434 MHz balloons have a role in STEM Education

Horizon Project - Gagarin - Isle of Wight

Project Horizon – Gagarin – Isle of Wight

The UK Department for Education (DfE) has selected the Horizon balloon project to feature in the department’s #yourlife campaign to promote Maths and Science.

Horizon Team Hard at Work

Horizon Team Hard at Work

Pupils at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall built the Gagarin payload which transmitted FSK RTTY telemetry data on 434.075 MHz. The students launched it on a high altitude weather balloon which reached an altitude of 35,118 metres before bursting. The Gagarin payload returned safely to Earth by parachute and the students were able to retrieve the stunning still images and video taken in near-space.

The telemetry transmitter could be received over most of the British Isles and radio amateurs were able to track the balloon’s progress from the transmitted GPS data. The Horizon team used a Yaesu FT-817 transceiver to receive the signal from the balloon and dl-fldigi software to decode it. Among those supporting the project were Yaesu and Essex-based Rapid Electronics.

CASSiE and the proto-type flight computer

CASSiE and the proto-type flight computer

Adam Coghlan, a mathematics teacher at the school, says:

There have been two teams worth of pupils involved in this project and UKHAS members have helped track every launch.

The pupils get so much out of it:
– many go on to start their own projects after a year in the Horizon Team
– most of the team members have reported extremely positive university interviews following their involvement with the project (some have had personal letters from lecturers and letters from universities wishing them luck, hoping that they’ll choose xxxxx when results day comes etc)
– team members who have visited us having left the school for university have got involved in projects at university and have been a lot more open to the opportunities at university beyond their academic studies

The project has a big impact on the pupils who take part and we’re so grateful to the UKHAS members who have supported us and who help with the tracking on launch days.

Watch Project Horizon’s Beat Felix mission – The launch of Gagarin

See the ‘Your Life’ post on the Department for Education’s Facebook page at

Project Horizon http://horizon.qmgs.walsall.sch.uk/index.html

#yourlife “Science and maths makes you more prepared for life and for business” Dr Melanie Windridge, physicist and science communicator http://www.yourlife.org.uk/

Yaesu UK http://www.yaesu.co.uk/

Rapid Electronics http://www.rapidonline.com/

You can see online real time tracks and frequencies of balloons at http://spacenear.us/tracker/

Listen to balloons online (when in range of south-east UK) from anywhere in the world with the SUWS 434 MHz WebSDR (select USB) https://amsat-uk.org/2013/12/28/websdr-for-434-and-1296-mhz/

Download the dl-fldigi software from http://ukhas.org.uk/projects:dl-fldigi

Beginners Guide to Tracking using dl-fldigi http://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide

Check the #highaltitude IRC channel for chat about launches. A web client is available at

To get up-to-date information on balloon flights subscribe to the UKHAS Mailing List by sending a blank email to this address: ukhas+subscribe@googlegroups.com

Project Horizon - flight path of Gagarin

Project Horizon – flight path of Gagarin