One of my goals for 2020 is to spend some of my personal time working at lower levels of  computing and electronics. I have seen a number of projects with raspberry pi computers that have been attached to weather balloons and  sent to the edges of the earth’s atmosphere aka near space, which is  what the aim is with this project; to combine a number of technologies,  to learn and to have some fun.

My  6 year old son and I love electronics, programming and space, we have  played a lot together in the last few months and he’s named the project  The Maver Space Program. He said — “You know, like the next door maver”.  My wife and I are still laughing weeks later that he thought the word  for the person living next door is maver. Cute.

Mission

  • We  are going to use a raspberry pi computer as the flight computer, any  model can be used but there are advantages to certain models so we will  need to work out which is the best fit for our mission, all of the  models have more compute power than Apollo 11 which is mind blowing
  • Flight  — We are going to use a weather balloon which will be filled with  helium or hydrogen, we will need to work out which is the most suitable  for our mission and how to go about getting some as it looks like we  will need lots
  • Tracking — We  would like to know where the vessel is throughout it’s flight. To do  this we are going to try using a UBLOX GPS device that works at altitude  and a small Ultra High Frequency NTX2 radio transmitter
  • Pictures  — We would like to receive pictures from the payload as it rises, we  are going to use a raspberry pi camera module to capture stills, resize  them and transmit them using the radio transmitter
  • Video  — Using the same camera we would like to record HD video of the whole  flight to the SD card, if we get the balloon high enough we should see  the curvature of the earth (sorry flat earthers) and the black of space
  • Recovery  — We would like to recover the payload when it comes crashing back to  earth (for the kit and the SD card footage). We will use a parachute to  slow it down and soften the landing, if all goes well our telemetry data  will give us a location of the landing site
  • Communication  — We are going to need a radio and a way of decoding the transmissions  we send back. For the hardware we are going to look at Software Defined  Radio devices and for Software SDR# and dl-fldigi
  • Telemetry — In addition to the data sent mentioned above, temperature recording and transmission is also a goal
  • Looks — It needs to look cool (to a 6 year old)

Launch Date

We  need to give the Civil Aviation Authority 28 days notice which we will  do when we have designed, built and tested thoroughly. This pushes the  anticipated launch date to sometime in March.

Delivery Approach

I  want to take an agile approach to managing this  project, it’s not a digital project as such and it’s not a big  project, but that doesn’t mean we can’t approach it  with an agile mindset. I am not sure waterfall is a good idea either,  there are plans out there we could try copy and stick to, but the  reality is we have no idea what we are doing and everything I have  shared on the public Trello board is assumptions based on the discovery  work we have done so far.

The active trello board for managing delivery is here — http://bit.ly/maver-space

I  took a snapshot/copy of the board so I can see how far our assumptions  are off at the end of the project as the active one evolves. You can  find the snapshot here: http://bit.ly/maver-start

Discovery

A lot of the discovery work to find information about how to go about this kind of project is at https://ukhas.org.uk it’s not the only resource we have used, but a good starting point  that’s got us going. The others sources of info I will share with the  relevant blog posts.