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Modding Project Horizon - Beat Felix!

Discussion in 'Modding' started by Awoken, 19 Oct 2013.

  1. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    Last year's mission can be found here.

    It’s been a great summer and with the new term underway it’s time for the next Horizon mission. I've picked the mission title: 'Beat Felix!'

    The Red Bull Stratos team started their build up to the big jump as Horizon 1 was being developed and we loved every minute of it. The build up to the jump was a big boost to our popularity in school and I found myself pouring over all of their planning in my spare time. I was so impressed by what they managed to pull off given the difficulty of the mission (if you haven't seen it, check out the video!).

    We’ve set a couple of lofty (pun intended) goals for this year’s launches. The two goals are:

    1) Beat the altitude of 39045m achieved by Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team

    2) Set a top ten Amateur World Altitude Record (we’d need to clear 42355m)

    The second goal is going to be VERY challenging as the top altitude of 44376m achieved was with Hydrogen, an exceptionally light payload and a known good batch of balloons. Horizon is going to have to go on a diet.

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    We’re also making a lot of friends in the STEM community with our project and Horizon made the front page of the national STEM website over the summer. We’ve been featured on BBC News, BBC Radio, Free Radio, the Walsall Advertiser, the Reading Chronicle, Newbury News and the Rocketeers Blog to name a few.

    I’ll be looking to recruit a smaller team this year (just 8-10 members) as a lot of the hardest work was done last year with the developing of all of our systems, building hardware for the first time, the programing, acquisition of equipment and setting up of our online presence. This team will have the benefit of standing on the last team’s shoulders.
    With a smaller team, each person will have more to do and I’ve got a training programme worked out (on the back of a chocolate wrapper – I’ll write it up properly once we’ve recruited the team). They’ll learn everything that last year’s team discovered; how to use the kit, how to operate the software, as well as some new skills such as tracking with a directional antenna and video editing.

    We’re hoping to carry out three launches over this academic year but we’ll be avoiding the troublesome winter launches of last year. We’re planning to launch between late April and early July with the hope of catching very calm weather. We'll also be streaming our launches where possible.

    Horizon 3 (This is a working title as I’m going to let team name the flights this year)
    For the first ‘training flight’ the team will develop a slim-line version of Horizon 2 which will carry a smaller payload. The aim is to capture footage of the Earth from over 39,045km (the altitude achieved by the Red Bull Stratos Team). In order to achieve this we plan to reduce the payload weight to below 500g. About one third of the weight will be the protective packaging that forms the external and internal structure of the probe. This means we can use a much smaller parachute, further saving on weight. We’ll be using a bigger balloon but due to the lower weight of Horizon 3 and its parachute we will need less Helium.
    We’ll be sending up the flight computer from Horizon 2 (hopefully with fewer batteries and our battery booster, a lighter smartphone (the HTC Desire C), the Go Pro Hero 2 video camera from Horizon 2 and we hope to add a working sensor array. The aim is to give the team experience of launching a Stratospheric Probe and to build upon the success of Horizon 2 by:
    • Setting a higher altitude record (though it will be very fortunate if we ‘Beat Felix’ with this flight).
    • Bringing back footage from a much greater altitude than before at >39km (this will be the only flight of the three with media equipment on board).
    • Flying the sensor array that did not make it onto Horizon 2 and bringing back sensor data to help us plan for our future flights
    • The decreased weight and smaller parachute size will vastly improve safety aspects of future flights.
    Horizon 4 & 5 (Again, working titles)
    The second and third flights will be attempts to break into the top ten World Amateur High Altitude records (www.arhab.org). Each flight will consist of a balloon, parachute, flight computer and radio antenna (no media equipment). These launches will carry a payload totalling no more than 150 grams and the balloons will be filled with Hydrogen which can provide greater lift force than an identical volume of Helium (if we can afford it, otherwise Helium will be used). An experienced supervisor will be sought for the first Hydrogen launch to lend their expertise and experience. As the balloon is filled in the open air and the only possible sources of ignition are mobile phones and static electric discharge (both very unlikely and easily avoided) the increase in risk for using Hydrogen instead of Helium is very small.

    Safety precautions have already been extensively researched and a full risk analysis has been completed and will be followed to the letter.

    If both goals are achieved before all three launches have taken place then the remaining funding and launches will be used for Scientific Enrichment project within the school or local community (we’ll help young pupils develop experiment(s) and fly them into the Stratosphere using Horizon 3 as a launch platform).

    That’s the plan for this year. I’m just as excited as the pupils and I’ve got a good feeling about it despite the challenges ahead (we’re looking for a much bigger budget this year and so we’ve got our work cut out fundraising for it).

    12/09/13 – Yaesu become the first ‘Beat Felix’ sponsor
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    The team at Yaesu loved our project and have very kindly stepped in to supply a brand new Yaesu FT-817ND radio to the project after our previous radio (which was on loan) had to be returned. We are very grateful to Yaesu for their generosity and support. We'll be putting it to good use over the next year.
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    08/10/13 – Recruitment starts today

    Posters went up around school and I put the first batch of application forms in a folder outside my door. We had photos from last year’s project displayed on the projector as pupils came into assembly and I’m hoping for a good take up (just fewer than last year – tracking down details on 110 applicants and then sorting through them all was very time consuming). We’ll take in applications and then draw up a shortlist of pupils who will be called back for an interview (simple stuff; tell me about X on your application form and what do you know about the project?).

    09/10/13 – Developments in Space Robotics Conference
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    My Headmaster released me to go to the World Space Week Robotics Conference at Warwick University. It was set up by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Interplanetary Society. As well as three fantastic lectures covering everything from the development of robotics to the Rosetta Mission I also got to meet some amazing people (I’ll skip the name dropping).
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    I received a lot of advice on finding funding for this year’s Horizon mission and a lot of contacts who may be able to provide opportunities for our budding engineers – more on this later. I had a great time and I’ll look into bring pupils with me next year as it was a superb event. A great video of the Rosetta Mission in Lego can be found here:


    12/10/13 – Meeting with a Wolverhampton University contact
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    We’re now in talks with a mathematician at Wolverhampton University with a view to sharing ideas and collaborating on a joint outreach programme for either Science or Engineering (and possibly Applied Mathematics). We’ll be helping other schools learn about the atmosphere around our planet and assist them in devising their own experiments which we’ll fly on Horizon. It’s all in the planning stage at the moment but there are already exciting conversations about sharing facilities and equipment. The partnership and outreach programme will mean we can apply for funding from STEM institutions such as the Institute of Engineering and Technology or the Royal Society. This is a slow process though and its benefits will only start to be seen in future missions.

    14/10/13 – Application process closes
    We closed the application process having given out over 130 applications. We’ve received 50 back (thank goodness, I was really starting to get worried that we’d get 130 back) and I’ve started reading them tonight. It’s going to be tough to decide.

    17/10/13 – Interviews start tomorrow (and exciting developments)
    We’ve drawn up a short list of applicants (two for each potential vacancy) and I just published the interview times and dates. There were a few disappointed pupils who didn’t get on the project but this quickly faded when I explained that we were looking into taking a trip to see the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and Reactions Engines (who are building the European Shuttle ‘Skylon’ and its new engine, ‘SABRE’). Culham recruit after GCSE, A-Level and degree. They have apprentice and graduate schemes as well as MSc and Phd courses. You can get paid while gaining a qualification and work experience. As if this wasn't enough, there is a good degree of mobility for engineers between the Fusion, Fission, Robotics and Space industries.

    18/10/13 – Initial approval from our insurers
    We've just had a thumbs up from our brokers and insurance company (Giles Insurance Brokers Ltd and Ecclesiastical Insurance) with no need for an increase in premium. This is a big deal as we shopped about for quotes and some came back as high as ~£5000 (20 times the cost of one of our standard flights). Without insurance the whole project would be canned. We submit a very thorough risk assessment on every aspect of the project (ignition risks for the Hydrogen, launch risks due to strong wind, landing risks such as motorways, live cables and pylons, etc) and we have had to come up with plans for all eventualities. It is thanks to the thorough risk assessments and risk avoidance plans that we have gained initial approval (having spent hours slaving over these documents I'm very relieved).

    22/10/2013 - Samosa Sale a big success!
    Our first fundraising event of the year was a big success. From the very start of break the team of volunteers were doing a steady trade and the event ended 10-15 minutes later. In all we sold nearly 550 samosas, breaking our previous record and raising £130 for 'Beat Felix!' We're very grateful to our team of volunteers and to everyone who supported the sale. The money will bring us closer to our fundraising goal for the project. We also have a meeting with a potential sponsor this weekend and if talks go well we may be a little closer to our goal by the end of half term.

    24/10/13 – First round of interviews complete!
    We've just finished the first round of interviews. The project now has 5 new members who are all excited to get started. We'll be taking a break over half term (next week) before we start the second round of interviews for the remaining two places. The team is smaller this year, but small is beautiful (and hopefully easier to coordinate).

