Send a balloon into near-space, and see what it’s like!
Our main goal is to collect data and find an interesting way to present that data. The data will be from sensor readings during a high-altitude balloon’s journey from earth to the edge of space and back again. The main hardware we’re using is Dave Akerman’s Pi in the Sky for typical GPS tracking, along with RFM98 modules to make use of a modern Internet of Things technology called LoRa. The balloon we’re using to physically get up there is made by Sent into Space.

IBM’s development platform, Bluemix, will provide all of the back-end services for the system. From their Internet of Things Foundation to their integrated database support, all of these usually tedious problems to implement are handled by services effortlessly pieced together with the Bluemix ‘glue’, and beautifully visualised using Node-Red, where putting services together is (almost) as easy as connecting the dots.

With these tools we’ll hopefully be able to present the data to the public in an interesting and educational way. There’ll be a website with all the graphs you could ever want from our sensor data, and we’ll hopefully be able to simulate data to learn, and hopefully teach others, about what the conditions are like up there. The simulations will include a cartoon man braving the environment up there and a room at IBM Hursley that is wired into our data where the lights will change colour and brightness to reflect the balloon and the floors will even move relative to the direction our balloon is travelling!

Some example Node-Red flows:

Receiving telemetry with MQTT: the data gets collected using the blue IoT nodes on the left, formatted, and placed into the green SQL node on the right.


Querying our SQL database using HTTP get and websocket: the yellow nodes on the left allow our website to request data, the green SQL nodes run queries, and the yellow nodes on the right send the requested data back.


collecting tweets and sending them using MQTT: the blue twitter node on the left collects tweets, the middle nodes perform sentiment analysis to filter out rude tweets, and the nodes on the right output the tweets to our database and even the balloon (using LoRa to transmit after receiving the published MQTT message.