Watch: Manchester scientists aim to circumnavigate globe… with a helium balloon

The Manchester Space Programme (MPS) is attempting to defy government convention by circumnavigating the globe with a helium-filled balloon.

The group plan to send their low altitude balloon into the Jetstream which flows from west to east around the world and track it via GPS: all they need to do now is trim another 5 grams off their payload weight and they’re ready to go.

MPS say the work is a lot of fun and it is their strong belief that space exploration shouldn’t be restricted to large companies, academic institutions or government.

The programme’s software/electronics engineer, Harvinder Atwal, told MM: “It’s only very recently that the government has started giving funding out to different areas of the UK.

“Currently there are no community initiatives to get people interested in space.

“So part of us is that outreach, we want to go into the community and try to get people interested in space but in a different way, in terms of teaching them through classrooms and lectures.

“We actually want to do stuff that’s practical and is as close to space as we can get.”

MPS has received funding from TalkTalk and Autotrader, and it is believed that TalkTalk want the group to launch a rocket with their logo on it from their Soapworks building at Salford’s MediaCity.

The group have met at MadLab in Manchester’s Northern Quarter every Thursday since they started in 2013 and have had five successful missions, sending balloons 30km into the air to take pictures and videos of the Earth.

Their last flight used Raspberry Pi which was the first flight where they transmitted images live back to earth.

Harvinder went on to say: “My day job is as a programmer, so a software engineer, so this gives me a chance to do the opposite, using my hands more instead of being stuck in front of a computer screen.”

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