    04/11/13 – Potential new sponsor!
    BOC Gases Ltd have expressed an interest in sponsoring Horizon. We're discussing a possible sponsorship deal and they have offered to provide the Helium, Hydrogen and specialist equipment for handling the gases. They have also offered to help improve our safety procedures and to develop a new fill pipe for filling the balloon. We are incredibly grateful for their interest and support and will be posting more news as we get it.

    05/11/13 – A warm welcome to two new team members!
    Well done to our two newest members who will both be meeting the rest of the team next week. We're looking forward to getting the whole team together on the 12th November to start this year's mission.

    18/11/13 – First Team Meeting
    The team got together for the first time today. We had lots of admin to sort out (permission letters, etc), roles to hand out, lists of goals to circulate and photos for the website. It was a good meeting and everyone got a chance to get to know each other.

    25/11/13 – Second Team Meeting
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    Technical difficulties dominate as we’re very short on laptops (The difference a few cheap second hand Intel i3 laptops would make would be phenomenal but unfortunately they are out of reach for our tight budget) but we managed to make it work. One of the Arduinos seems to have shorted out which is a pain but we have two left so we can make it work. The Flight Computer Team and Sensor Team started their crash course in electronics and code and their first project, controlling a basic circuit using the Arduino, was a success. The ICT Team have started a quick course in HTML on Code Academy which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone thinking of learning to code (live editing of code coupled with small goals and achievements are some of the highlights of the site). Our fundraising team have started brain storming ideas but a lot of them seem to involve letting people throw things at me for money…back to the drawing board folks! We’ve also been joined by a Technician from the Science Department who will be helping with the project this year (for which I am very grateful!).

    02/12/13 - Third Team Meeting
    The IT department has come to our rescue with two recycled desktops which are superb (A big thank you to Mr Scandrett from everyone on the team!).
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    The Flight Computer Team and Sensor Array Team have built an interactive traffic light and crossing light circuit which covers basic coding structures, commands and how to handle simple sensor input (in this case a momentary switch).
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    The IT Team continue to work on html structures in code academy. The Fundraising Team distilled their ideas down to one simple idea and one ambitious project which will need more work before it can be considered (no hints yet as there is still a lot of planning to do).

    09/12/13 - Fourth Team Meeting
    The Sponsorship Team learned to predict and plan flight paths for the probe tonight.
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    There are a number of factors to consider when predicting a flight path, such as: weather, size of balloon, volume of helium/hydrogen used, weight of payload, etc.
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    Both desktops are now running well and the Flight Computer Team and Sensor Array Team have built interactive mood lights which are given commands via a serial link. The IT Team have started designing a new website which will be built from scratch using the content from this site but giving us room to expand in the future.

    16/12/13 - Fifth Team Meeting
    The team had both success and disappointment tonight. The Flight Computer Team transmitted their first text message by radio wave which was cause for a little celebration. The Sensor Team had a setback when they found that one (or both of the temperature sensors) were not working. Replacements are on order. Website design decisions are being made by the ICT Team about fonts, headings, etc. Due to a clash of programmes we have lost half the fund raising team to a diary clash and won’t get them back until the end of January which puts a lot of pressure on the remaining two members. This is our last meeting before the Christmas break so we wish you all a happy holiday and will see you again in the new year!
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2015
  2. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    07/01/14 - Sixth Team Meeting
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    The Flight computer Team have started work on a programmable text messaging circuit which you can control from a PC. The project combines all the ideas that they have studied so far. The sensor team are looking at the programme for a temperature logging circuit in preparation for the arrival of the two new temperature sensors. The front page of our new website is starting to take shape but there is still a lot to do so it won’t be going live until Q2 2014.

    10/01/14 - BOC Visit
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    We're really pleased to announce that BOC Gases Ltd are sponsoring Horizon. Mike Smith and Phil Sant from the BOC Fabrication Technology Centre, Wolverhampton, met with us today to get an overview of the project, discuss safety and the design of the balloon filling system. They met with four members of the project team and got to see some of the footage and tracking technology that we make use of on the project. The GPS Tracker in particular caught their attention and we have provided them with information on how to build their own. It was a really good visit and we’re all looking forward to working with them over the next few months.

    14/01/14 - Seventh Team Meeting
    The main news is the success of the Flight Computer Team’s programmable text messaging circuit which uses the Arduino to send text messages from the PC to a radio across the classroom. The Sensor Team started working on the SD card reader but found the learning curve quite steep.
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    With most of the details now finalised the Fund raising Team are putting together our next fund raising proposal.


    21/01/14 - Eighth Team Meeting
    The Sensor Array team got the new temperature sensors and the microSD card shield up and running tonight bringing the Sensor Array a step closer to reality. The flight computer team learned how to use weather forecasting, jet stream predictions, burst calculators and landing prediction software to plan a launch and flight today.
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    Our IT Team have completed more work on our next website (the homepage is starting to take shape which is very exciting). The Sponsorship Team was down to one member but he proved his worth by coming up with a new fundraising plan which could help us raise the rest of our budget (We've raised 57% of our funding already, which is 1.4 times our total budget last year).

    24/01/14 - Welcome to our new sponsors www.proto-pic.co.uk!
    We've just received word back from Proto-pic.co.uk that they would be interested in sponsoring us by supplying some of the electronics for the project.
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    This is great news and we are very grateful for their generosity. We'll be starting work on the new flight computers just as soon as the Flight computer team has learned the ins and outs of the GPS module.

    29/01/14 - Welcome to our new sponsors Neos Chronos Limited!
    Dr. Thomas Papanikolaou of Neos Chronos Limited has very generously offered to sponsor Horizon and cover the cost of our telecommunications (4 Giff Gaff Goodybags and 3 Giff Gaff Gigabags). We're really grateful to Dr. Papanikolaou for his support and for his kind feedback on the project so far.
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    31/01/14 - Electronics arrive from proto-pic.co.uk
    The team were very excited to receive the electronics sent by proto-pic.co.uk. We owe a big thank you to Roy Fisher and his team!
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    This package contains the boost convertors and battery packs which will enable us to run the flight computers off just 2 AA batteries. They've also sent us three Arduino Mini Pros which are the microcontroller that forms the 'brain' of our flight computer and two temp sensors for the Sensor Array.

    04/02/14 - Rapid Electronics sponsors 'Beat Felix!'
    We're very excited as Chris Calver and the team at Rapid Electronics have very kindly agreed to sponsor Horizon's new mission, 'Beat Felix!'. They'll be providing a new yagi antenna for the chase team and the components to build an adapter so that we can connect it to our field radio. They're also sending us a lot of kit which we'll use to build the airframe, the on-board antennas and our computer systems.
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    04/02/14 - Ninth Team Meeting
    The Flight Computer Team got the GPS up and running tonight although the accuracy was a little off due to a limited view of the sky. Development of the sensor array has stalled as the Sensor Array Team are having problems with the timer chip (DS1307) Arduino library.

    The ICT and Media Team added in the sub-menu items on the new website and looked at photo gallery options. The Sponsorship Team continued work on our forthcoming press release.

    05/02/14 - CASSiE arrives!
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    The Horizon team would like to warmly welcome back CASSiE, the UK Space Mascot, who has arrived safely at QMGS today. This year CASSiE will be a consultant and observer on the project (there won't be any passenger space on the flights). She will be blogging about her time on the project on her blog and you can follow her other adventures on her facebook page.

    05/02/14 - Electronics and equipment arrive from Rapid Electronics!
    We received the electronics and equipment from Rapid Electronics today and I am now driving around with a 1m long yagi antenna in the back of my car because our storage cupboard is full and only 90cm wide anyway.
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    We now have everything we need to get started on the design of our first new flight computer. The team at Rapid Electronics continue to amaze us with their incredibly speedy delivery times.

    11/02/14 - Tenth Team Meeting
    CASSiE joined us for our tenth team meeting to observe the project and blog about it on her own site. She got to see some of the progress we made and she celebrated with the Flight Computer Team.
    The Sensor Array Team took a significant step forward and managed to get the DS1307 chip working as a clock.
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    With this up and running we now need to understand how to control it. Once we've mastered the commands we need to understand how to store the time (along with sensor readings) as an string and then write that string to the microSD card. We're getting closer but the learning curve is steep which makes progress slow.
    Having got the radio and GPS working the Flight Computer Team built their first prototype flight computer while CASSiE watched.
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    Shielding it from the elements with a cardboard box it was placed outside with a full view of the sky they hurried back inside to check the signal was being received. The first GPS coordinates came in but they placed us in Coventry (about 50 minutes away).
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    They consulted the GPS manual, converted the coordinates correctly and tried again. This time the GPS coordinates accurately showed the position of the flight computer, just outside of the classroom!
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    We had a little celebration as we're now ready to start testing the new modifications that should mean we can run the flight computer on fewer batteries, reducing its weight.
    The ICT team are working from home this week so all is quiet on the website front for now but we'll have updates for you when we next meet on the 4th March. The Publicity and Sponsorship Team did a little more work on our next press release and started putting together a list of possible news organisations to send it to (if you have any suggestions, online or offline, let us know!). This will be our last update until the 4th March as quite a few of us are leaving for Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama over the half-term (Also a Mathematics Department trip! I'll post a few photos from the trip) and we won't be meeting on the 25th Feb due to probable jet lag.

