After all of the testing and preparation, on the 4th September 2018, Project SunbYte II successfully launched their balloon with the telescope on board! After the launch, the team found the payload which had survived and the NASA team were able to remove the teams sun tracking telescope.
Through the process of SunbYte II the team wanted to demonstrate a new technique of solar observation which would allow images to be captured at a similar level to a space telescope but at a fraction of the cost. By lifting a typical telescope high above the Earth’s thick atmosphere, the telescope avoids the distortion of light caused by the air. The main challenge they faced was being able to stabilise the telescope on a gimbal and point the device steadily at the sun. They successfully achieved this and much more!
When the yaw motion of the vehicle caused the sun to rotate beyond the field of view of the telescope, our system demonstrated it was able to track its motion.
Yun-Hang Cho, LEAD SYSTEMS ENGINEER
The team faced another challenge when it came to transporting the system. It had to be disassembled into numerous pieces and transported in several bags. The team flew 11 hours to Las Vegas before facing an eleven-hour drive to Albuquerque.
“Only having two drivers made the overnight drive incredibly hard work. Being severely jet lagged and then staying up for most of the night made waking up in the middle of a desert incredibly surreal.
However, travelling along the famous Route 66 on our drive to Fort Sumner made it worthwhile.” Arthur Cunningham, Mechanical Team and Driver
The team not only achieved amazing things with their telescope, they also gained a number of skills along the way.
“The project not only strengthened my practical skills and knowledge but I learned how to become a leader and keep the team spirit and motivation high. I’ve learnt to be confident when facing a problem I’ve never come across before, which applies to more than just engineering but everyday life as well.” Gianni Heung, Electronica Team Leader
The team found that whilst their cultures were closely aligned there were significant differences when it came to interaction in the workplace. However the team quickly adjusted and learned how to adapt to fit into their new environment together.
“Everyone came away with a renewed appreciation of how critical communication is to the success of a project as well as a truly unique experience to add to their CV. I feel much more confident applying to jobs knowing I have something to talk about that no other applicant does.” Arthur Cunningham, Mechanical Team and Driver
The next goal for the team is SunbYte III which aims to take the design even further. The work has already begun with the team currently working on the proposal for the BEXUS 28/29 mission, which will launch October 2019. Now that they’ve demonstrated sun tracking capability the next step is to use the system to obtain high quality pictures of the sun in specific wavelengths such as UV and near infrared. These wavelengths show different features of the sun and enable scientists to study the plasma magnetohydrodynamics of the sun.
The team will be making improvements in order to reduce the size of the payload and shrink the size and number of electronic parts they will be using. Improving reliability will also be essential as the plan is to prove that the concept of tracking the Sun at a low cost is reliable and feasible.