Author Archives: Andrew Rushby

A long delayed update.

Apologies for the long delay in updates regarding BLEAT. Following the postponement of our end-of July launch due to adverse weather conditions, BLEAT has been on the backburner for a number of reasons. Firstly, acquiring updated launch permission from the CAA (the Civil Aviation Authority) has been rather difficult this time around as we were so uncertain regarding the date of the next launch. The CAA has unfortunately been incredibly slow and unhelpful in processing our requests for updated launch windows, and as at this stage yet to contact me about the window we requested in August!

Furthermore, several of our team had other fieldwork and conference commitments to attend to. Our budget was also emptied at the end of July (the end of the financial year) as per the conditions of continued funding by the School of Environmental Sciences, so we will have to apply for further money to meet travel costs in the future.

However, I hope to dedicate more attention to getting our next launch off the ground by the end of the year and hope to provide more and regular updates in the interim.



Launch Postponed

BLEAT’s second flight, scheduled for launch tomorrow morning, has been postponed due to unsettled weather and localised thunderstorms over the launch site. Owing the the south-westerly winds there is also a significant risk of the payload landing in the Wash (an estuary on the northwest coast of East Anglia) or the North Sea beyond.


The Cambridge University Spaceflight Landing Predictor estimates that the box will land in the North Sea

We hope to reschedule the launch for early next week. Follow our twitter feed or keep an eye on the website for further updates.

Launch 001 build images

Some of the images documenting the build so far are up on the images page.

BLEAT’s second launch scheduled for 24th July

BLEAT’s second mission, provisionally dubbed Notos after the Greek god of the Westerly winds, will be launched from Ely in Cambridgeshire on Wednesday the 24th of July.

The payload will consist of a GoPro camera, radiosonde, android phone and GSM/GPS tracking device, and we hope to attain a similar altitude to the last launch – around 30 kilometres. Also on board will be our first astronauts: algae! Biologists in ENV are interested in how the extreme UV environment of the mid-stratosphere (above the ozone layer) will affect the viability of the sample.

Keep an eye on the website and Twitter feed (@UEABLEAT) for more updates!

Launch 001 planned for July 2013

BLEAT has been given approval and a budget from the UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences in order to undertake another launch, designated Launch 001.

The provisional launch window is from the 24th to the 31st of July, weather dependant.

The hardware in the payload on this occasion will consist of a GoPro Hero3 HD camera, GSM tracking device, radiosonde and android phone. Also hitching a ride into the intense UV environment of the mid stratosphere will be some microbes courtesy of Stefanie Lutz of the University of Leeds. More details of BLEAT’s first microbial astronauts will be provided in a future update.

Work is continuing on preparing our Raspberry Pi microcomputer for live image transmission from the balloon, but it is more likely that it will fly on the next mission scheduled for the end of September.

Further updates will follow as they become available.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more information.


BLEAT Update

A meeting was held last week to make plans for the next BLEAT launch.

Undoubtedly, our biggest hurdle will be securing funding for this launch. UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences (ENV) and Interdisciplinary Research Society jointly bankrolled our last launch, and ENV will be the first port of call for financial assistance this time around, but initial discussions with members of faculty seem to suggest a more difficult funding environment this year.

Our launch window will hopefully be May to June. It’s warmer, brighter and the jet stream is less intense than in December, hopefully allowing for an easier launch and recovery effort.

Launch hardware:

As the payload of Launch 000 remains unclaimed in a field in Hertfordshire somewhere, we’ll need a complete rebuild of the launch platform.

Sam is going to construct a more bespoke box to reduce weight and wasted space.

  • HD Camera
  • GPS/GSM Tracking Device – sends latitude & longitude to an accuracy of 5 meters via text message to any mobile phone on request.
  • Cheap/used Android phone – using a tracking app to log landing location, possible dual-purpose as additional camera.
  • Raspberry Pi – with a bit of skilled electrical engineering, as shown here, we may be able to use the Pi to transmit live images back to Earth via webcam.
  • Radiosonde
  • A science package of some sort. Algae/phytoplankton/seed viability tests were mentioned a few times, and seems to be a good low-cost option.

Outreach activities:

Outreach and coverage of this launch will be integral to ensuring a strong case for financial support. Some ideas covered at the meet were:

  • (Somehow) aligning the launch with UEA’s 50th Anniversary. Attaining 50km is unlikely, but 50hPa (approximately 21 km) could be done.
  • Mascot competition for primary school-aged children organised through STEM programme.
  • UEA PGR Showcase at the Forum may be a good opportunity to increase public awareness of the project.
  • Space food – including marshmallows or ‘space dust’ sweets would add a novelty element.

We’ll endeavour to keep our blog and twitter feed updated throughout the build.