    14/02/14 - Horizon @Space Camp, Huntsville, AL
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    We had an amazing time over in Huntsville over the half term. We travelled out with 75 pupils (split over two planes!) and spent 4 days sight-seeing and shopping with 6 days at Space Camp sandwiched in the middle. We dropped into the camp to watch the pupils take part, to take photos and to have a go ourselves! The museum exhibits are absorbing and littered with opportunities to interact with them and learn something new. I would recommend a trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center to adults and children alike (there is even an adult version of Space Camp if you feel like you missed out as a teen).
    One of the biggest outdoor exhibits (apart from Saturn 5) is the Pathfinder Shuttle (never flown and 75% of the size of the original shuttle).
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    The Saturn 5 rocket looms over the whole center and is the first thing you'll see as you approach the center.
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    The Saturn 5 stages mounted throughout the length of the Davidson Centre were a real treat and it took us quite a while to walk the length of the rocket.
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    There were several exhibits that I remembered watching on TV when I was little:
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    There were plenty of activities for the pupils (and the staff had a go at most of them as well!). The multi-axis trainer is fun:
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    The MMU give you a chance to recreate the jet pack scenes from 'Gravity':
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    'Moon bouncing' at 1/6th gravity is a lot of fun:
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    We did try to have a go on the centrifuge (up to 3G of force) but one of the last couple of pupils to use it threw up on himself (previous alumni call it the 'vomit comet' - after the parabolic plane flight used to simulate weightlessness):
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    The pupils' especially enjoyed the leadership activities:
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    and the 'pamper pole' which you had to climb up, balance on the top and then leap off (no idea what the name means but it quickly became well known and feared by the teams who hadn't had a go yet):
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    The water pool for simulating zero g activities looks like a lot of fun:
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    Air Combat was a firm favourite amongst the CCF RAF division and the 16 person dogfights were amazing to watch (pure carnage until they worked out how to use chaff and flares effectively):
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    By far the most impressive part of the camp was the simulator which spanned several floors and a multitude of modules:
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    In the last couple of days we managed to catch an Ice Hockey match between UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville) and the Lakers. Unfortunately it wasn't UAH's night and they lost for the 31st time that season (with only one win and one draw under their belts). The pupils still had a blast and some of them will be following the sport in the future.
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    It was a great half-term and we're all looking forward to the next team meeting.

    04/03/14 - Team Meeting #11
    The Sensor Array team were one man down as Isaac couldn’t attend the meeting and the BMP085 Barometric Sensor proved difficult to get working.
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    Elizabeth began designing the circuit board layout for the new Flight Computer whilst Matthew installed the voltage booster to check that it could power our new Flight Computer proto-type using just two AA batteries (battery life with the voltage booster installed will be tested later in the week). The Sponsorship and Publicity Team gave feedback to the IT and Media Team on the new front page design and continued to research possible media outlets for our story so far.
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    The ICT and Media Team made a note of everyone’s feedback and made adjustments to the design accordingly.

    06/03/14 - New sponsor: Graham Sweet Studios
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    The team would like to say a big thank you to Graham Sweet Studios who are sponsoring the project by providing us with the airframes for Horizon 4 and 5 (our record attempt flights). As we do not yet know the final dimensions of the flight computer the team at Graham Sweet Studios have sent a selection of polystyrene balls and eggs which could be used as an airframe.
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    Once the Flight Computer and Sensor Array are built we’ll start testing out designs for the airframes of Horizon 4 and 5.

    06/03/14 - Proto-pic.co.uk feature 'Beat Felix!' on their blog
    Proto-pic.co.uk have kindly given us space on their blog to write a little about Horizon’s latest mission and the first post went up today [url="http://blog.proto-pic.co.uk/2014/03/05/project-horizon-beat-felix/]here[/url].
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    11/03/14 - Team Meeting #12
    With many pupils out on trips there were very few of us who could meet up. In the end only the Flight Computer Team could make it and they met to test the new voltage booster circuitry on the prototype flight computer. Almost immediately they ran into problems as the Lithium batteries did not work in the power pack. It seems that at 3.3V the boost converter does not produce a high enough voltage to run the Arduino. At first we thought it was the battery pack but extensive testing with a voltmeter put paid to this assumption. Fortunately, once this problem was overcome the Flight Computer sprang to life. With the prototype up and running we now need to test the battery life of the new system. We need a minimum of 7 hours of battery life and ideally >8hrs. Watch this space for the battery life test results.

    The team have also finished their design for a smaller Flight Computer and they cut the strip-board to size ready for soldering to begin next week.


    14/03/14 - Launch dates finalised

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    We have three launches planned for this year on the following dates:

    • Horizon 3 (Probe name undecided as yet) will launch on Saturday 3rd May with reserve dates set for 4th, 10th and 11th May.
    • Horizon 4 (Probe name undecided as yet) will launch on Saturday 21st June with reserve dates set for 22nd, 28th and 29th June.
    • Horizon 5 (Probe name undecided as yet) will launch on Saturday 5th July with reserve dates set for 6th, 12th and 13th July.

    It will be a busy summer for the team and the biggest set of missions we have ever run. We'll be going higher (and probably driving further) than we have ever gone before. Wish us luck!

    18/03/14 - Proto-type survives longevity test
    With the proto-type Flight Computer built, we began longevity testing to see how long the batteries would last. The computer survived a 10-11hr run on full power so it should be more than capable before, during and long after a long duration of flight. We're now ready to start soldering the circuit in place on stripboard.
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    18/03/14 - Team Meeting #13
    Tonight was a very productive meeting.
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    The Flight Computer Team started building the first flight computer and soldering components onto stripboard. They should be finished in the next couple of lessons and we'll be able to show off the new, light-weight flight computer for this mission's probes.
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    Only half of our IT Team was present this evening and Damini was hard at work putting the finishing design touches to the logo and front page design. Later on this week Alex will be adding pages and content to our future website. Their work so far is amazing and we hope to show some teaser photos soon.
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    Our Publicity and Sponsorship Team took on the task of each chasing a local paper and securing a sponsor for the project. We've already had feedback from a paper who will be looking into the project later in the week and a potential new sponsor has been in touch with an offer.
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    The Easter Holidays are in three weeks and the first launch is one week after Easter so we are pressed for time but everything is coming together. The one difficult task is getting the sensor array finished on time (deja vu).
     
    Last edited: 4 Jul 2014
  3. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    20/03/14 - A big thank you to Jones Springs Engineering Ltd!
    The team would like to warmly welcome Jones Springs Engineering Ltd, our new sponsor, who have kindly donated £200 towards the balloon and parachute of our first record attempt.
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    25/03/14 - Team Meeting #13
    The ICT team were both absent tonight (other work commitments and illness unfortunately). Work on the Flight Computer continues as the team busily solder and recheck their design as they go.
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    The Publicity and Sponsorship Teams are chasing newspapers for a response to our proposed article and looking into potential sponsors to fund the last £400 of our budget. The most exciting development of the night was CASSiE and the Sensor Array team getting the Horizon TV channel up and running ready for the first launch on Saturday 3rd May (weather permitting).
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    02/04/14 - Horizon Team at Open Evening
    The Horizon Team set up a stand outside of the Mathematics Department on open evening with photos and rolling footage from Horizon 2. Current team members Alex, Elizabeth, James and Matthew were on hand to discuss the project with visiting pupils and answer any questions about the 'Beat Felix!' mission. The stand was busy all evening with the last visitors leaving about 9pm. I would like to thank the team for helping out on what turned out to be a very busy evening with ~900 visiting pupils.

    04/04/14 - Horizon Mural
    The school has generously arranged for a Horizon wall mural (on vinyl) in the corridor between Mathematics and Science. The mural looks really impressive and features photos and atmospheric information collected by the Horizon 2 probe. The team would like to say a big thank you to the Headmaster for arranging this and for giving us so much input on the design.
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    05/04/14 - Official site down
    We've recently changed ISP at the school and somehow the official Horizon website has been broken during the move. We're talking to IT Services to try and establish what has gone wrong and how to fix it. We do have an offline back-up of the site and we hope to be up and running again as soon as possible.

