what you learned on and what kind of kiting you like to do.  As with backcountry skiing, the sport has many avenues ranging from strictly transportation across ice caps to floating monster air across road gaps.  Kiting is a quiver sport.
Using kites for Big Game chute hunting in Baffin Island.
Using NASA Wing kites for Big Game chute hunting in Baffin Island.

I learned how to kite on a NASA wing in Antarctica and couldn’t wait to get home and sew up a few kites on my own.  Since then I’ve made roughly 20 NASA wings ranging from 2.3m speed demons to 30m monster trucks.   My quiver has expanded into foil kites and hopefully an inflatable for next season, but for expeditions, NASA wings are still my workhorse of choice as they are light, simple, cheap and generate a huge amount of power.

I’ve resurrected an old “How to Build a NASA Wing” website which I just moved over to StraightChuter.com. Click here to see how it is done.

NASA wing kites - small enough to fit in your pocket, yet strong enough to rip your arms off.
NASA wing kites – small enough to fit in your pocket, yet strong enough to rip your arms off.

Help support StraightChuter.com and get boosted into the stratosphere with a Best Kiteboarding Yarga Kite on sale now at Backcountry.com! click on the photo below…


Category: Snow Kiting

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (12)

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  1. nick says:

    Awesome! Would love to hear more about kiting.

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Nick,
    You’re in luck – the Labor Day weekend is all kiting, all the time.

  3. Hacksaw says:


    Its interesting looking at this Baffin Island picture. There are no pressure ridges in the ice.


  4. Andrew says:

    Funny you should mention that Hacksaw as high-speed collisions with pressure ridges cut both of our Baffin trips short, or at least altered them. I’m putting a photo gallery up tomorrow, but the end result of a pressure ridge can be seen here:


  5. Hacksaw says:

    So, a roll bar might not be a bad idea…..

  6. Terry says:

    Andrew, do you fly the NASA wings with 2 lines?

    I built one of these a couple years ago from your instructions but didn’t glue the knots so the kite lost shape and I still have to fix it.
    What really put a damper on the project though was the huge force of the kite and my fear of getting dragged – was trying this on land and in a fairly populated area (need to try this on snow instead). I ended up modifying the bridle to take 4 lines (added 2 rear barking lines) but the 4 lines added up to too much drag and the kite didn’t fly well.

  7. Andrew says:

    Hi Terry – I do fly my NASA’s a two-liners. I’ve tried them as 4 line, but it seemed to add more complexity without much more control.

    I’m glad to hear you were able to build one! Learning how, or most importantly, when to fly them is a big part of the learning curve. When I first started, we’d wait for a howling wind, then set our biggest kites as we wanted a “good ride.” Usually we just got dragged, threw the kite and spent the next few hours detangling the lines.

  8. Inar-i says:

    Cool kite, really! I wonder, is it possible to buy such NASA kite in a common sport magazine.
    Baffin Island photo looks like an esoterical picture, beautiful place – but it must be extremely cold there!

  9. don eburne says:

    I’d like to build a few NPWs to stuff in my backpack.
    Can they be set up to use with a 4 line depowerbar or do they only work with handles?

    Have you ever built a 9b version or high aspect version?

  10. don eburne says:

    sorry, left l off end of the url


  11. Andrew says:

    Hi Don – I’ve looked at the plans for a 9b, but never built one for no particular reason other than I already know how to build the NPW 5’s.

    They can be flown as a two handle, four line kite, which is more popular with the stunt flying crowd. For expedition use, I prefer a single bar and two lines, as I try to get it locked into travel mode, then park it in one position and hopefully rage away. The four lines give much more control, but are harder to fly.

  12. Kyle says:

    I was checking out your kite design for your nasa wing model. I know it can be made in many sizes but you dont give any measurements for the fabric. I am totally new to kiting and so have no idea as to what measure to use. Could you make a suggestion. Also so I know how many yards of fabric to order. I would like to use the 3/4 oz nylon as it is available from a local sail shop.
    Is this the best model to learn with??

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