Where did the idea come from?

This idea originally stemmed from a proposal to the UK Space Agency on using high altitude multi-balloons platforms to lift heavy payloads.

Previously, one suggested use was to lift a small powered rocket capable of delivering a pocketqube satellite into sub-orbital or low earth orbit flight. Because the density of air at 40 km is 99% lower than sea level, a rocket encounters significantly lower air resistance to achieve orbital flight.

Working with several academic researchers from across the Faculty of Engineering, during the feasibility analysis, we discovered more uses for such a system and the benefit of a solar telescope was conceived.

The development of the tracking and stabilisation system will also benefit scientists and engineers working in different research fields as they will be able to utilise the stabilisation system on the ground or at sea.

The Sun is an important source of energy for Earth and it is essential that we understand how the changes which occur in the Sun will affect us. Indeed, U.S. President Barack Obama recently (14 Oct 2016) issued an executive order calling for preparations against solar flares.

In 1895, a solar coronal mass ejection hit the Earth’s magnetosphere and caused Auroras to appear as far South as the Caribbean. In 1989, a geomagnetic storm took out much of Quebec’s electricity grid plunging the country into chaos. Were such an event to occur in modern day with delicate electronic devices, the outcome would be even more devastating. The solar storm of 2012 was the same magnitude as 1895 but luckily missed the Earth.

Solar storms are one of the most significant outer space threats to normal life – hence the need for development of low cost access to monitoring of the Sun is imperative.

The importance of a successful mission has garnered the scientific support of staff from the Space Systems Laboratory and Solar Wave Theory Group at Sheffield. The team consists of students from a range of technical backgrounds in

Mechanical, Electronic and Systems Engineering, Science and Economics. We have advisors from the University of Sheffield, Northumbria University, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Strathclyde. Working with Mark Wrigley, the founder of the PiKon company which manufactures low cost optical telescopes, we have the expertise to deliver a high performance payload that can revolutionise the industry and affect the daily lives of our citizens.

What will we measure?

We want to obtain images of the Sun using the Balmer series H alpha deep-red visible spectral line at wavelength 656.28 nm.

Using a 113 mm diameter, 600 mm focal length parabolic (Newtonian) mirror, we will connect this onto a Raspberry Pi camera sensor with an H alpha filter.

Process Flow

30 minutes before Launch: Pre-launch check. All subsystems are powered up. Actuation motors, image recognition and data storage systems are tested to ensure correct tracking and attitude adjustment.

After Launch, both during ascension and floating time the telescope will be functioning and taking pictures of the Sun. Actuation motors operate to keep the scope pointed at the Sun, and images are taken and stored onboard. Selected images or data may be transmitted via the BEXUS telemetry in the event the payload is lost.

At the end of Float Time, data acquisition ends. Just before cut-off from BEXUS, a command will be sent to the scope to halt the motors (to minimise the chance of damage and safety risk on landing) and the experiment concludes upon landing and recovery.