    06/04/14 - Beat Felix! in the Headlines
    Horizon's latest mission to Beat Felix! has been covered by the Walsall Advertiser here. The team are looking forward to the first launch which is taking place on Saturday 3rd May (allowing for weather) as it will give them all a chance to put into practice what we have been training for.
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    08/04/14 - Team Meeting #14 – Radio Training
    The aim of the meeting was to get all pupils familiar with the use and setup of the radio tracking. Pairs of pupils put the radio together out of the box, tuned it so that it picked up the signal from our Flight Computer and setup the physical connection to the computer. This was repeated until everyone could do it without thinking as any of them may be called upon to do the tracking on a launch day. Even CASSiE had a go but she needed a little help plugging everything in. Part 2 of this lesson follows closer to the second launch. It gave the team a chance to talk about the upcoming launch while they waited their turn and it was a great time to answer last minute concerns and questions. Everyone is getting closer to being ready to do this for real and it’s an exciting prospect.

    10/04/14 - Easter Holidays
    The Easter Holidays are upon us and for most of the team it is a time for revision. We’ll be back after the break for our last meeting and our first launch but until then we’ll all be taking a welcome break from the daily ritual of school. The Horizon team would like to wish you all a very happy Easter and advise you not to eat your eggs all at once.

    28/04/14 - Temporary ip address
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    The school has changed hosts/ISP and due to a DNS issue we do not fully understand the Horizon website is no longer available (this has been the case throughout the holiday). We’ve got a partial resolution today as we are now up and running on a temporary ip address: here. The school’s ICT Team is pursuing this issue for us but it is taking frequent reminders to our old and new host services to push this through. We hope to be back at our old address soon!

    29/04/14 - Team Meeting #15 – Walkthrough
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    The part of the team who will be involved in the next launch had a walk through of the process today (thank goodness the weather held so we could do this outside on the actual launch site!). We went through the launch from arrival at the site to launching the balloon aided by the actual equipment and props where we couldn’t use actual equipment (because it hadn’t arrived in the post yet). It was a really interesting exercise and everyone is clearly ready for the first launch. The excitement of the team is palpable at this point.

    29/04/14 - Names chosen for Beat Felix probes
    One of the great outcomes from our team meeting was that the team finally voted on names for our three probes. The chosen names (launched in this order) are:

    • Gagarin – In memory of Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space.
    • Armstrong – Named after Neil Alden Armstrong, an American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon.
    • Hadfield – Named after Chris Austin Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who gained popularity by chronicling life aboard the International Space Station and taking pictures of the earth - posting them on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to a large following of people around the world. He was a guest on television news and talk shows and gained popularity by playing his guitar in space.

    01/05/14 - Rapid Electronics Blog Post
    Rapid Electronics have kindly featured a background to our latest mission ‘Beat Felix!’ on their blog: ‘QMGS set new Horizons’.

    01/05/14 - ‘Horizon – Beat Felix!’ – CASSiE’s Blog
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    As we mentioned earlier this year we have teamed up with the UK’s Space Mascot, CASSiE. She is joining us to see what goes on behind the scenes of the ‘Beat Felix!’ mission and she’ll be riding with our chase teams on each of the launches (no flight for CASSiE this time as our probes have to weigh as little as possible). CASSiE has kindly featured our mission on her blog.

    01/05/14 - Launch Day Guide
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    The launch of Gagarin is approaching fast and we’d like to take this opportunity to make you aware of what information is available to you on the day. On launch day you will see that our website has changed slightly. At the top of the site will be a live video feed (which will be dark until we are almost ready to launch – around 10am) and a map link to our live tracking map. The live video feed will cover the final preparations to launch and the launch itself. The tracking map will show you exactly where Gagarin is in the country, live, and it’s flight path so far. When the balloon bursts and Gagarin descends the balloon will turn into a parachute and a predicted landing zone will be shown as a small target.

    We’ll be tweeting updates throughout the day on our twitter account which will include photos, the position of Gagarin and the position of the chase team so that you can share in the excitement of the day.

    We hope you enjoy the launch!

    02/05/14 - Helium arrives from BOC Industrial Gases
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    The Helium has arrived from our sponsors, BOC Industrial Gases. This is the last piece of equipment necessary to launch Gagarin. With everything now in place we are ready to go ahead with the launch tomorrow. Wish us luck!

    04/05/14 - Beat Felix Team launch ‘Gagarin’
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    The pupils named their first probe ‘Gagarin’ in memory of the first man in space, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.

    OFF TO A GOOD START…OR SO WE THOUGHT

    The weather was on our side and we arrived at School on Saturday to find clear blue skies and a gentle breeze. We quickly tested all of our equipment and by 8:45am we were ready to start filling the balloon and as launch wasn’t scheduled to take place until 10am we decided to sit back and watch a little TV.

    Pride comes before a fall and when we began to prepare to launch we realised that a vital piece of equipment – an electronic scale – was missing. We had no way to measure the weight of the payload or the lift force of the balloon. A few minutes of brain storming and we came up with the idea of using water bottles to meaure weight – 1cm^3 or 1ml of water weighs 1gram so each 500ml bottle weighs 500grams. We were able to find the payloads approximate weight (just under 500g) and three bottles taped together and attached to the balloon would lift when we had the right amount of gas in the balloon – we were back on track.

    THE LAUNCH

    The filling of the balloon was so smooth and quick with the new regulator supplied by our sponsor BOC Industrial Gases.
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    Once the balloon was filled we assembled the payload and turned on the systems inside only to find that the flight computer had stopped working. The Flight Computer Team took the computer back upstairs and re-soldered the power supply circuitry. The computer was soon back up and running and a quick test confirmed it was working fine and Gagarin was ready to fly.
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    In the mean time we had received permission from Birmingham Air Traffic Control to launch at the new time of 11am. Just one hour behind schedule is the best time Horizon has managed so far!

    The launch was incredibly smooth and the Gagarin soared almost vertically into the clear blue sky. The sky was so clear that the balloon was in sight for quite some time later and several people captured some beautiful footage of the launch.

    We quickly tidied the site and after a little struggle receiving the radio telemetry from Gagarin in the car we set off for Cirencester – just South of where the balloon was supposed to burst.
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    THE CHASE

    As we drove south Gagarin picked up ascent speed and the horizon twitter feed became very active. The atmosphere in the chase car was jubilant as we ticked off altitude milestones. At 35,118m (21.8 miles) the balloon burst and Gagarin began its descent.
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    We arrived in Cirencester and took a few minutes to park up, stretch our legs and get a new landing prediction. We were soon back on the road and in hot pursuit. Twenty minutes from our destination, Gagarin landed in a leafy suburb of Swindon.
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    Every minute counted as we didn’t want to lose the payload. We sent a text and received a gps position just two streets away. We spotted the bright parachute straight away, sitting on the front lawn of a house. As it was right next to the pavement we could just scoop it up.
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    The balloon had burst and a lot of it had survived the burst, tangling around the main line between the payload and parachute. It took a while to untangle everything but all of the equipment had survived the flight intact and Gagarin’s container was in great condition.

    ACHIEVEMENTS AND WHAT IS TO FOLLOW

    This was a training flight for the team to learn how to launch, test the new flight computer and capture some beautiful footage. Although we were disappointed that the burst altitude was 3300m below our prediction [update: it seems one of the team held the balloon during the filling process rather than just fending it off with an open hand. This is my fault as I should have made it clear that you should never grip the balloon. Having watched the post burst balloon footage and the part of the balloon left attached it seems the burst originated in that region - we now know what not to do!] we achieved success on all other fronts and the team not only set a new altitude record for Horizon (and QMGS) on their first flight but they also recovered the payload and footage. We were really pleased with the live feed and the response on twitter. Highlights included good luck wishes from Dr Hannah Garrett of the UK Space Agency, congratulations from the organisers of World Space Week (an event which spans over 80 nations with over 2,000,000 attendees) and congratulations from the European Space Agency (ESA).
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    The team has two more flights scheduled for the summer. ‘Armstrong’ (named by the pupils after Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon) will launch on Saturday June 28th and ‘Hadfield’ (named after Chris Austin Hadfield, a Canadian Astronaut who has popularised Space again by frequently appearing on Social Media and live broadcasts from the ISS with his guitar in hand) will launch on Saturday 5th July. Both of these flights carry much lighter payloads and be lifted by Hydrogen which is lighter than Helium and so will enable us to reach higher altitudes.

    Wish us luck and watch this space for more news!

    Thank you!

    We’ve got a lot of thank yous to say. Firstly we’d like to thank our sponsors:

    Rapid Electronics who have provided much of the fabric of the project (tools, electronics, a yagi radio antenna, gaffer tape, zip ties, etc the list goes on!) as well as publicity on their blog and in their newsletter.

    BOC Industrial Gases for providing our Helium, a cylinder trolley, a regulator and a new fill tube (a much more sturdy tube and adaptor than last year’s attempt with a proper connector which prevents ‘back pressure’ building up in the system).

