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 – 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!).

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.
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!

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.

My Sun Chaser Blog – February

Having been around for a few months now I’m beginning to feel like one of the team. I got some great selfies with some of the sub-teams during of the meetings this month. I’ve also got lots to report on.

The Publicity Team split their time this month between continuing their work on the promotional posters for a display at the Chasewater Innovation Centre and identifying new potential sponsors for the Sun Chaser mission. They also put the finishing touches to an infographic detailing some of Project Horizon’s achievements since it began – it’s impressive work!

Horizon Achievements

The Modelling Team have done some amazing work and have added a number of new features and refinements to the Sunrise Calculator. One of the key questions was how to deal with refraction of sunlight in the Earth’s atmosphere. When their research reached a dead end they reached out to Dr Helen Mason of the Department for Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University. Dr Mason was heading out on an expedition but passed their enquiry to Dr David Pike (of Cambridge University’s SunTrek Team). Dr Pike was able to put the team in touch with Dr Andrew T. Young at San Diego University who was able to recommend a really helpful journal article on the subject. After a lot of reading the team adjusted their model using the calculations in the article.


Never content with just achieving the basic goals the team also added the ability to predict the times of Civil Dawn (when the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon) and Nautical Dawn (when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon) to the model.

All of these new features mean that the code will need to be mostly rewritten which will be quite a challenge.

The Education Team drafted and re-drafted their first two lesson plans.

tm13edu and pubHaving added a little detail both plans were sent to their partner school, St Mary’s on the Mount Catholic School. They also put together a shopping list of resources to support their lessons.

Next month they’ll be heading over to St Mary’s School to discuss the lessons, resources and indoor/outdoor spaces.


The month did not start well for the Engineering Team as a small misreading of a circuit diagram led to the sudden and explosive death of the Arduino Pro Mini in their test kit (a replacement was promptly put on order). Despite this early setback the team quickly recovered and got started on the task of building the probe’s systems. This began with the more experienced members from last year’s mission teaching the others how to solder.

Unboxing rapid 2

The highlight of the month was the arrival of two large boxes of equipment from the team’s Sponsors; Rapid Electronics and The engineers wasted no time cutting into the boxes and unpacking all of the new equipment. The boxes contained all of the electronics the team needs (except for a few antenna connectors which are out of stock, but should arrive soon). They also contained some torches as the team will be preparing for launch between 2 and 4am in pitch black so good lighting will be essential.

Following the arrival of the new equipment the Engineering Team went back over the flight computer circuit, adding in the last few connections and taking turns to check it against the original design. The new tracking firmware was quickly uploaded and was ready for testing by the end of the month.


The other half of the team worked on two projects; camera modifications and the design for a beacon to make the probe (and me) easier to find when it lands. They quickly figured out how to customise the camera firmware of last year’s camera. The beacon is taking a little more work. They have set up an Arduino to control eight LEDs and a pair of speakers on the outside of the probe. The lights and sound will pulse to make it easy to find the probe (and me) when it lands.

The team were humbled to receive the support of four new sponsors for their Sun Chaser mission. It was heartening to see that many of the sponsors had supported the Beat Felix mission last year.

The second highlight of the month was a plug for the Sun Chaser Mission on Twitter by BBC Click’s Kate Russell (I wish she could have seen the excitement that flashed around the room when the team found out!).

ENDED! COMPETITION to Name The Cosmic Hedgehog


The Cosmic Hedgehog

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The Cosmic Hedgehog is a Mascot for Space Exploration and all the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) that includes.

 “The Cosmic Hedgehog has been created to help promote the UK’s Space Sector and its work within the International Space Community. By using a mascot you can capture the imaginations of the very young and introduce concepts and information that might otherwise seem overwhelming. A mascot can help engage with and inspire the next generation of Space explorers!”  

– Vix Southgate, Creator.

The Cosmic Hedgehog aims to:

  • Help promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
  • Raise awareness of the UK Space Industry.
  • Raise awareness of Space Exploration.
  • Attend Space-related events.
  • Go on Space-like missions.
  • Meet many famous space people.
  • Go into Space!


The Cosmic Hedgehog is building a following of fans with the intention of being a ‘Space Celebrity’ in its own right. This will be of value to anyone wanting to use The Cosmic Hedgehog for projects, and provides extra publicity through an already established and growing following.

All projects that include or utilise The Cosmic Hedgehog will be promoted through its social media channels and blog.

The Cosmic Hedgehog is available to be used by any STEM Ambassador, Educational out-reach provider, or any person, or company in the relevant subject areas that want to use the Mascot to inspire children in all aspects of STEM careers.

Please contact: if you would like to use The Cosmic Hedgehog for your project

Help The Cosmic Hedgehog.

You can help The Cosmic Hedgehog by:

Space events.

Projects and out-reach programmes in the UK.

Any space-related activity aimed at engaging with children.

Museum events and contact details.

Interested schools and groups.

  • Following, contributing and promoting The Cosmic Hedgehog’s social media channels:

  • Promoting the Naming Competition:

Download the Schools flyer for the Naming Competition here:

  • Emailing  your ideas for The Cosmic Hedgehog’s missions.



Why a Hedgehog?

SpaceMascotUK started on Oct 1st 2012 by Vix Southgate, due to the inspiration, advice and help of NASA’s Camilla Corona SDO; The US Forces Academy’s Ms Aurora Phd; and Vic Minett on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire and her listeners.

Camilla, MsAurora and Vix Southgate discussed the benefits of a UK Space Mascot, Vic Minett asked her listeners to send in their ideas as to what form SpaceMascotUK should take.

It was decided that it had to be an animal, preferably indigenous to the UK, and appealing to young children.  One week later The Cosmic Hedgehog was announced.

What if I’m not based in the UK?

We thoroughly encourage global support for the Mascot!

If you are not from the UK you can still enter the naming competition (more details on the webpage) and raise awareness of the UK in Space and its place in the International Space Community! The Cosmic Hedgehog is based in the UK but wants to promote Space Exploration in general.

For any other queries please contact:

Hello Earth!

I am an egg that was conceived a few weeks ago on Twitter (@SpaceMascotUK).
My purpose is to become a famous mascot for the UK and help to promote all things STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
I am initially focussing on Space Science because that is what my creator, Vix Southgate, has worked in promoting for the past 3 years.

On October 1st 2012 my conception was announced by Vic Minett on her BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire Afternoon Show. Vic’s listeners were asked to send in their ideas as to what form I should take once hatched.
The decision was to be made at the beginning of World Space Week (October 4th 2012).

In the meantime, A Facebook page ( and Twitter account ( was created in readiness for my unveiling. (Please follow me! Your input and mission ideas are what will give me purpose in life!)

Then, on Oct 4th, World Space Week began and I was unveiled as a COSMIC HEDGEHOG – I am currently being knitted!

Now, I have this blog and I have a small, but ever-growing following.
The more people who are behind me, the more purposeful my existence!

I look forward to being born and starting my journey – wherever you decide it is going to take me!

Thank you for supporting me!