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Space Blog

Astro-Pi winners have the Code to the ISS

Astro-Pi coders claim their winner's prize.
Last week SSTL hosted a visit by two of the Astro Pi coding competition winners, Hannah Belshaw and Oliver Turnbull.  We had arranged for a team from Raspberry Pi to come along as well with the Astro Pi flight spare, so that Hannah and Oliver could see the unit that will be running their code in space at the hands of Astronaut Tim Peake next month!

The Astro Pi unit was set up in demo mode in our boardroom and Dave Honess from Raspberry Pi was there to give the students a run through of how the Astro Pi HAT sensor will work for Astronaut Tim Peake on board the International Space Station.  It was exciting for Hannah and Oliver to see their code “for real” just as it will be used by Tim, who has had undergone full training on the unit as part of his preparation for his stay on board the ISS. 

Hannah gets behind the Astro-Pi HAT sensor 
Hannah won top place in the primary school category with her idea to represent data from the Astro Pi in the world of Minecraft.  A “digital flyby” will incorporate terrain and magnetometer visualisations from the ISS that can be downloaded to anyone that owns a Raspberry Pi, and then recreated in the Minecraft world.  

Oliver's turn to get close-up and hands-on with the Astro-Pi

Oliver’s team from Westminster School were winners in the Key Stage 4 category with an idea that will see Tim using the Astro Pi NoIR camera to take pictures of the Earth from the ISS and later analyse them using false colour image processing.  This will produce a Normalised Differentiated Vegetation Index (NDVI) for each image, indicating a measure of plant health.  

After the Astro-Pi flight unit demonstration, the students were treated to a full tour of SSTL, starting off with a look at our Spacecraft Operations Centre, the hub that commands our satellites in orbit.  

James Northam, SSTL's Manager of the Ground Segment team, explains what happens as one of our satellites make a pass over our ground stations

The tour included the special honour of going into our Assembly, Integration and Test Hall - always a bit of a thrill for first-timers, with all the drama of gowning-up, and the slightly disorientating feeling of entering such a huge, brightly-lit space filled with shiny multi-million pound tech!  

Viewing the Assembly, Integration and Test Hall from the upper level viewing gallery

Gowned up and ready to enter the AIT Hall

It’s been an exciting time for Hannah, who recently met Tim Peake in person on The One Show! 
We wish everyone the best of luck with downloading and interpreting data from Astro Pi.  There’s so much potential for learning more about the universe and the galaxies, and here at SSTL we know that coding is fundamental to capturing and interpreting data from all space missions sent out to explore, so we sincerely hope that students everywhere are inspired by the experience – space needs great coders! 

Visit the Astro-Pi website to find out more about the Astro-Pi mission.  





12 November 20150 Comments1 Comment

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