    Yaesu UK who supplied us with an amazing portable radio transceiver (the FT-817ND for those who are interested) which worked superbly throughout the chase.

    Proto-pic.co.uk who have generously supplied some of our specialist electronics, including our GPS and radio modules as well as giving us space on their very popular blog.

    Neos Chronos Limited who paid for all our telecommunications as well as supporting us through social media.

    Graham Sweet Studios who are supplying the airframes for our two high altitude probes (Armstrong and Hadfield).

    Jones Springs whose generous support has helped us purchase essential kit including the balloon and parachute for Gagarin.

    Arthur J. Gallagher, our brokers and our insurer Ecclesiastical who have provided us with cover and without which we couldn’t exist.

    We are so grateful for all of you support and kindness!

    Thanks to the amazing CASSiE and Vix Southgate who have been so supportive and who work so hard to bring excitement and wonder into the lives of children across the country. We are so proud to be doing something to support your cause!

    Thank you to Ian Crawford and the Black Country STEM team who spread the word about the project and offer loads of great ideas.

    We also owe a big debt of thanks to all the staff at the school who support us. The caretaking staff who open up the site, arrange barriers and room rentals for us as well as coming along to support the team at launches. The ladies in the office who make sure we get the equipment we order, take messages and who manage our account. The fantastic IT staff who help keep us online, make sure we have a great connection for launch day, do a myriad of other great things in the background and who come along on launch days to take photos and make sure everything runs smoothly. Lastly to our Headmaster and all of the amazing staff who offer words of encouragement, pop in to see what’s going on during meetings and who turn out on launch days to cheer on the team.

    07/05/14 - Horizon and the Isle of Wight!
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    On the 5th of May Steve (twitter user @g0lfp) re-tweeted a photo of the Isle of Wight taken by Gagarin at 35km that we had just posted. He mentioned two other users @iwradiolucy and @JenniflowerC who re-tweeted the photo. After that we lost track of it all and lots of other users and organisations across the Isle of Wight re-tweeted the picture. This culminated in Horizon being featured on Isle of Wight Radio, ‘The Island Captured From Space’ and in the Isle of Wight County Press ‘Students' space probe snaps Isle of Wight from above’. So Horizon is now a little ‘Internet Famous’ on the Isle of Wight. This came as a bit of a nice shock to the team and we’re very grateful for the interest in our project and the publicity.
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2015
  4. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

    Joined:
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    08/05/14 - Project Horizon and the Department for Education
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    We were contacted by the Department for Education on Tuesday 7th. They had seen some of the photos from Gagarin’s onboard video camera on twitter and wanted to know more about the project. We sent them a few details and received a message back a short while later to congratulate us on the project and ask if they could use some of the photos for a new ‘STEM campaign’ starting the next day. We said yes and waited to see what came out on Wednesday.

    It turns out that Horizon has been featured as a part of the new ‘Your life!’ (#yourlife on twitter) campaign aimed at inspiring young people, particularly women, to pursue science. You can find a story about Horizon and photos from Gagarin and the ‘Beat Felix!’ team on the department’s facebook page. We’re very proud to be a part of this and the conference which started the campaign today had some great speakers. Good luck to all those who are taking part and trying to drive this forward!

    11/05/14 - Project Horizon featured by AMSAT-UK
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    The launch of Gagarin by the Beat Felix Team has been featured on AMSAT-UK's website

    19/05/14 - A big thank you to Walsall Education Business Partnership !
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    We'd like to say a big thank you to Richard Farmer and the Team at Walsall Education Business Partnership for their generous sponsorship of our mission to Beat Felix. Not only did have they sponsored us but they will also be putting our sponsorship proposal to the businesses that work with them!
    The team only has £200 left to raise now and a long list of potential sponsors to contact. With the launch of 'Armstrong' coming up (our first attempt at beating the altitude of Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team), there is a lot to look forward to in the next month!

    20/05/14 - Horizon expands
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    In preparation for a big influx of new equipment we asked the school's caretaking staff for a new storage unit (the old one was already packed to bursting). Our new storage unit was delivered today and after a good clean it was ready for duty. With all of the team revising CASSiE stepped in to help with the move and it took very little time to get it done. We were able to have a clear-out at the same time and recycle a lot of old packaging and documents.

    20/05/14 - Team Meeting #16 – Work begins on Armstrong & examinations loom
    Most of the team have started their revision so our youngest engineers have stepped into the breach. Isaac has started building the flight computer for Armstrong (the one change from Gagarin will be a relocation of the antenna jack so that it will sit centrally in the new airframe). Jay will be starting work on the new airframe for Armstrong in the next meeting. This will be the last team meeting for a fortnight as half-term starts at the end of the week and the week following half-term will see all team members sitting examinations. I'd like to wish good luck to the whole team in their studies!

    21/05/14 - SciChem UK sponsors the Beat Felix Team!
    Rebecca Bailey and the team at SciChem have put their support behind Horizon's latest mission to Beat Felix. We're so grateful for their interest in our project and their generosity. We're very close to our funding goal and we can now put in orders for the last bits of equipment we need. The team is both excited and nervous, we've set challenging goals but so far we've met every mission target along the way and in some cases exceeded them. We hope Rebecca and the team enjoy the build-up to the next launch!
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    21/05/14 - Horizon's 'Beat Felix!' Mission meets its funding goal!
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    We're so grateful to Dr. Thomas Papanikolaou and the team at Neos Chronos Limited who have not only been highly vocal supporters of the mission, but have also stepped in to help us meet our funding goal. We've been lucky to have such amazing support from our sponsors and we look forward to providing a lot more excitement as the next launch draws closer.

    22/05/14 - Major Timothy Peake congratulates the Beat Felix Team on "Great work guys!"
    Major Timothy Peake (one of just a few British-born astronauts) took a look at our twitter feed this morning and congratulated the team on their 'Great work!' The team are very grateful to Major Peake for taking an interest in our project, it's a lovely boost to our morale in the middle of the examination period. We will be pulling out all the stops to make our flights of Armstrong and Hadfield a big success.
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    We owe a big thank you to CASSiE and Vix Southgate, who have worked with Major Peake before, and who brought the team's work to his attention.
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    Major Timothy Peake will be travelling to the International Space Station (ISS) at the end of November 2015. You can find out more about him on his interview for Channel 4:


    27/05/14 - What do you we have planned for next year?
    While the team works on 'Beat Felix!' we are also looking to the future and asking, "What next?" We've been in talks with Wolverhampton University for a while with a view to cooperating with the University more closely. It could be a very advantageous partnership as they can help us accelerate the development of some of our technologies and a partnership will be key in funding an outreach programme (we want to bring our project to other schools in the area – especially y5, 6, 7 and 8).
    We’ve also entered the Rolls-Royce Science Prize with a new mission. I can’t give too many details away at this stage but I can show you the first draft of the teaser poster for the mission:
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    05/06/14 - Sun Chaser selected for the next round!
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    We received a phone call today from Rolls-Royce to tell us that Horizon's entry for the Rolls-Royce Science Prize has been selected to go through to the next round of applications. It is amazing news as our successful selection at this stage comes with a £1000 award for the school. We've got eighteen days to make a few changes and produce a full plan so the team will be very busy over the next few weeks as we have the to put together the application while preparing for our first high altitude flight attempt.
    This is an amazing honour for us and a great opportunity for the project. If our second round application is successful, we will be able to run our first outreach programme and bring our project to a much wider audience.
    Sun Chaser will take place in the next academic year (2014-2015) and recruitment will begin in September. Watch this space for more details.

    10/06/14 - Website update
    Work is underway to redesign our website in order to cram in even more photos, videos and information about the project and its different missions. If you've not visited our website yet then please take a look at it here. So far we've streamlined the front page, added a countdown timer to the next launch and added a new 'publicity' section with all of Horizon's media appearaces in it.

    11/06/14 - Team Meeting #17 – Work continues on Armstrong & work starts on Hadfield
    With exams still going on we're a little short on manpower but those who turned up did a great job. Elizabeth and Isaac continued to work on the flight computers for Armstrong and Hadfield. CASSiE (with support from Mr Smethurst) ran tests on the new GPS and Radio modules .
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    The modules performed really well in our proto-type flight computer rig and were given a clean bill of health by CASSiE.
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    Jay worked on a prototype design for the airframe of Armstrong.
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    He learned the hard way not to stick his tongue out when working with polystyrene.
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    Though it's not yet finished we decided to give Armstrong a quick weight check. Together with it's parachute, batteries and antenna the whole probe came in at less than 150g (With duct tape and glue it will still come in at less than 150g which is great news for our high altitude ambitions!).

