What is Project SunbYte?

The Sheffield University Nova Balloon Lifted Solar Telescope (SunbYte) project is an innovative telescope to take photos of the Sun from the Earth’s atmosphere. It was designed and built from scratch by the team of more than 30 UK students.

The team of undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students travelled to Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) Esrange Space Center to launch their telescope into upper layer of the Earth atmosphere on Friday 20th October 2017.

The design of the telescope.

After a rigorous design and testing process, the telescope was equipped with a sensor and motorised system that will detect the Sun position and point the telescope in the required direction. It also used a mirror, special optical filters and a higher resolution camera provided by Andor Technology Ltd. (Belfast, UK) to increase the quality of the data.

During the design of the telescope, students used low-cost but high-tech manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing, in order to produce an economical alternative to expensive large ground-based telescopes. The design itself is based upon a AiryLab EdgeHD 800 HaT Solar Telescope System provided by Astrograph Ltd and optical telescope called PiKon which was developed by team member, Mark Wrigley.

The SunbYte project is an excellent example of the quality of research led teaching we are involved in at the University of Sheffield.

Dr Viktor Fedun, ACSE

The telescope was launched on a helium balloon to an altitude of 25 km to collect data on the Sun with minimal atmospheric interference. Instead of costing millions of pounds to build a ground-based telescope, SunbYte’s assembly cost around £25,000 making it a viable alternative in industry.

Why be part of a project like SunbYte?

Dr Viktor Fedun, from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and the lead academic advisor of the project, said: “The SunbYte project is an excellent example of the quality of research led teaching we are involved in at the University of Sheffield.

“This activity gave a fabulous opportunity for our STEM students to work together, gaining actual real life experience of the aerospace industry and manufacturers, applying their scientific and engineering knowledge and networking with students and companies from all over Europe. There were lots of challenges along the way, all of which made students grow and unite as a Team. I am confident that such type of projects will help the University of Sheffield attract and recruit the best students and researchers.”

Working with industry partners.

SunbYte was the only UK project in 2016 to be selected for the balloon side of the Swedish–German student programme REXUS/BEXUS (Rocket and Balloon Experiments for University Students). The team worked with leading scientists from the REXUS/BEXUS programme as well as the European Space Agency (ESA) to ensure the telescope is safe and well-constructed, as well as drawing from technological expertise from industry professionals.

To learn more about the project and who was involved, visit the SunbYte website at: