BX25 – SUNBYTE (Sheffield University Nova Balloon Lifted TElescope)

University of Sheffield, UNITED KINGDOM

Launch Date: TBD 2017

Project SUNBYTE is about creating a new technique for solar observations. Observing from the ground is often difficult as the thick atmosphere of the Earth distorts much of the incoming light. By using a high altitude balloon to lift a telescope above the majority of the atmosphere to an altitude of 30-40km, a telescope has the potential to capture images of much better quality. Learning about the Sun is a critical role in modern society when the smallest solar flare has the potential to cripple telecommunication and global navigation systems. In the UK alone, £5.6bn was invested in the Space Situational Awareness program demonstrating the need to better understand and predict solar events.

Existing ground and space telescopes are large, complex and expensive. This limits the number of scientists who can access such resources. Experimental studies using high altitude balloon telescopes have been conducted but these are at a high cost inaccessible to many mainstream research institutions across the world.

SUNBYTE – (Sheffield University Nova Balloon Lifted Telescope) is a student led project with our partners, Northumbria University, Queen’s University of Belfast, Andor ltd, University of Hull and Alternative Photonics. Combining the latest practices in manufacturing, astrophysics science and engineering; the team aims to deliver low cost high quality method of imaging the Sun.


 BX24 – CADMUS (Cloud chamber for high Altitude Detection of Muons Under Special relativity effect)

Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), SPAIN

Launch Date: TBD 2017

The main goal of this project is to prove that Special Relativity works for particles that travel close to the speed of light. We will measure the half-life of the muon decay and see whether it is in agreement with the classical expectation or with the relativistic approach. Assuming that there is a continuous beam of muons coming from the space (due to cosmic rays), we can estimate which exponential curve fits better with the muon decay function and then calculate the half-life. To detect the flux of muons, which will tell us how many of the muons coming from the space are still “alive” per second, we will build a cloud chamber. A cloud chamber is a simple particle’s detector that thanks to a supersaturated atmosphere of alcohol can keep track of the charge particles that cross the detector. Different particles make different traces so we can distinguish which one corresponds to muons. Particularly, the muons trace are straight dash lines. So it is possible to distinguish the different particles by just watching the recorded video. Nevertheless, an image post-processing software and algorithms will be developed to distinguish muons’ trace as it has been done in other Bexus projects. During the ascent phase and float, we will record and downlink images of what is happening inside the chamber considering always at which altitude are they taken. Once we collect the data from the balloon we will calculate the flux of muons against the altitude and we will estimate the best fit for the results obtained. Based on this fit we will find the half-life parameter and see whether it is in agreement with the classical result or with the relativistic one.


BX23 –  ACORDE (Altitude COsmic Ray DEtector)

University of the Basque Country, Spain

Launch Date: 7 October 2016

The ACORDE experiment aims to detect traces of cosmic rays with a cloud chamber. These rays are high energy particles coming from outside the Earth, with near light speed. They have their origin in cosmic events outside the Solar System. Although their precise generation mechanisms are still discussed, candidates include active galaxy nuclei, quasars and gamma ray bursts. Secondary rays can created in Earth’s atmosphere in the form of particle showers, started by collisions of incident energetic particles. The higher the altitude, the more cosmic rays should be observed, and more energetic they will be, up to a specific limit. Thereafter, fewer particle showers appear and the overall amount of rays decreases.

The cloud chamber will maintain a layer of super saturated isopropyl alcohol vapour inside a pressured container. A hot and cold spots, on its top and bottom, will make use of electronic heaters and dry ice, respectively. Particles crossing the vapour layer will ionize the alcohol and leave visible traces. These will be recorded with a set of cameras, whose images will be later processed with detection algorithms to study the amount and types of particles along the flight altitude.



BX20 – CPT-SCOPE (Cosmic Partcile Telescope)

Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway; Freie Universität Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Beuth Hochschule für Technik Berlin, Germany.