    17/06/14 - Team Meeting #18 – A hive of industry
    The team have been very busy this week! Elizabeth and Isaac have done some great work this week, going above and beyond. One of the flight computers is more than half-way finished and the other is coming along nicely after a couple of design changes. Damini put the website to one side for the week and completed the antennas for Armstrong & Hadfield. The Publicity and Sponsorship Team is embarking on a BIG publicity campaign and we've asked our sponsors for a little help with it...fingers crossed!
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    17/06/14 - Star struck by twitter attention
    Its been a busy fortnight on the Horizon twitter feed (@horizonqmgs). We've had retweet's from the British Astronomical Association and Science Week UK:
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    Dallas Campbell stopped by to say a huge hello and we got a little Star struck (we've got CASSiE and Vix Southgate to thank for that one)! Our local MP, Valerie Vaz also tweeted congratulations to the team for Gagarin:
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    The team are overjoyed (although a few don't know who Dallas Campbell is - where have they been?). With Armstrong progressing so well I'm off to Cambridge at the weekend to help a group from Attleborough Academy Norfolk Science Department launch their first probe, Monarch 1. We're bringing along Horizon 2's flight computer and our modified smartphone tracker to fly onboard.

    19/06/14 - Congratulations from local MP
    The team were really pleased when our local MP, Valerie Vaz tweeted congratulations to the team for Gagarin. We were even more suprised to receive a lovely email saying she intended to publicise Horizon on her website:
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    21/06/14 - First flight of Attleborough Academy Norfolk's Science Department
    I've been emailing with David Brahams (a member of AAN's Science Department) for a few weeks now. David and the department wanted to launch their own probe but needed a little help. They were looking at just using a SPOT but if the SPOT doesn't turn back on when it returns to Earth or it lands in an area with no coverage then you could lose the payload - something a school running a project on a shoe string budget can't afford. I offered Horizon's tracking equipment and expertise to help them with their first flight. David and the team sourced their equipment, built the probe (and left me some space to fit the trackers) and did all of their own research. We met at Elsworth in Cambridge - a good site for a launch - plenty of big open sky and an easy place to obtain clearance for.
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    I got the tracking equipment up and running while the team met CASSiE and started putting their probe together and preparing to fill the balloon.
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    Filling the balloon was straightforward thanks to Steve Randall (big name in High Altitude Ballooning) who had brought a regulator for four of his own flights.
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    With the balloon filled and the probe cheerfully returning accurate GPS data they called air traffic control.
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    After a 5 minute wait for overhead air traffic the launch was a bit of a comedy of errors as the person holding the payload was not aware that the balloon was being released and so the probe was snatched from his hands by an overfilled balloon.

    While Monarch 1 soared into the sky above the team packed up the launch site and I ran a couple of predictions to see where it might land. We settled upon heading to Great Yeldham as it was half-way between the predicted burst point and the landing point (I also thought they had overfilled the balloon a little and so we should prepare for it to burst below the predicted 34km).

    We all reached Great Yeldham just after an early burst at a little over 29km. The good news was that the probe was headed for a field out to the West of Great Yeldham. We set out in the cars for the landing site which was just a mile or so down the road. Unfortunatley the lane we were driving down had high sided hedges so we weren't going to be able to see the landing and we had no easy point of access to the fields. We pulled up to form a plan and get another reading only to find that the predicted landing spot was moving further West - Monarch 1 was coming in quicker than expected.

    We drove another mile West and were relieved to see that the hedges along this side of the road were much lower and there were frequent access points to the fields. We arrived close to the landing site just after the probe landed. A quick text to the GSM tracker and we had an exact position - the bad news was that it was in the far corner of the field - a long walk away! We called the farmer and got his permission to collect the payload.

    We headed down the side of the field (losing one or two members of the party in true comedy fashion to the drainage ditch which fortunately was dry). The sixth form gamboled ahead and soon spotted the parachute. The payload had landed in the very corner of the field so it was easy to get to without damaging crops.
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    The group returned from the field triumphant.
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    The last great worry is whether the muvi video camera had worked. They cut into the payload and found that the camera was still running.
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    We set out back to the pub in Great Yeldham and watched the footage back in the beer garden . The footage was amazing and I'll definatly try the camera on one of our payloads at it is so much lighter than the Go Pro Hero 2 (and cheaper!). Cheers and celebrations all around before we parted ways and I began the long drive home with CASSiE.
    David is busy putting together the footage for a video summary and I'll post it when I receive a link.

    23/06/14 - Armstrong launches this weekend!
    This weekend we'll be launching our first high altitude probe, 'Armstrong' (depending on the weather - if its going to be raining on Saturday we'll launch on Sunday instead). This will be our first attempt to beat Felix Baumgartner's altitude (and hopefully earn a place in the top ten World Amateur Radio High Altitude Balloon records). The launch day will be confirmed on Friday 27th June on twitter (https://twitter.com/horizonqmgs).
    On the day of the launch the website will be updated to feature a live video feed (which should begin ~9:45am) and a live tracking map which will let you see where the balloon is at that moment and where it has been (http://horizon.qmgs.walsall.sch.uk).
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    The Horizon twitter account will be a great source of updates throughout the day with tweets of the probe's progress, the position of the Chase Team and lots of other content such as photos from the launch, chase and recovery.
    We hope you enjoy the show. Thanks for following the project, its been a mad academic year and we hope you've enjoyed sharing in all of the ups and downs. Wish us luck!
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2015
  5. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

    Joined:
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    24/06/14 - Team Meeting #19
    After a lengthy soldering session and many referrals to his design Isaac has just about finished Armstrong's flight computer. He's wasted no time in putting our new temperature controlled soldering station to good use:
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    Soldering the Flight Computers is time consuming work and Isaac has a good eye and a steady hand:
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    Elizabeth is working on a significant redesign tonight in an attempt to make Hadfield's flight computer smaller as we have a lighter airframe in mind for Hadfield but couldn't keep the GPS antenna in it's current location if the whole computer is going to fit.
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    Damini and Alex are working at full tilt on the website. Alex is adding pages and content while Damini oversees design and works on a redesign of the logo for the site.
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    The Publicity and Sponsorship Team met up to discuss the campaign, everyone now has a role and a press release is being written. We also had time to discuss the Chase Teams for this weekend and for next weekend. While this was going on I conducted a few tests with a tube of UHU Por and some test sections of polystyrene - boy is that glue strong! We're planning to cut down on the amount of tape we use by using glue instead as it'll save weight (glue weighs much less than tape and is just as effective if not more so).

    The team have a safety briefing before the launch this weekend and we're planning to finish building Armstrong after the briefing. It's getting very tense around here as we watch and speculate on the weather.

    27/06/14 - An amazing school science project!
    We were very happy to receive a letter from the RT Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, congratulating us on the project so far and wishing us every success for the future (I think we'll frame it and hang it in the Maths Department!). The support for the project has been amazing this year and it means the world to our pupils who work so hard on it alongside their academic commitments.
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    27/06/14 - Armstrong to launch at 10am, Saturday 28th June
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    The flight path for Armstrong will see it swing from East to West on its journey North towards Stone.
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    The weather is going to present a challenge for tomorrow's launch. The predictions are for intermittent, heavy showers. We're just hoping that we'll catch a break and can launch in the morning.
    You can watch the launch live and track the flight at: http://horizon.qmgs.walsall.sch.uk
    Wish us luck!

    28/06/14 - Beat Felix Team launch ‘Armstrong’
    The pupils named their second probe ‘Armstrong’ in memory of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon.

    Amazing Support!
    The team has had some amazing support on the back of the launch of Gagarin (their training flight). The organisers of Science Week UK, Adventurer/presenter Dallas Campbell, Valerie Vaz (MP for Walsall South), the Rt Hon David Willetts (Minister for Science and Universities), British Astronaut Major Timothy Peake, the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency have all congratulated the team on their work so far and wished them well for the launches of Armstrong and Hadfield.
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    A CHALLENGING LAUNCH
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    The weather was not on our side for launch with possible heavy showers forecast (which thankfully didn’t arrive until after the launch) and gusting wind (a real pain when you’re launching a large under-filled balloon).
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    We quickly tested Armstrong’s flight computer and then set about installing the radio and sealing the airframe for flight. Once the Armstrong was ready for launch we started to fill the balloon. While we were preparing to fill the balloon we found out that the tech team were having difficulties getting the live feed running.
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    We turned on the gas to fill the balloon only to find out that nothing was coming through. With winds picking up we decided to scrub the live feed as we didn’t have time to fix the issue and focus on getting a successful launch. A quick call to our sponsor identified the problem as being a one way valve. A quick change of one component and we started filling again. The amount of gas going into the balloon was measured by the lift provided by the balloon. Unfortunately, with gusting winds, accurate measurement of the lift was nearly impossible. With a little guess work the balloon was soon filled.
    [​IMG]
    A quick check that Armstrong’s flight computer was working followed by a call to Air Traffic Control meant we were ready to launch. The gusting winds made launching a challenge and we had to move to the centre of the field to ensure clearance. The team released Armstrong just after 11am and watched the balloon as it drifted gently away. The balloon had undergone quite a lot of twisting and buffeting so we were a little nervous of it making a good flight but the slow ascent rate meant that it contained a little less gas than we expected so it might rise higher.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    With a long flight time predicted we gathered all of the equipment into the Chase car and locked up. We had time for a little radio training for the new Chase Team before we set out in pursuit.

