My Sun Chaser Blog – Launch Date Confirmed!

I have goose bumps! My launch has been arranged for Saturday 11th July 15 (this Saturday). I’m going to launch from Queen Mary’s Grammar School grounds in Walsall. I should get some stunning views of the Midlands and the Peak District.

Saturday Flight Path Prediction - Wednesday 8th July

The initial prediction for Saturday looks great! I’ll launch at 2:00am and fly to an altitude of ~36km. Sunrise should begin once the probe reaches an altitude of 25km. This will mean I get to see the two hours leading up to sunrise as well as about 50 minutes after sunrise. The balloon should burst just south of the Peak District and the probe should land near Ollerton, Nottinghamshire.

Saturday Weather Prediction - Wednesday 8th July

The initial weather prediction for Saturday looks good. At 2:00am there will be little, if any cloud and it should be quite mild at 11oC. The only difficulty will be the wind speed which is a little higher than the team would like.

My Sun Chaser Blog – Team Meeting 23

With examinations underway the team is down to just a few members at meets. Some of them are working on the Sun Chaser Movie. They’ve got all of the ‘Making of’ footage and they’re planning the movie around the footage which the probe should capture at altitude.

They quickly drafted a storyboard and then set about discussing details, design and music. They’ve got some great ideas and the first draft sounds really impressive.

tm23 - Packing the probe

While work began on the movie, the remaining members of the team started constructing the beacon circuit, weighing all of the equipment to fly aboard the probe and cutting the last camera mount on the probe.

tm23 - Finishing the probe

Everything is coming together and we’ll be ready in plenty of time for the launches in June. I’m getting really excited!

My Sun Chaser Blog – Team Meeting 22

The team has been working double time to get everything ready. One of the last jobs is to cut and carve the airframe so that all of the equipment fits securely. Three of the team’s engineers set about measuring positions for all of the equipment based on their design.

tm22 - Engineers working on the probe

Measuring and marking is very tricky as the probe box is a cube with a side length of less than 200mm so there isn’t much space to work inside. Having already practiced with the different cutting tools on off-cuts the engineers had a good idea of which tools to use for each job.

tm22 - Adding camera ports

Cutting requires a steady hand and the Dremel is a perfect tool as it leaves a smooth edge (if you use the right tools) and can be held with a pen grip for detailed work.

tm22 - Matt and Qiang working on the probe 2

tm22 - Probe Tracking Training

With exams looming most of the team will be revising. They’ve nearly finished the probe and the they have all trained hard for this. All that’s left to say is, “good luck to everyone for their exams!”

My Sun Chaser Blog – Horizon’s Third Outreach Lesson

The third outreach lesson is the one I’ve been looking forward to the most. The topic was ‘Our Atmosphere’ and the aim was to introduce pupils to the different parts of the Earth’s Atmosphere and the scientific principles that make Project Horizon’s probe flights possible.
Outreach 3 - Lauren presents
Originally the team had planned to show some footage from the Sun Chaser Probe but as the flight had to be rescheduled for the summer they showed some footage from their ‘Beat Felix’ mission instead:

The classroom was silent throughout the screening and the pupils had dozens of questions for the team afterwards.
Outreach 3 - Lauren with the pupils outdoors
After all the questions the Education Team led us all outside for a practical science demonstration. They attached one of their training balloons (much smaller than the balloons used for regular flights) to a helium cylinder and filled it with enough gas to give over 1.5kg of lift! They then attached the balloon to two lines: a safety line which was held by a teacher and a line for the pupils to use. The pupils then took it in turns, walking underneath the balloon, out into the playground and back again. They could change the height of the balloon, experience the lift force and feel the effects of the wind when it gusted. It was great fun and all of them were surprised by the lifting force of the helium.
Outreach 3 - Balloon Fun 3Outreach 3 - Balloon Fun 6Outreach 3 - Balloon Fun 14
Their class teacher also took a turn and a few classes of younger pupils came out to watch the demonstration.
Outreach 3 - Competitive playOutreach 3 - Big grins
The balloon activity gave the team a chance to discuss the scientific principles behind the project and it elicited a lot of questions from the pupils. With just a little time left before the end of the lesson the pupils played a themed board game that the Education Team had made. It was a lovely way to end the day and there was some fierce competition as progress was often dependent upon correctly answering some tough scientific questions.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the outreach lessons at St Mary’s the Mount Primary and I’m looking forward to attending an assembly for the upper school next week. The assembly will be run by the Year 6 class we’ve been working with and they’ll be talking to the rest of the school about what they have learned. The team will also be showing some footage from a previous flight before the school formally hands over their mascot, Tweedy, who will fly with me on one of the two Sun Chaser probes this Summer.

