Genome laser @ Burning man. High altitude balloon expertise needed!

We are projecting the human DNA through a laser at the burning man festival in Nevada this year through a 60w laser. This should be visible from up to 30km high due to using a really powerful laser. This in part to recognise the efforts of Dr Jonathan Rothberg who pioneered high speed genome sequencing.

We would like some assistance with launching a high altitude balloon to film this laser DNA projection as well as the burning man from a top down view. At best, we hope to be able to view the laser projection from space.

The burning man festival takes place in the Black Rock desert, Nevada, USA (at the end of August so not long away!). If any of you know some high altitude balloon experts/enthusiasts in California/Nevada or anywhere else for that matter who may already be planning to go to burning man, I would be ever grateful if you could put us in touch.

If you would like to know more about this project, we were featured in the wired last week ( and also the Huffington post today.

We will of course cover the costs associated with this project.

Many thanks!

Joe Charlesworth
07545 961634







Map showing UK and worldwide HAB launch sites

Here is a link to a crowd sourcing map showing world wide weather balloon launch sites. It works through Google maps and so you can log in using many social network log in details (which aren’t recorded).  Mark your launch site, leave flight details, and link in your HAB web site.

The map can be found at


All’s well that ends well for The King’s Academy Payload

Earlier this month we reported that sixth form physics students at The King’s Academy in Middlesbrough lost their payload from a HAB flight launched from Middlesbrough. The students are happy to report that the payload has been returned to them after being found by a member of the public.


Victoria from the team said the payload, which carried only a single SMS based locator landed in an area out of mobile phone coverage.  Lesson learnt and some great photos recovered!

students 2





Grand Canyon Crunch


Flight details

DATE: Saturday, July 20, 2013
LAUNCH: 5:09 PM PST, Indian Route 6135 Terminus, Navajo Nation, Arizona [ 35.97926, -111.64079 ]
WEIGHT: 6 lbs, 5.5 oz (including chute, lines, and radar reflector)
ALTITUDE: 105,000 feet
LANDING: 7:28 PM PST, Near Camp 5 Road, Boquillas Ranch, Hunting Unit 10, Arizona [ 35.99264, -112.66716 ]
DURATION: 2 hours, 21 minutes
DISTANCE: 58 miles

In June John Flaig’s Grand Canyon HAB flight nearly ended in disaster as his recovery parachute was ripped from his payload as it reached it’s peak altitude. John was aiming to get some stunning photos of the canyon from an array of action cameras and Cannon Powershot models using CHDK.


At the moment the balloon burst, the cameras show intense shaking of the payload before the package plummeted to the ground. Thankfully the polystyrene absorbed most of the impact of the landing and only one camera lens was damaged. The SPOT tracker was intact.


On reflection, John said, “The camera package was contained in a polystyrene box, 1 inch thick. I used an eye-bolt through the center of the lid. There are large washers both inside and outside to distribute the load. However, this box was the thinnest I’ve ever used, the side-walls being only an inch think, but the lid was probably 1.5 inches. In the past they’ve been 2 inches thick. On my first launch I had the line going through holes in each corner of the lid like a pyramid, but have used the simpler setup since. If you watch the video the box really got knocked around when the balloon burst and I can only imagine that is when the parachute got ripped out.”





UK Sixth formers launch Raspberry Pi HAB


Three sixth form students launched their high altitude balloon project on Friday 28th June 2013. The project was completed by Jake Greenwood(16), Samuel Bancroft(17), Ben Bancroft(17, me). We all are currently doing our A-Levels at William Howard School Brampton.

The project started when we all came together with the idea of launching our own weather balloon, to gather scientific data. We got our inspiration from our passion for Physics, and by other launches that has been completed by other people, such as Dave Akerman, the first to launch a raspberry Pi on a high altitude balloon. We started by seeing how feasible the project would be, by planning out how we would complete it, and pricing it up. We then went to our school, and in turn the Ogden Trust to look to secure funding.

The project was funded by a Royal Society grant of £300, as well as bit extra which was covered between us. The cost of the helium was paid for by Professor Kosch.

In order to get the grant we partnered with Professor Kosch from Lancaster University, who specialises in Space Physics. He is going to help us analyse the data that we have received from the flight, in the next couple of weeks.

