Solar eclipse day busy for UK balloon launches.

The skies above the UK were busy on the morning of Friday 20th March with high altitude balloon launches around the country. Posts on the UKHAS message board showed how busy both the skies and the radio frequencies were.

Taken from

Eclipse Balloon Launches – 20/03/15


  • There will be multiple balloon flights tomorrow morning from around the UK and beyond with cameras to downlink images of the solar eclipse. Due to the resolution of the cameras and the rotation of the payloads it may not be possible to view the eclipse itself however good chance of seeing the shadow.
  • Track the balloon flights : habhub
  • Discuss: #highaltitude on webchat
  • SSDV Images (Live)
  • APRS
    • GEMINI 1 (Callsign LZ2WIN-11 on 434.5 MHz)

BBC Stargazine Live

  • Launch Site: Leicester Racecourse
  • Launch time: 0800
  • Pi #1 (camera with solar film):
    • MARVIN: 434.300MHz, RTTY, 910Hz shift, USB, 300 baud 8 N 2 (SSDV + Telemetry)
    • ZAPHOD: 434.350MHz, LoRa, Implicit mode, Bandwidth 20.8kHz, Error coding 4:5, SF6
  • Pi #2 (bare camera):
    • KRYTEN: 434.400MHz, RTTY, 910Hz shift, USB, 300 baud 8 N 2 (SSDV + Telemetry)
    • RIMMER: 434.450MHz, LoRa, Implicit mode, Bandwidth 20.8kHz, Error coding 4:5, SF6
  • Backup
    • BUZZ 434.315MHz 425Hz, 50 baud, 7 N 2 (Telemetry)


  • Launch Site: Cookstown, NI
  • Launch time: 0700
  • Callsign: EAGLE 434.250 MHz RTTY 300 baud 8N2 – (SSDV + Telemetry)

Southampton University Space Flight


  • Launch Site: Pepperbox hill, Salisbury
  • Launch time: 0700
  • MAJORA: – 434.211MHz, 600bd RTTY, 600Hz Shift, 8n2 – (SSDV + Telemetry)
  • OLAF – 434.149MHz, 300bd RTTY, 880Hz Shift, 8n2 – (SSDV + Telemetry)

University of Birmingham

  • Payload of undergraduate student experiments including a high quality stills camera.
  • Launch Site: Selly Park, Birmingham
  • Launch time: 0900
  • GEMINI 1 – Callsign LZ2WIN-11 on 434.5 MHz, APRS AX.25 packets containing GPS information


Photographing solar eclipse using high altitude balloons

This year’s partial solar eclipse, visible over mainland Britain, provided a great opportunity for HAB enthusiasts to photograph the phenomena.  Near Space photography found that the results from action cameras like the Go Pro Hero were relatively disappointing due to dazzle, sun motion during exposure, misting, and poor zoom.

Last Friday morning mainland Britain witnessed a partial solar eclipse, reaching a maximum at 9:30a.m. Even though conditions were relatively clear at the launch site in Welshpool, Near Space photography used the opportunity to see if HAB could provide better images of the eclipse. A light northerly wind provided ideal conditions to fly a balloon 800gm balloon and 1600gm camera payload.


Image taken just before apogee

The NSP payload used 4 Go Pro Hero cameras including the 4 Black, 3+ Black, and 3 White models to acquire both  video and stills of the eclipse.  The Go Pro Hero 4 Black was set to video capture mode and was set to 1080 mode with a capture rate of 50 fps. No solar filter was used. The sun, even though experiencing a 90-95 % eclipse still provided enough illumination to completely dazzle the sensor. The eclipse was not observable.

A dense solar filter, such as those used on solar viewing glasses, provided more satisfactory results. This time the camera used was the Go Pro Hero 3+ Black recording stills every 5 seconds. Solar glasses reduce the intensity of the sun’s light to such an extent that only the sun is visible. The outline of the sun and the eclipse was clearly visible on the images recorded. Due to the strength of the filter, the camera extended the image exposure time. The movement of the payload during the exposure time caused the ‘streak’ of the sun on the image.


Full image


Detail of the sun

Of over 1000 stills collected, only 4 showed a the sun without streaking. These were taken early on in the eclipse.

The image highlights a second problem, that is the level of zoom in the Go Pro Hero camera. Solar photographers recommend at least a 12 times optical zoom in compact cameras for taking images of the sun. The images also shows some fogging on the inside surface of the solar filter which could obscure the image of the sun.