I’m told that after the flight the Project Horizon Team will return Tweedy to St Mary’s along with photos and footage from the probe!

The Education Team were paid a great compliment for their hard work as St Mary’s have asked them to come back again next year. It’s really exciting to be a part of these lessons and I can’t wait to see how the outreach programme develops in the future.

My Sun Chaser Blog – Team Meeting 21

This afternoon’s meeting was the best one yet! While the Education Team put the finishing touches to the final outreach lesson and checked their resources the rest of the team headed outside for the next stage of Flight Training – attaching and inflating the balloon. We had a quick demonstration of how not to inflate the balloon by one of the teachers:

tm21 - Dr Ramalho pretends to inflate the balloon

The head of Horizon’s Flight Crew split the team up into small groups and taught each of us the knots we will need to secure the parachute line to the balloon.
tm21 - Lydia ties the parachute attachment 2
Once all of the team were proficient, he showed them how to attach the balloon to the helium tank for filling. The team filled a training balloon with Helium for practice and floated it around the quad (which was great fun).
tm21 - Liam attaches the balloon 11tm21 - Liam attaches the balloon 12

tm21 - Liam attaches the balloon 14tm21 - Liam attaches the balloon 17
While the rest of the team were completing the next stage of their flight training, the Engineering Team continued working on the probe. They started planning the camera mounts and trialed their ideas on some polystyrene off-cuts before they cut into the probe. As a result, their first mounting spot fits the camera like a glove and should help seal in any warmth generated by the electronic circuits and batteries (so I’ll be cosy even when the temperature outside drops below 0C).

My Sun Chaser Blog – Horizon’s 2nd Outreach Lesson

I’m thoroughly enjoying the outreach lessons, Year 6 is great fun to work with. This week was the second lesson of Horizon’s outreach programme and it was all about ‘The Sun’. The pupils learned a lot about the features of the Sun, solar energy, why the Sun appears to rise and set, and the dangers of the Sun.

Outreach 2 - Dangers of the sun

The team tell me that this lesson was inspired by the fact that 2015 has been designated the ‘International Year of Light’:

The lesson included a number of experiments:

– a test to see how well sunscreen really works, using colour changing ultraviolet light sensitive beads and two strengths of sunscreen.

– an experiment involving solar powered toys, aimed at helping pupils to understand how solar panels work.

Outreach 2 - Solar powered wonderment

– an activity examining the effects of different light sources on refractive glasses.

– The final lesson activity was a small quiz which involved flashcards made by the team.

Outreach 2 - Quiz timeOutreach 2 - I KNOW

The pupils loved the refractive glasses experiment (you look at a light source and the glasses split white light into all of the different colours). The pupils all got to keep the glasses at the end of the lesson!
Outreach 2 - Rainbow diffraction glasses 2
The UV Beads experiment was a big success and it illustrated the importance of good quality, high SPF protection when out in the Sun.
Outreach 2 - UV Bead experiment 8

We all had a great time and I’m looking forward to next week’s lesson which will look at Project Horizon itself and the Atmosphere.

Outreach 2 - St Mary's the Mount pupils and CASSiE 2

My Sun Chaser Blog – Team Meeting 20

The Education Team had a few resources to finish for the outreach lesson and some new equipment to test. They quickly organised the rest of the group to help prepare flash cards and test the refraction glasses (rainbow light from every light source!). The solar powered toys are great fun and were easy to put together (The little solar-powered fan can turn at a surprising rate!).
tm20refractionglasses

tm20preparingflashcards
One of the team’s engineers soldered the replacement GPS module to the flight computer and took it out for a test. We all waited in anticipation and after a few tense minutes he returned triumphant with a steady stream of telemetry being collected by the mobile ground station. I love the effect these triumphs have on the team and it’s a great feeling to be a part of it.
tm20flightcomputertest
I got quite an education as two experienced members of the Flight Team spent the meeting teaching the rest of us how to use the smartphone tracking system to locate the probe when it lands. I’m really looking forward to the next stage of flight training now as we’ll be learning how to attach and fill a balloon in preparation for a probe flight!
tm20probe

While one of the engineers tested the Flight Computer, the rest of the Engineering Team continued working on the probe I’ll be flying in. They finished a separate compartment for my friend ‘Tweedy’ (St Mary’s the Mount Primary School’s mascot) as there won’t be space for him in the main probe. They’ve also made anchor points in both Tweedy’s compartment and the top of the main probe so that the two can be attached (although they will be separated by several metres of line so we’ll have to shout to each other if we want to talk – maybe the team will fit walkie talkies if I ask them). Next week they’re going to start cutting out the antenna and camera ports.