    THE CHASE
    [​IMG]
    CASSiE (the UK Space Mascot), joined us on the chase and shared in the ups and downs of the pursuit.
    [​IMG]
    The live predictor forecast a landing in the countryside to the South West of Derbyshire so we set out at a leisurely pace aware that it we had plenty of time before the balloon burst. As we drove North towards Derbyshire Armstrong began to pick up ascent speed and the horizon twitter feed became very active.
    [​IMG]
    We arrived in Hilton, Derbyshire and took further readings finding that Armstrong was now over 20km above the Earth’s surface. The predicted burst had moved further South so we decided to drive to the South of Burton-on-Trent and wait at a popular chain restaurant in what is starting to become a habit for the Chase Teams.
    [​IMG]
    We quickly arrived at the outlet of the popular restaurant chain and while we were taking a break Armstrong broke 30km and began climbing towards our previous altitude records. It blew past Horizon 2’s record of 32151m, broke Horizon 1’s record of 34368m and when it started gaining on Gagarin’s record we were all quietly (and not so quietly urging it on). 37km, 38km, 3…hang on. It burst at 38915m just 130m short of Felix Baumgartner’s altitude. So close!

    We were disappointed that we just missed the record but elated to have come so close and to have comprehensively smashed all previous school records. The new altitude catapulted QMGS from 59th in the World Altitude Rankings to 32nd and we still have one more launch to go!
    [​IMG]
    The second piece of bad news came shortly after burst – the landing prediction had changed to West Staffs so we had a race against the clock across the county. All went fairly well until we hit traffic on the M6 which left us unable to get close to the probe as it came in to land. We got a final dying signal at 1.5km and then nothing. We drove to the predicted landing site but got no signal from the probe. We drove around the local area and though occasionally that we heard something feint in the static it was never enough to be measurable.
    [​IMG]
    Armstrong definitely landed in the rural countryside and the local farming community are keeping an eye out for it. There is a good chance of it being found and returned to the school.

    ACHIEVEMENTS AND WHAT IS TO FOLLOW
    This was the first high altitude attempt for the team and despite the challenging conditions they pulled of a great launch and came within a whisker of beating Felix Baumgartner’s altitude on the first attempt. The first high altitude attempt has been a big success and the team not only set a new altitude record for Horizon (and QMGS) on their first flight but they also catapulted us up the World Altitude Rankings and have attracted an impressive amount of publicity. The flight computer built by Isaac Walker was steady as a rock throughout the flight and provided a superbly clear signal which was commented on by several members of the amateur radio community. We had over 200 user log onto the Horizon website on Saturday from over 35 different countries around the world. We now have over 180 twitter followers and we have received correspondence from radio operators up and down the country (as well as an tweet from Russia to say that one particularly enthusiastic amateur radio operator managed to receive a signal from Armstrong.

    The team has one more flight scheduled for the summer. ‘Hadfield’ (named after Chris Austin Hadfield, a Canadian Astronaut who has popularised Space again by frequently appearing on Social Media and live broadcasts from the ISS with his guitar in hand) will launch on Saturday 5th July. We’ll be trying out a new airframe that should help us shave a few grams off the probe’s weight and with luck this will be just enough to help us beat Felix Baumgartner’s altitude. We’ll have the live feed fixed by the time the launch rolls around and we won’t have the same problems filling the balloon as we’ve labelled the hoses.

    Thank you
    We’ve got a lot of thank yous to say. Firstly we’d like to thank our sponsors:

    Rapid Electronics who have provided much of the fabric of the project (tools, electronics, a yagi radio antenna, gaffer tape, zip ties, etc the list goes on!) as well as publicity on their blog and in their newsletter.

    BOC Industrial Gases for providing our Hydrogen, a cylinder trolley, a regulator and a new fill tube (a much more sturdy tube and adaptor than last year’s attempt with a proper connector which prevents ‘back pressure’ building up in the system).

    Yaesu UK who supplied us with an amazing portable radio transceiver (the FT-817ND for those who are interested) which worked superbly throughout the chase.

    Proto-pic.co.uk who have generously supplied some of our specialist electronics, including our GPS and radio modules as well as giving us space on their very popular blog.

    Neos Chronos Limited who paid for all our telecommunications, helped out with general equipment and have supported us through social media.

    Graham Sweet Studios who have supplied the airframes for our two high altitude probes (Armstrong and Hadfield) as well as several other potential airframes (which we tested rigorously to find the best fit and lightest weight for the job at hand).

    Jones Springs whose generous support has helped us purchase essential kit including the balloon and parachute for Gagarin.

    Walsall Education Business Partnership who have helped us with the cost of balloons, parachutes and general equipment.

    Scientific & Chemical Supplies Ltd who have helped out with the costs of some of the scientific equipment and balloons.

    Arthur J. Gallagher, our brokers and our insurer Ecclesiastical who have provided us with cover and without which we couldn’t exist.

    We are so grateful for all of you support and kindness!

    Thanks to the amazing CASSiE (the UK Space Mascot) and Vix Southgate who have been so supportive and who work so hard to bring excitement and wonder into the lives of children across the country. They have worked so hard to publicise what we do and we are so proud to be doing something to support their cause!

    Thank you to Ian Crawford and the Black Country STEM team who spread the word about the project and offer loads of great ideas.

    We also owe a big debt of thanks to all the staff at the school who support us. The caretaking staff who open up the site, arrange barriers and room rentals for us as well as coming along to support the team at launches. The ladies in the office who make sure we get the equipment we order, take messages and who manage our account. The fantastic IT staff who help keep us online, make sure we have a great connection for launch day, do a myriad of other great things in the background and who come along on launch days to take photos and make sure everything runs smoothly. Lastly to our Headmaster and all of the amazing staff who offer words of encouragement, pop in to see what’s going on during meetings and who turn out on launch days to cheer on the team.

    We’ve got one more launch to go and we will be pulling out all of the stops to make it the best one yet!

    30/06/14 - Hadfield to launch at 10am, Saturday 5th July
    The team plan to launch the last probe, 'Hadfield', this coming weekend (weather permitting). Saturday looks like being th best day given Jet Stream forecasts but it is so difficult to tell at this early stage in the week. As the week goes on and weather forecasts settle down we'll be able to post a predicted flight path.

    The weather forecast for the ground looks better than the Saturday just gone with lower wind speeds, less chance of gusts and less cloud (less moisture to stick to the payload and balloon). We're just hoping that the wind speed drops a little more and carries us North or West so we don't have far to travel. Wish us luck!

    02/07/14 - QMGS need one small step to 'Beat Felix'
    [​IMG]
    Rapid Electronics have kindly featured the launch report for Armstrong on their website. We're really hoping to achieve what we set out to do and will be pulling out all of the stops to make this weekend's launch the best yet.

    02/07/14 - Hadfield - Radio tracking information
    [​IMG]
    Hadfield's flight computer (callsign HDFLD) will be transmitting telemetry data (RTTY) on USB at 434.350MHz, 600 shift, 50 baud, ASCII 7, No parity and 2 stop bits.

    A typical sentence will be: $$HDFLD,23,10:51:34,527424848,-19226581,135,7,3,6,1E3A

    where HDFLD is the payload callsign, 23 is the number of the transmission (each transmission is numbered sequentially starting with 1), 10:51:34 will be the time, 527424848 is latitude as an integer, -19226581 is longitude as an integer, 135 is altitude (above sea level), 7 is the number of satellites the GPS is receiving data from, 3 means the GPS has satellite lock (otherwise it will be 0), 6 means the GPS is in flight mode (and so will work at high altitude) and finally 1E3A is a checksum so that the station on the ground can ensure the data has not been corrupted in flight.

    03/07/14 - Armstrong recovered!
    [​IMG]
    Armstrong was recovered from a field in Lawnhead, Staffordshire by Farmer, Robert Cartmail. The team contacted a number of local farms with a description of Armstrong and a map of where it may have landed. The probe was found in a field of cattle and the enquisitive cows had given it a gentle nibble and a lick before losing interest and leaving it where they had found it.
    [​IMG]
    We cleaned it all up and cut into it to retrieve the flight computer. Though the batteries were thoroughly depleted the computer still functions perfectly well and can be used on future flights. The team are very happy that it has been found and that the payload survived the ascent and descent undamaged.
    [​IMG]

    04/07/14 - Hadfield to launch at 10am, Saturday 5th July
    [​IMG]
    The team plan to launch the last probe, 'Hadfield', this Saturday (weather permitting - see later). With the Jet Stream in position above the country the probe will have a bumpy ride on the high altitude winds and we're going to have a bit of travelling to do. We'll be following the original prediction this time and ignoring the live prediction until after burst.