Balloon News sponsors CANSAT 2015 prize


Balloon News is again happy to support the CANSAT competition by offering to launch the winning entries to CASAT on a high altitude balloon.


Winner of UK CanSat 2015 Announced!

  1. 03. 15

ESERO-UK, the UK space education office, based in York, here proudly announces the winner of the UK round of the international CanSat competition. ESERO-UK organises the annual UK CanSat Competition for teams of secondary school students.

Winner of the Beginners’s category was the CANnoneers, from Tonbridge School in Kent. Runners up include: Spiritus, Putney High School, London; #getjezsrockettospace, from Allestree Woodlands School, Derby; Benenden CANSAT Avengers, from Benenden; Kent and Colossus, from St. Paul’s School, London.

“I highly recommend this wonderful opportunity to anyone who has the chance. Jump on it as it’s a unique opportunity to gain a lot of experience in a unique learning environment and will give a good amount of experience for anyone even considering a career in engineering! I enjoyed the experience and I’m sure the rest of my team did too.” Walter Tso, Outreach Manager and Electronics Assistant, CANnoneers.

Team Impulse, from St Paul’s School in London won the Advanced category of the competition. Runners up include: OSSO , from Oundle School, Northamptonshire; Heathrow Aeronautical Engineers, from Heathrow UTC, Greater London.

Team Impulse, from St Paul’s School in London, were announced overall winners of the 2015 CanSat competition and will go on to compete at the European CanSat Competition in Portugal.

“We are thrilled to be continuing the great British tradition of innovative engineering and are delighted to be representing St Paul’s and the UK at the CanSat final in Portugal.” Team Impulse, St Paul’s School.

Tom Lyons, ESERO Teacher Fellow said: “This year’s completion was a great success with all teams launching and recording data with their CanSats. We’re now looking forward to the 2016 competition and hoping to attract even more teams to get involved.”

balloon-borne accelerometer measures atmospheric turbulence

The department of Meteorology at University of Reading, have used weather balloon payloads as a pendulum  and pivot to measure atmospheric turbulence. Within the payload the scientists have mounted a digital accelerometer to measure the swing of a payload. The swing reflects atmospheric turbulence. The scientists measured swing of up to 5g in events called CAT or clear air turbulence. For more information read the full scientific article at

High flying student aims skyward with Kickstarter campaign

Project Hermes is a crowd funded initiative to launch messages from the public into near space using a high altitude balloon.
Started by 15 year old Sacha Lachin, Project Hermes aims to raise £1500 through Kickstarter. Of course – this amount of money is quite large for a balloon launch and brings in some doubts – until you realise the mission’s true aim.
Not only will Project Hermes record from two HD action cameras, it will have dual-tracker redundancy to optimise the chances of payload recovery and will contain customised flight electronics to record informative data. Backers who contribute to the Kickstarter campaign can receive a whole host of rewards, whther it be launching your own personal message from our payload, receiving beautiful framed photographs and raw HD footage from the cameras, or being able to launch your very own object in our payload.
Sacha himself is passionate about science, Physics in particular, after his parents (both Doctors of Physics) inspired him and his siblings to do experiments and use what they’d learned in science for a real life application that is both exciting and complex.

Project Hermes’ funding ends on the 10th April 2015, and needs your help to launch.
For just £5, you can launch your own message and contribute to the mission of a lifetime. Find out more:

Article by Sacha Lachin

Trans Atlantic Crossing update

Nearly 24 hours after the launch of the trans Atlantic crossing attempt by Near Space Ballooning and Near Space Photography and their SPOT tracker has checked in.

uopdate 1

The location report came in at 16:10 GMT and showed the balloon over the Eastern American seaboard. SPOT trackers can ping of a location at high altitude and hopefully this is an example of this, and not a water landing. The team hope that the balloon will cross the Atlantic in 58 hours.

Near Space Ballooning and Balloon News make Trans Atlantic crossing attempt

This evening Near Space Ballooning and Balloon News are attempting to fly a balloon across the Atlantic and recover the payload. The payload, a SPOT Tracker and parachute, was launched by John from Near Space Ballooning from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin at 7pm GMT (1pm local time) for the 6200km journey to western Europe.

The tracker can be followed at

This is John and Chris’s second Trans Atlantic crossing attempt. The forecast for the flight is as follows:-

taf forecast

The first, in 2014, was brought to an abrupt halt prior to launch by a shortage of helium in the cylinder used to inflate the balloon.