Near Space through project based learning

The Secunda Radio Amateur Club invites schools from South Africa to participate in a high-altitude balloon launch that will take place In October. We will fly your school’s experimental payload with a weather balloon that can take your payload to altitudes 2 to 3 times higher than what a commercial aeroplane can fly.

This is a Fun High-Altitude Balloon project where you get the opportunity to send a school experiment 15 to 30+ Km into the near space. This project will teach students how to do a proper science project while you build a small miniaturized satellite and plan for launch day. Students will learn Basic Electronics; Digital electronics; Micro Controller Programming; Radio Communications; Study science and a lot more. The student will get hands-on practical experience and most of all the learning’s will contribute to the student’s school curriculum.

It cost a lot to put a satellite into space, while this project will cost a fraction of that, and you will get similar experience and satisfaction out of it. Some people call this “the poor man’s space program,”

We will provide you with a program to follow but you are welcome to add to it or run your own program as long as you stay within the rules of the project. The material that we provide to help you to run your project is developed so that you will be able to participate in a high-altitude balloon launch, no matter where you are in South Africa. You will need a mentor with some science or electronics background. Help is only a click away through internet communication methods like Skype or WhatsApp to assist with your exciting project.

How to participate

  1. Your school will have to apply to take part in the project because there is a limited amount of payloads that can go with a balloon.
  2. You will need a team of between 8 to 15 dedicated students to work on the project.
  3. You will need a mentor and team leader.
  4. You will need to stay within the rules a target dates to stay part of the project.

Curriculum A  Balloon Sat (about 20 to 30 Hours)

In this program you will build a electronic data-logger / Balloon Sat that will monitor temperatures and pressure. Above 15 Km you may lose altitude readings depending on the GPS but the information of the shuttle payload will also be shared with you to annualised to compensate for that.

  1. Set a common goal (about 1 Hour)
  2. Plan working sessions and set target dates (about 1 Hours)
  3. Study Basic Electronics (Basic electronics module is about 2 Hours)
  4. Construction of flight controller (about 2 Hours)
  5. PicAXE Programming ( PicAXE Programming module is about 4 Hours)
  6. PicAXE Programming / development (about 4 Hours)
  7. Adding your own experiments (about 4 Hours)
  8. Construction of Space frame (about 4 Hours)
  9. Testing and improvements (about 4 Hours)
  10. Attend Launch (for learners that can be at the launch site)
  11. Analyse end results (about 1 – 4 Hours)

Curriculum B   50 ml  School experiment payloads (about 6 to 12 Hours)

The objective of experiments in this category is to determine what effect space have on the experiment you send to near space. Experiments will have a control sample on the ground to be compared with the returned experiment.

The student will get a 50 ml Pill holder to put his/her project in. The total mass of the holder must not exceed 48g these holders need to be marked and submitted to the payload master for packaging no later than 2 days before the launch.

Typical experiments can be:

  • At what temperature does exposed water “boil” at alti
  • Measure dust type & concentration
  • Send Hydro-gel Balls to space
  • Do seeds exposed to that environment grow differently? Compare seeds flown inside the box and those flown taped outside the box with some not flown at all.
  • Place undeveloped camera film in a sealed container. Cosmic rays at high altitude will reportedly cause white streaks in the developed film.
  • Get two matching inexpensive digital clocks. Send one watch up and use the other as a control. Check the times after the flight to see if the cold temperature affected the time.
  • What happens to a marshmallow at that altitude? How about if it is kept warm inside the box?
  • Design an experiment to measure how the elasticity of a rubber band changes after exposure to intense solar radiation
  • Would Bubble Wrap bubble pop?
  • Would water in a wet sponge boil off due to the lack of pressure? Does keeping it warm make a difference?
  • Send up paper that changes colour with temperature.
  • Send up small rubber balls and do a before and after “bounce test”

Think out of the Box and cum up with more experiments.


  1. This is not a competition between teams it is project-based learning and fun event
  2. Registration of teams must not be later than 5 April For Curriculum A
  3. Registration of teams must not be later than 1 August For Curriculum B
  4. Progress on the team’s project need to be send in as specified on the program
  5. No live animals or insects are allowed on your payload
  6. The completed payload / Balloon Sat mass cannot exceed 500g maximum
  7. The payload / Balloon Sat must fit in a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm cube
  8. Isolation and protection material can be placed around the cube mention in rule 6 but not exceed 14cm x 14cm x 14 cm
  9. If you add data communication between your payload and your ground teams you will  have to get frequency clearance from the Secunda Radio Amateur Club so that it can go into the band plan for launch day.
  10. The payload / Balloon Sat can be powered by a battery, capacitor, fuel cell and / or solar panels. It must be possible for the systems to run for four continuous hours.



Click on the Course name to open it in PDF format



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For the WBT payload you will need this programs.





Links to helpful websites for schools