We used a Raspberry Pi for the flight-computer. This was needed to read all the sensors, and to control periodic updates, sent out via radio. We used it as it was light, durable, and very cheap (£28.95) and has an expansion interface (which was used to interface into our electronics’). These factors made it a perfect flight-computer. We also used a Raspberry Pi camera module to record for the duration of the flight.

I (Ben) was responsible for the electronics, and the programming of the flight computer (I used a Raspberry Pi for this). I designed it to continuously take readings from the sensors it carried, and send it back via a radio link. I have experience in this field, and want to do a Computer Science degree at university, after completing my A-Levels. Both Samuel and Jake want to do a Physics degree.

The balloon was monitored live via the radio link, which was received by many receivers all across the country, and one in Europe which was 425 miles away. This was only made possible because of the UK High Altitude Society (UKHAS), as they helped track our flight which was vital. This enabled us to track the balloon in real time via it’s on-board GPS, as well as enabling us to get readings from its sensors throughout the flight. The balloon measured gamma rays, uv flux, temperature and pressure. It also carried a video camera.

The balloon made it into near space, at a height of 31,685 metres (103,953 feet). Minimum temperature was at 11km and was -34 deg C.

The balloon travelled around 45 miles from its launch location at the school, where it landed right in the middle of a dense forest on the Yorkshire/Durham border, which was 2 miles by 2 miles square.  It took about 34 ‘person hours’ to find (plus travelling time), even with the last GPS co-ordinate, as it was stuck about 50 to 60 feet up a pine tree. The final location was at latitude 54.470481 and longitude -1.951683. When we recovered it, we retrieved the video footage from the flight computer.



Payload Raiders

I found this post on canal World’s web site. It is a cautionary tale about not collecting your payload straight away.


Lost camera, Scout scarf & parachute

I’m the Group Scout Leader of the 63rd Leicester Scout Group in Leicester.  Last night we had our end-of-term party and finished by launching a weather balloon approximately 30 kms towards the edge of space.  This has been many months in the planning by one of our Young Leaders and the launch had been pre-authorised by the Civil Aviation Authority.  After a slight delay when East Midlands Airport would not authorise the launch at the planned time of 8pm yesterday (Tuesday) we were given the go ahead.
The weather balloon was carrying a white polystyrene box (approx 30 cm wide x 20 cm deep x 25 cm high) containing a brand new Philips ESee CAM150RD video camera, a GPS tracker, a battery and a 63rd Leicester Group scarf (maroon with yellow and purple edging strips) which had been
signed by all of the children at our Group.  The box was secured with heavy duty black plastic ties. When the balloon burst, an orange & green parachute controlled the box’s descent.  We tracked the descent and landing to a farmer’s field bordering on the canal close to where you are (North side of canal on Home Farm about 500m North of Hillmorton Locks).  As it was getting dark we didn’t come to collect the box until this morning.  The box was found at about 10.30am today (Wednesday) in the area shown on the attached, but the lid was
missing as were the plastic ties.  The base of the box was undamaged but only the tracking device and battery remained. Most importantly, the video camera, Scouting scarf and parachute were also missing.  The surrounding area was searched thoroughly but nothing else was found.  I can only conclude that someone saw the descent.  Perhaps someone went to investigate.  Perhaps they opened the box and took the items.  We just don’t know.
We have left the details with Home Farm, and alerted the nearest Scout Group, but we need to publicise the fact that these items are missing just in case someone knows where these items are so that they can be returned.  Significant fundraising took place to buy the equipment needed for this special event (£400) and we had planned to post the footage from the video camera on YouTube so that all of our Beavers,Cubs and Scouts plus their families could see the view from the ascent and descent.
I don’t know if it is a fairly static narrow boat community around The Locks/Hillmorton, but please could you either ask/publicise this among local boat owners to determine if they have seen or heard anything,and/or advise who I could contact in order to spread our search further.
Many thanks for any help you can give us – it’s greatly appreciated.
Best regards
Mike Rowlinson
Group Scout Leader
63rd Leicester – St Thomas More Scout Group, Leicester
Tel: 07871 570924


CUSF predictor back to full service

CUSF predictor is now back to full service. The following post was made on UKHAS message board:-

Hi everyone,

TL;DR: the predictor now works, and works very quickly at that! (the old address redirects). While I’ve been
quite careful to make sure it behaves exactly the same as the old
predictor, it’s a mix of old and relatively new software so should
perhaps be regarded as beta.
(It’s also maybe worth reminding you that no guarantee is given for
the accuracy of any data included or produced by this program, use it
at your own risk.)