Sunday, 23 October 2011

The APEX ALPHA Operations Centre

The launch of APEX ALPHA was overseen by the CUSF (Cambridge Spaceflight) group who have pioneered HAB in the UK by developing software and servers for HAB tracking and prediction. CU Spaceflight is a student-run Cambridge University society founded with the aim of achieving cheap access to space. The A-level students from Sutton Grammar therefore enjoy access to engineering students at Cambridge. However, it must be stressed that the APEX projects are the sole achievement of the boys at Sutton Grammar who started the project, off their own back, several years ago. Launches are now attended by teachers at the school, including physics teacher Jamie Costello who provides moral support and guidance when required.

In the pictures below you will a large numeric read out. The boys built this hardware, and programmed it on their computers to read out the current altitude readings from the balloon. This was a small, but fun, part of the proceedings. All hardware design, software programming, radio techniques, planning and logistics for APEX ALPHA were developed by the boys.

Outside the Operations Room (4th floor of Cambridge University Engineering Dept) was a balcony. Here, the CUSF team had rigged up a a Yagi antenna which could move under motor control to automatically point towards the strongest direction of signal. (Sorry, no pics). I used the same balcony to test my humble equipment. Great news: I received and decoded some packets for the first time. But not reliably. Still problems to sort out.

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