    The weather forecast is still so changeable that it depends which service you check and different services have very different forecasts. If you check the Met Office they forecast rain:
    [​IMG]
    Met Check forecasts a little light cloud and sunshine:
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    We're hoping that the Met Check forecast turns out to be the right one and ploughing ahead with our launch tomorrow (we'll be bringing waterproofs and wellies just in case!). Wish us luck!
     
    Last edited: 5 Jul 2014
  6. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    05/07/14 - HADFIELD: Launch re-scheduled

    [​IMG]
    Photo by Wootam! / CC BY-NC

    Unfortunately a key piece of documentation, our NOTAM (notice to airmen), was not issued in time by the Civil Aviation Authority. The NOTAM is essential as it puts in place a boundary area in the airspace above the school to warn other air traffic of the pending balloon launch. Without the NOTAM we cannot risk a launch as there would be no warning to other air users when they are planning their flight paths and no warning to Air Traffic Control. Though we are disappointed that we could not launch this weekend we still have reserve dates set for the following weekend and so we will be contacting the CAA this week to remind them of our documentation and arrange for a NOTAM to be put in place for the following weekend. Hadfield's next launch window will therefore be the 12th and 13th July.

    07/07/14 - Horizon TV is moving to uStream
    [​IMG]
    We've decided to switch provider to uStream for the launch of Hadfield. The embedded player will still be in the same place but it will stream from uStream instead of our previous provider. Our channel name on uStream is 'HorizonQMGS'. Let us know what you think of the new service as we've found that the frame rate is better than with our previous provider in the tests we have conducted at school.

    07/07/14 - Horizon in the headlines
    [​IMG]
    Horizon's mission to Beat Felix has been featured on page 3 of the Walsall Advertiser this week with an accompanying article on their online site. Rapid Electronics have also featured our mission on their blog and in their email newsletter to schools. The project has also been featured on the Neos Chronos website under the heading, 'The sky is not the limit'. We are very grateful to Lead reporter Lee Kettle and the team at the Walsall Advertiser for covering our project and to our sponsors for their amazing support. It has been an incredible year for the project and it has been great to see how much the team have achieved. They have a lot to be proud of and there is still one launch left to go!

    05/07/14 - The Horizon Team meet the Mayor of Walsall
    [​IMG]
    The team were very excited on Friday when we received an invitation to meet the Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Pete Smith on Monday morning in the Mayor's Parlour. There was much rushing around to get everything finalised and to alert the whole team but we got there in the end. The invite was a huge honour for the team and the Mayor was a superb host. He asked the pupils about the mission and their plans for the future, congratulated them on their achievements so far and even gave them a little tour of some of the curios in the Mayor's Parlour. Sadly, due to assessments, courses and trips, not all of the team could make it but those who could go had a great time. We'll be keeping the Mayor informed about the progress of the project.

    11/07/14 - CONFIRMED: Hadfield to launch at 10am, Saturday 12th July
    [​IMG]
    Hadfield's launch is confirmed for Saturday. With the Jet Stream passing far to the South of the UK, this Saturday will be a very good time to launch thanks to favourable wind conditions. The probe will first head North East, looping round over Tamworth and Nuneaton, then heading West. The burst is predicted to occur to the South East of Shrewsbury and then the probe will head North East as it drifts back to Earth under parachute. This would leave us very little travelling to do and give us a good chance of seeing Hadfield come down. We'll be following the original prediction this time and ignoring the live prediction until after burst.

    The weather forecast is very favourable and all services agree that Saturday is the better day for a launch (much less wind and rain). If you check the Met Office they forecast light cloud and very little wind with a few minor gusts.
    [​IMG]
    We're hoping that the Met Office forecast holds as it is as close to perfect launch conditions as the British Weather gets. Wish us luck!
     
    Last edited: 11 Jul 2014
  7. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    Reserved #6
     
  8. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    It's been a little while since my last update but we've got a bit of news worth sharing and two new sponsors! Check out the main posts for the updates. Work on the project is picking up as teams find thier feet and start to make suggestions and really invest in the process. I've got loads of new ideas for future projects and ways to fund raise. We've also made a lot of useful contacts. Watch this space for more news and updates!
     
  9. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    A new sponsor has come onboard, CASSiE has arrived (more about her later!) and we've started to receive the sponsored equipment (the team are very excited!). We've still got a little capital to raise (the last part is always the hardest) so we're looking into new sponsors for Balloons, parachutes, fuel and air frame materials. We're also part way through writing a mid-project press release which will be going out to online news agencies as well as paper ones. The complete redesign of our flight computer starts next week. Wish us luck (and as usual there are more details and photos in the main post).
     
  10. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    I've written a quick report on the tenth team meeting as well as adding a few detail and photos about our recent trip to the Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. More to follow after the next meeting on the 4th March.
     
  11. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    Some new news on the project (check the main post for the details). The first proto-type low-power, light-weight flight computer has been built and successfully tested. We're currently building one on stripboard.
    A new sponsor has joined the project and we may have just gained another sponsor today (details will follow when all is agreed). We're now just £400 from our funding total but the clock is ticking and we've got no cushion should anything go wrong...fingers crossed.
     
  12. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    A few news updates on the project as we prepare for the first launch date. As usual, check the main thread for all of the details. We've got one last meeting before the Easter Holiday and a meeting planned immediately after the break. The first launch will be on Saturday 3rd May and we'll be furiously busy until then with preparations as we get the new flight computer installed and try to get the sensor array up and running.
     
  13. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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  14. Nexxo

    Nexxo Queue Jumper

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    Awesome!
     
  15. Umbra

    Umbra New Member

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    WOW, very impressive, so wish I went to school these days and not 40 years ago, back then we thought having a video player wheeled into the classroom and watching a recording of "Tomorrows World" was cutting edge :sigh:
     
  16. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    Okay, I've been a bit lax over the past month in posting but everything is up-to-date now (see the main post which is now huge!). There is a lot of news about preparations, a big photo-heavy launch report and a bit about the publicity following our training launch 'Gagarin' (oh, we also got around to naming the probes for this mission!). Hope you enjoy it all. There is still a full HD video to edit and another £400 to raise for the next two launches which are our high altitude attempts! Busy times with A-level and GCSE classes making a final push on revision before study leave. Wish us luck!
     
  17. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    @Nexxo - thanks! The project is a lot of fun to run but exhausting at the same time. Glad you're enjoying it. If you get the chance try following the next launch on the live feed, twitter and tracking map - it's very hectic but a lot of fun!

    @Umbra - Thanks, I set out just to do this once because I saw it and thought, "Wow, I want to try that!" It sort of grew and now I'm running an annual programme with missions and teams and all sorts of stuff which wasn't in the original plan. I'm glad you like the project. Why not follow us on twitter? You'll get the latest updates and there is a fantastic vibe on launch day and in the following few days of publicity.

    To everyone following this project:
    - thank you for your interest!
    - I'd be happy to answer any questions in the comments.
    - interested in doing it yourself? We share info freely, drop me a PM.
    And now a question: "If you could send an object up aboard our probe what would you send and why would you send it?"
    Got an idea for a mission? Let us know, we can now run a basic launch (tracker, backup tracker, video camera and small payload experiment up to 150g) for ~£170 (includes cost of balloon, helium and fuel only) up to ~27km.
     
    Last edited: 28 May 2014
  18. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    looking forward to more video.:D
     
  19. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    @Cheapskate There will be more video this week but I've got to clear marking for years 7, 8 and 13 first (the stack of papers is just over 7 inches high!). We're also short of funds (We needed £2450 and we've raised £1967 in equipment and cash) so I've got one last bit of fund raising to do as well (and that's got to be done asap as we need the cash to pay for components for two new flight computers as well as the balloons and parachutes for the next two launches). It's all go!
    One thing I do need help with is music suggestions for the video. It needs to be only 1-2yrs old so it resonates with the pupils. I've got One Republic's 'Counting Stars' picked out for the credits but I need 2-3 more tracks. Suggestions?
     
  20. Awoken

    Awoken Gazing at the stars

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    What a week! We've secured the last of our funding with such speed it made my head spin (we are so lucky to have such great sponsors!). The team have also received a message from Major Timothy Peake (a British-born astronaut) and all round great guy who complimented the on their 'Great work!'. See the main post for more details.
    We'll be quiet for a couple of weeks now (apart from a much overdue video and some new photos) as we've got half term next week and everyone will be doing exams in the week after that.
     

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