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  • jhn.holgate Born Kite Nasa Star 3 3.2M Review

    Easy to fly, direct steering, hard to break but easy to enjoy! 

    Direct steering, super easy to fly.
    Lightweight for riding out the lulls.
    Lots of low speed grunt.
    Negatives / Considerations
    Relatively narrow window.
    Harder work to get upwind.
    Lots of side pull.

    Released earlier this year is the latest of the Nasa Stars, the Nasa Star 3.  A depowerable single skin design that can be flown from handles or a bar.  I fly mine on the same 3 line bar as all my other NS's - that is the middle line connected to the nose (the depower line) and the outside lines of the bar connected to the bridles.  Flying it this way, it is, in effect, a two line kite with a central depower line.  On my 3 line bar, this means using a trapeze loop on the bar to hook into, so no spinning the bar.  There's also a 'pro depower' bar for it which uses 4 lines.  The depower is activated via pulleys - I quite like it but it sort of needs it's own review thread to explain it!

    Same as the NS2, the depower works by incrementally pulling the nose over, which stuffs up the airflow and reduces the lift.  Like the NS2, the kite will sit back a little and lose a bit of speed and power when depowered.  It's quite effective but feels a bit weird flying it depowered at speed in the buggy.  I don't like flying it that way so I keep it fully powered and only use the depower line for unexpected gusts or as a primary safety.

    NS 3 backlit.jpg

    If you prefer handles, no problems, you can stow the depower line on it's transport loop just under the nose of the kite and run it on handles with or without a Z bridle.  If you buy it as standard, you'll have to separate the bridles yourself into brakes & power.  Otherwise Steffen can send it to you with Z bridle attached and ready to go.  For an explanation of the Z bridle, check the video on my NS2 review.

    NS 3 back.jpg

    Like the NS2, this is Steffen Born's take on the NPW design.  Being single skin, it packs extremely small and is much easier to keep up during the lulls than normal foils.  It's also a little slower through the air than a foil so it doesn't tend to react as suddenly to gusts.  These are the best kites I have yet to fly in the gusty conditions I get at home - they are far easier to keep in the air and pull from very slow speeds.  Think low range 4wd.

    John and Nasa.jpg

    They are also incredibly direct and easy to steer.  Flying them really is child's play.  Which suits me as I like to cruise and take in the surroundings, wave a camera around and not have to concentrate on the kite.  They are also very stable.  For me, they are nearly the perfect buggy engine.  But not quite - they have a narrower window than a mid aspect foil and they fly pretty deep in the window.  This means a fair bit of side pull, more power needed to get upwind and ultimately slower speeds.  I think these are faster than the NS2's  - my first run on the beach at Kingston this year with them got me a 56kph which I feel is a little faster than I could have gone with the NS2's.  A mid aspect foil would have, I suspect, been 10kph faster than that.  I feel upwind is a little easier on the NS3 than the NS2 and turning feels tighter and smoother.  Not by much - it's hard to put a figure on...but everything just feels a little better.  

    NS 3 front.jpg

    Materials and workmanship is again, first class.  These are really nicely made.  They look like they have been sewn with care and attention to detail.  If you want lift, forget it.  You can throw these over your head to slow the buggy down and they rarely threaten to lift you out of the seat.

    Landing is a little unusual.  I used to release to the depower line to land but always found that a bit messy.  The best way is to fly it right to the side of the window and nose it into the ground then point the bar at it.  you can then hook the other end of the bar around your footpeg and the kite will just sit there.  Watch the vid for a better explanation.   The 3.2m starts pulling the buggy nicely at around 13- 14 knots or so and you're really powered towards 20 knots.  Probably be ok to 23 knots or so but by then I would have put up the 2.5m.

    Similar to the NS2, you can stack the NS3 nose first into the ground without fear of damage (providing there's nothing sharp of course).  Then a quick pull back and it will fly up backwards - spin it round and your off and flying again.  A very neat trick.  Being bridled this way does have one interesting side effect - if you're static flying it in low wind and get a lull while holding it at the edge of the window, it can start flying backwards by itself.  You soon get to recognize when this is likely to happen and just keep it moving to avoid it.  In the buggy or in a bit of wind, it just isn't a problem.

    This particular kite is my all time favorite buggy engine to date.  It is just so easy and relaxing to fly with heaps of grunt.  No, it's not fast and won't go upwind as much as I'd like but even so, you'd have to prize it out of my cold dead fingers.

    My review vid:

    And having a damn good time....


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    John - I couldn't leave this splendid review without a comment!  :angel:

    I too am a giant fan of the NS3s as a buggy engine.  I would echo all you say herein, including its funkiness when buggying under constant depow; I'd never do that.  I sometimes use the little yellow ball depow line pull for getting into the buggy from the start and for scrubbing power at select instances for safety when I'm getting overpowered, and as you said, side-pulled excessively.

    Regarding lift versus grunt, I have been airlifted out of my buggy once with an NS3.  There was an approaching storm and winds were getting squirrely and strong, increasing by the minute.  I was overpowered with my 4.0m in the air when this happened (I'm guessing 25+ knots).  I was trying to scrub a lot of speed on a soccer field before turning at the end of the run and had the kite high in the air.  It was pretty much at zenith and just sort of gracefully air lifted me straight up and deposited me on the ground.  Sort of a 10% more upward force than my gravitational pull at that moment sort of lift.  Not violent at all, but also not abortable either.  Sure, the brighter man would have had his hand on the little yellow ball....  :agree:

    Final note - I flew my 3.2 static in beautiful onshore winds on the beaches of San Diego, CA earlier this week.  Loved it under such steady wind conditions.  It was almost freakishly smooth.  I can only imagine it as a buggy engine under such settings!  I was thinking of you and the fact that we are the only two in the world able to fly just that kite.  Thanks again for the raffle! :round-thumbs-up:


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    Thanks Steve.  25 knots with the 4m - wow, I'm not surprised it gave you a little boost in that much wind.  I hope it deposited you gently!

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    It was actually very gentle!  I was laughing when it happened.  All sort of slow motion in the way things slow down during "busy" times.  Trust me, I wouldn't have launched the 4m in such strong winds, especially owning my handy little 3.2 or even the little grunter, my 2.5.  The incoming storm had the winds whipping up and they increased in force considerably over the space of about 5 minutes.  I had been wonderfully powered up to that point but became progressively overpowered as things heated up. I was getting ready to pack up to avoid the rain so I just hadn't put in the effort to land the 4 and relaunch a smaller one.

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    Posted (edited)

    I agree with all of the above! Steve I remember that same "wanna lift" sensation flying my 5.5m in a directly onshore 14mph wind on Saint Simons island, but I had my big heavy race style buggy with the rails that really hold you in... That honestly makes a BIG difference, and only adds to the safe feel of these kites.

    Great review John!

    Edited by soliver

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