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. 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 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. 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 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). 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 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 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!). 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). 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. 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. 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!