Launch Date: 10 October 2015

The Cosmic Particle Telescope (CPT-SCOPE) instrument will utilise novel radiation-hard integrated circuit technology and standard semiconductor detectors to study energetic sub-atomic particles such as electrons and protons in the stratosphere. For this task an absorber-sensor-stack is used, also known as particle telescope geometry. The CPT-SCOPE technology demonstration will be an important milestone towards a European compact radiation monitor for small satellites. These miniaturised devices will be relevant for investigating atmospheric and space physics e.g. aboard future interplanetary missions or protecting space assets. The measurement of proton and electron fluxes for relatively high energies of 1-25 MeV and 20-150 MeV, respectively, is important for understanding their impact on the atmosphere.




BX20 –  HACORD  (High Altitude Codmic Ray Detector)

University of Antwerp, Belgium

Launch Date: 10 October 2015

The HACORD detector is designed in order to measure the flux and angular distribution of cosmic rays at different altitudes. The detector consists of four Geiger-Müller tubes set up in a formation that allows us to measure this angular distribution.

At higher altitudes the literature describes an isotropic flux of cosmic rays, whereas on lower altitudes a higher flux shall be measured coming from the zenith. Confirming this angular dependency of the altitude profile is the main goal of the experiment.

Secondly the HACORD detector will encounter the latitude effect of the cosmic ray flux. At higher latitudes we expect to observe an overall higher flux in all directions due to the absence of earth magnetic shielding.

By measuring the cosmic ray flux over a long period of time we will also be able to track the solar activity, which follows an 11 year cycle of high and low activity. During a high activity period we will measure less cosmic rays and we will measure more cosmic rays during a low activity period.

Our measurements can be compared to our own dataset of previous flights and with results founded in the literature.


 RX18 – LICOD (Light-induced compression of dust clouds)

Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Launch Date: 18 March 2015

The main goal is to investigate the movement of optical thick dust under the influence of photophoresis for application in the context of planetary formation in protoplanetary disks and dust storm in the Martian atmosphere. By the use of a laser the LICOD team wants to simulate the illumination of the central star. The low pressure environment, loaded with dust will be realised in a vacuum chamber. This will be observed, and the images evaluated to investigate the effect. By tracking the movement of the cloud the team can deduce the accelerations due to the photophoresis.


RX17 – WUSAT-SOLSPEC (Cubesat-based transit spectroscopy – Measuring the Sun’s spectrum at different atmospheric path lengths as an analogy to the study of exoplanet atmospheres)

University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Launch Date: 17 March 2015

The scientific objective of this experiment is to explore the transit spectroscopy method of analysing exoplanetary atmospheres as applied to the earth. This will prove the viability of this method by estimating the effects of the earth’s atmosphere on the solar emission. With these measurements we can view the earth as if it were an exoplanet, allowing us to better predict what the expected signal of an earth like planet would be. This can inform us about a planet’s formation history and current environment, and even provide evidence for habitability. Such an experiment would also provide technological demonstrations for future cubesat atmospheric probes of the solar system planets, where cubesats have already been proposed as possible components of larger science missions.The expected results would be measurements of selected frequencies of the solar spectrum at varying atmospheric path lengths as the Cubesat-based spectrometer descends through the earth’s atmosphere from suborbital altitude to ground.




RX12 – SPACE (Sub-orbital Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment)

TU Braunschweig, Germany

Launch Date: 19 March 2012

The SPACE experiment is a novel approach to study the collision properties of sub-millimetre-sized, highly porous aggregates in a bid to aid our understanding of the processes that govern the first phase of planetary formation. During this phase, the growth of planetary precursors occurs by agglomeration of micron-sized dust grains, to aggregates of tenths of a millimetre. However, the formation of larger bodies from these so-formed building blocks is not yet fully understood. Recent numerical models lack the support of experimental studies in the size range of sub-millimetre sized bodies, because these particles collide at very gentle relative velocities of below 1 cm/s, which can only be achieved in a reduced gravity environment. The SPACE project will investigate the collisions of a large number of silicate-dust aggregates inside several glass-made test cells, which are agitated by a shaker to induce the desired relative velocities between individual sample particles. The experiment will be observed by a high-speed camera system equipped with beam-splitter optics allowing the determination of three-dimensional collision properties of the proto-planetary dust analogue material. The data obtained from the REXUS flight will be directly implemented into a state-of-the-art dust growth and collision model for further analysis.