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 – January

The team came back well rested and fizzing with excitement. December has quickly faded into the past as I found myself swept up by the busy new atmosphere.

This was the month for videos as the team put the finishing touches to the Beat Felix Movie and released it. This was quickly followed by a brand new trailer for the project:

Once the team had a few videos online they set up a YouTube Channel to host them all.

They’ve even started to collect together videos from around the web on their channel to highlight the big developments taking place in the Space Industry as humanity enters a new Space Race.

tm10edu2 tm9edu1

The Education Team started working on three lessons (one for each of the themes). They also brought in some ‘lesson resources’ which they tested extensively. During the lessons they’re planning to screen some footage from one of Horizon’s launches, experiment with Solar Cells, build a model Solar System to scale in the playground and possibly inflate a weather balloon with helium, amongst other things.


Equipment lay everywhere as the Engineering Team looked over the old probes for inspiration. There were several discussions began about how big the probe would need to be to carry all of the mission critical equipment as well as myself and the partner primary school’s mascot. The team also received new radio modules and a new GPS board so they’re starting work on the Flight Computer. First they have to build a testing platform to check the modules all work. There was a little soldering work to do and one team member from the Beat Felix Mission took it upon themselves to teach the other engineers.

Engineering - Soldering components 2

Through a division of labour the Engineers have also started learning to flash and edit firmware for the Canon camera.


The Modelling Team brought in a little outside help from another pupil in the sixth form. They needed help finishing the program for the Sunrise Calculator as the learning curve for the language has been steep. The calculator was quickly finished but testing revealed a couple of inaccuracies and it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately the problems were easy to fix but it meant that the Sunrise Calculator Code will need to be rewritten. The team are not happy with the accuracy yet and they plan to contact Dr Helen Mason at Cambridge University for some help accounting for the refraction of light in the atmosphere.


Samosa Sale 2015 (1)

The Publicity Team have been tremendously busy and have split their time between working on new posters about previous Horizon missions and planning the Samosa Sale. The sale was a tremendous success and an incredible 550 samosas were sold in under fifteen minutes. I was impressed at how quickly they got set up, sold out and cleaned up after themselves. It was like a military operation!

The best news of the month was that two new companies would be joining the project as sponsors for the Sun Chaser Mission.

My Sun Chaser Blog – October

Wow, time with the Sun Chaser team has passed so quickly and there has been a lot to learn! I’m going to try and bring my blog up-to-date over the next couple of weeks covering a whole month with each post.

The Sun Chaser Team first met in October. The members come from lots of different years across the school with the youngest member being in Year 10 and the eldest member being in Year 13. The first meeting was a lot of fun as the members got together for the first time and found out which teams they were going to be on. There was lots of discussion about the challenges ahead and everyone was eager to get started.

The Publicity and Sponsorship Team photograph the Education and Modelling Teams hard at work at the start of the Sun Chaser mission.

The following week they split into their respective teams and started working on their own areas of the mission. The Publicity Team covered each meeting by taking photos of the work the different groups were doing and began planning the first fund raising event.

The Education Team started collecting resources for a series of lessons that they will be delivering at their partner primary school. This is Horizon’s first foray into outreach and will help the team identify which elements work best. The plan is to put together a one day programme which will raise aspirations and inspire local Primary School pupils to take a greater interest in STEM subjects.

Sun Chaser's Engineering Team get to work with the Arduino.

The Engineering Team wasted no time in getting Arduinos set up and learning to build circuits and write programmes. They quickly picked up the language which is a varient of C/C++ and the flashing lights of their first circuits could be seen across the classroom.

The Modelling Team dived straight into research as their task was to devise a mathematical model which would predict the sunrise, not from the ground, but from 30-35km up in the Stratosphere. There was a lot of reading to do and the mathematics was going to test the limits of their abilities and imaginations.

Being a part of this early stage of the project was a real treat as the atmosphere at each meeting fizzes with excitement.

MiniCASSiE the 1st has been found 6months after her launch from Frome

miniCASSiE The First has been missing in action since March after launching on her maiden voyage on board MarsBalloon’s Deimos spacecraft.

A national search began and there was a media and social media sensation for her return.

Her amazing adventure came to an end recently when she was found by a farmer in Nottinghamshire!

Most of the spacecraft was damaged but the camera and CASSiE survived the snow clouds, crash landing and relaunch!

Her flight can be seen here: