Author Archives: Gwilym

Picture from the edge of space – Design

(This post is a work in progress for the moment., It will be updated as my design evolves)



  • 800gm Weather Balloon
  • N10 Helium Canister


With some help from CURF‘s predictor looks like the balloon will travel for around

  • 2 hours 30mins
  • Cover about 300km (Going about 75 mph!)

This of course, is based the weather on the day, I should run the predictor a few times,



  • EVA foam, its lightweight, and I can work with it to shape it into what I need.
  • Paracord for the ropping

Controller Parts


This is still an on going question, though it looks like lithium AA battries, connected up to provide 5V.

Wiring plan



Header Pin PI Usage Allocated for
1 3.3 BMP180 – VIN
2 5v
3 I2C/SDA1 BMP180 -SDA
4 5v
5 I2c/SCL1 BMP180 -SCL
9 Gnd BMP180 -GND
10 Rxd0 SOR -RX
14 Gnd SOR -GND
17 3.3 SOR -3Vo


I cant wire the GPS module in as I would like as it used the Tx/Rx pins just as the radio does. SO I am going to wire it to a USB interface and connect to it as TTL device. The model I am using just outputs string, that I can read in like a console.


I know I am going to use Habitat, I still need to get to grips with it, so far as I can see it works like this:
GPS -> Pi -> Radio -> Your laptop in the car (or a helpful station you pass) -> To the internet -> Then Habitat updates its space tracker.

Final Budget and


Item Source Price
800g Balloon  Link 45
Helium 70
Raspberry Pi Link 36
Radio RT Link 10
GPS Module Link 34
Barometric module Link 8
Camera Link 17
UART USB Converter Link 6
Breakout 40pin + cable Link 5
BreadBoard Link 8
BatteryPack Link 15
Total 254

A picture from the edge of Space – Planning

Here are some quick and dirty notes on a new project idea.


So I would like to take a picture from the edge of space. I want to see the curvature of the earth.

After some looking around, I need a minimum high of about 35,000 feet, but it would only be possible with wide angle lens. I have seen numbers more like 60-80 ft for more sure things.

So I think I will aim to leave the troposphere and take a picture from the lower Stratosphere. Around 30km up. ( I am going to try and standardize to metric from this point onwards. ) Thats not a lot the Earth is 12,742km in diameter.

The natural way to do this is with a HAB ( High Altitude Balloon )

Things I am going to need:

  • A Balloon (Burst hight between 20-30km)
  • Payload Box
  • Parachute
  • A way of tracking it, GPS & GSM, maybe Radio
  • A camera
  • and all the bits that connect it together!
  • Permission from the Civil Aviation Authority
  • Helium

Useful links


DIY Space


How long is it going to take?

An average weather balloon will ascend for about one and a half hour before popping out. Then, the payload boxes and the flight equipment would continue the travel, and it might take an additional half hour. The total duration of the flight would be about two hours

 What lift is required

If the payload weighs 10 lb, the lift should be at least 1.5 times that weight or at least 15 lbs of lift.

What size Balloon

High altitude balloons are listed according to the weight in grams and not by size.

Weight -> Burst height -> Payload size

200g -> 19km -> 250g
600g -> 27km -> 250g
800g -> 30km -> 800g
1.2kg -> 31km -> 100g
2.2kg ->35km -> 2.5kg

Okay, so we have a case of diminishing returns here. Looks like 0.8kg balloon might be the sweet spot for height vs weight. Looks like once you get past about 800g, payload becomes a pretty straight function of balloon weight.

I should be able to get a 800g Balloon for around £45.

Based on some guess-estimation I am going to need about 80-100 Cublic feet of a helium to fill the Balloon. (ISO! 2.25 cubic meters or about 2,250 Litres )
This sounds perfect

N10 Helium Canister Spec: Contains 2.61 cubic metres (92 cubic feet) of helium gas.

Prices on a N10 seem to Varry looks like I can get one for between £60-90


HabHub seem like the people to help me here,

We could use a R-pi, add a radio Module like this (this guide will prove useful) and a gps module like this

Box it all together, and then we HOPE broadcast the location over radio!

Then add a Camera and maybe some weather instruments to the Pi ( and pray it has enough pins and ports )

10 Things I hate about you

10 Things I Hate About You is a 1999 American teen romantic comedy-drama film. The film, a modernization of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

I really enjoyed it, the characters where quirky and interesting. I did worry when I thought about implication of the title with regards to the main character. I.e that she needs to be tamed, and made to act like a proper woman. Then I thought about the actual journey she goes though in the film. She is not made into a “perfect girl”. Nor is she fixed by putting here hair up, and wearing a nice dress. Her love treats here the same in dungarees and in dresses.

It is more that she has been repressing a side of her, that enjoys feminine things, and who wants to fall in love, because of fear. The film as I see it is about her re-accepting that side of her, and starting to take risks. I like that it personal development and growth while retaining her own personality.

There is a sudden and semi-unexplained flip in Heath Ledgers characters behavior which is a little annoying, but nothing that truly spoils the film for me.

Also the trope of “I did this bad thing, then I fell for you, and now you have found about the bad thing, but you need to know its not about the XYZ anymore I love you”

It has certainly given me a desire to read or watch a performance of Taming of the Shrew.

Would watch again

Ice Skating !

I went ice skating for the first time this weekend :) My friend Mr James Spray invited our old uni friends for an last minute get together in London so we went Ice skating.

Alas I had to leave early, but it was worth it see my friends for the first time in ages. Also to try something new, I achived my somewhat modest goal of skating 10 meters without holding onto anything

ice skate

Boat Party !


For the IBM Graduate party this year will all got on board the Princess Caroline. It was a nice experience.

The afternoon went a little like this:

We got on board from 13.30.

I arrived about 2 ish, and I walked from Southampton Central and was greeted by lovely staff, and given a welcome drink. Also got a chance to show of my Christmas jumper:
xmas jump
14:15 – 15:45 Christmas Lunch

Alas they forgot our starter, which was to be soup. But made up for with with a complimentary glass of wine. There were also crackers, and party favors provided by Alex’s mum. ( A couple of Ferraro Roche

15:45 – 18:30

Cruising, DJ upstairs, quieter area downstairs (quiz and maybe other games). Everyone seemed to have a good time, the quiz went well ( My team came in a respectable second ).
The Captain was kind enough to let myself and some friends into the control cabin to have a look around, but alas did not give us a go.

 19:00 And home we went

2014-12-11 18.21.43

Orion Em-1

Cant handle the stress of waiting for the Orion EM-1 mission to fly !
orionLive on NASA TV!

This Video got me so Pumped:

I have actually watched the sun go up in American now, three aborted launches. Two due to wind, and one due to fuel valve.


Delfin L29 Simulator

I went along to Top Gun Flight Simulators this weekend which my parents had kindly bought a package from as my Christmas present.

Thanks to this, I got to fly a simulator for a Delfin L29

Deflin L29

It was great, they had a wonderful setup in the cockpit:

Delfin L29 Cockpit

They did not go easy on me at all, made me take off with the correct lights, turn them off, adjust my flaps, turn fuel on on and off, retract landing gear. It was great fun, I really felt like I was flying though it was tough and I felt drained.

My instructor co-pilot flew me down the Menai Strait, and under the Brittana Bridge, and after a couple of aborted attempts of my own, I managed to do it all by myself .

I flew under this :)

We did some acrobatics, and other tricks, flew around, and then did some circuits back at the airfield, before I attempted a landing which went rather well.

All in all a very fun time:

2014-11-29 12.17.59

Return to Rome

As of the time of writing, I have not yet actually put my first trip on this blog ! Because its like Effort man.

However I went back to rome with Ellie, and her friends Sophie & Damion.

Day 1)
We arrived at our little flat which we rented via AirBnB It was nice, though is too often the case it was smaller than the pictures, and it took us a while to realise the dinning room was the second bedroom, you had to convert between the too.

We weant for a lovely meal, I enjoy some Roman style Artichoke, Pizza, and wine :) and sophies friends discovered is VERY easy to get me drunk.

Though we did manage to capture a picture of me where I do not look like an idiot.

1901718_10154871356295327_56136612725348270_nWe then weant to bed.

Day 2)

I had planed to take us on a tour of Rome, We did the

  • Pantheon and visited Rapel
  • Took a quick took at my favorite obelisk ( Bernini’s elephant )
  • Had my first cafe roma ( SUGAR AND CAFFEINE )
  • Piazza Navona and the fountain of the four rivers.
  • Pizzza del Popolo and the church of Santa maria del popolo. ( saw the chigi chapel )
  • Then stopped by the Spanish steps for a break, and some lunch.
  • We decided to skip the rest of my tour, and instead walked up the tiber.
  • To the Castlo del Angelo.
  • Though St Peters square.
  • Then went on the guided tour of the Vatican, Sophie kindly arranged for us.

I have been the the Vatican museum before, but this tour was really worth it, and made me see the Sistine chapel in a new light as some of the symbolism was explained to me.

Day 3) We dedcided to split up for the morning, the other two went to the Colosseum, while me and ellie spend a lazy morning wandering rome, grabbing sweets.

Ellie fell ill, so I took her home, met up with the others, and we climbed st peters. I said prayers inside for my friend Phil Brown, and for my gran parents.

We climbed the dome, and attempted to watch the sunset, but it was cloudy!


Day 4) On the last morning, we decided to visit the Trevi on our way to the airport, even though it was being worked on. We threw coins as is the tradition.

Then ellie realised she had left her passport at the flat, and thus followed a mad dash get the owners to open up so we could search for it, then a cab ride the the airport.

All in all a good holiday.

Where I used to live

I had the chance recently to pass one of my childhood homes. I was out on my grandfathers boat and we moared up near by so me and Ellie went for a visit.

Its strange, its all alien to me.

Its a reflection of how memory works, when you access a memory, you get the bit you want out, and its imperfect, so you try and fill in the little details, lots of which is just your imagination guessing. Then your brain stores this new memory over the old one, This repeats every time you think back and recall a memory, slowly changing it from memory to dream. Except you believe in it, it is real.

So this is the house I lived int, and its only just resembles the house my mind grew up in. Some of it is that I was a child then, and I saw things differently, some of it of course is the change that happens with time.

I think I spend the years of 6 to around 9 there, I am not 100% sure. When I arrived I was year 2 and when I left I was in year 5 ( I think ).

This is house that my gran says she fist met me at. She says she saw me this skinny little boy walking down the road with a dog on a bit of string, with the cat following behind.

My dogs were Megan the lazy bones obsessed with rich tea biscuits, and Zeus the German Shepard, would break out of his shed to wait for me at the end of the lane.

This is were I just jump from the hay bales in the barn down the road. I would ride my bike around the tiny little nine house village.

I would hide in the fields of crops, and make little forts in the clearings, I would be awoken at 5am by the sound of combine harvesters.

Where I used to sneak into Stanford hall and watch the hovercraft racing, and St John Ambulance used to keep an eye on this little boy, hoping over the fence and hiding in the trees to watch.

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