Tag Archives: space

A circuit board from the Saturn V rocket, reverse-engineered and explained

via Dangerous Prototypes

Ken Shirriff writes, “In the Apollo Moon missions, the Saturn V rocket was guided by an advanced onboard computer system built by IBM. This system was built from hybrid modules, similar to integrated circuits but containing individual components. I reverse-engineered a circuit board from this system and determined its function: Inside the computer’s I/O unit, the board selected different data sources for the computer.
This post explains how the board worked, from the tiny silicon dies inside its hybrid modules to the board’s circuitry and its wiring in the rocket. This board was first studied by Fran Blanch in The Apollo Saturn V LVDC Project. Then EEVblog made a video about it. Now it’s my turn to analyze the board.”

More details on Ken Shirriff’s blog.

Looking inside a vintage Soviet TTL logic integrated circuit

via Dangerous Prototypes

Ken Shirriff examines a 1980s chip used in a Soyuz space clock:

The clock is built from TTL integrated circuits, a type of digital logic that was popular in the 1970s through the 1990s because it was reliable, inexpensive, and easy to use. (If you’ve done hobbyist digital electronics, you probably know the 7400-series of TTL chips.) A basic TTL chip contained just a few logic gates, such as 4 NAND gates or 6 inverters, while a more complex TTL chip implemented a functional unit such as a 4-bit counter. Eventually, TTL lost out to CMOS chips (the chips in modern computers), which use much less power and are much denser.

More details on Ken Shirriff’s blog.

How you, an adult, can take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge

via Raspberry Pi

So, yesterday we announced the launch of the 2019/2020 European Astro Pi Challenge, and adults across the globe groaned with jealousy as a result. It’s OK, we did too.

The Astro Pi Challenge is the coolest thing ever

The European Astro Pi Challenge is ridiculously cool. It’s definitely one of the most interesting, awesome, spectacular uses of a Raspberry Pi in the known universe. Two Raspberry Pis in stellar, space-grade aluminium cases are currently sat aboard the International Space Station, waiting for students in ESA Member States to write code to run on them to take part in the Astro Pi Challenge.

But what if, like us, you’re too old to take part in the challenge? How can you get that great sense of space wonderment when you’re no longer at school?

You’re never too old…even when you’re too old

If you’re too old to take part in the challenge, it means you’re old enough to be a team mentor. Team mentors are responsible for helping students navigate the Astro Pi Challenge, ensuring that everyone is where they’re meant to be, doing what they’re meant to be doing. You’ll also also the contact between the team and us, Raspberry Pi and ESA. You’re basically a team member.

You’re basically taking part.

Mission Zero requires no coding knowledge

Mission Zero requires very little of its participants:

  • They don’t need to have any prior knowledge of coding
  • They don’t need a Raspberry Pi

And while they need an adult to supervise them, said adult doesn’t need any coding experience either.

(Spoiler alert: you’re said adult.)

Instead, you just need an hour to sit down with your team at a computer and work through some directions. And the result? Your team’s completed code will run aboard the International Space Station, and they’ll get a certificate to prove it.

You really have no excuse

If you live in an ESA Member State and know anyone aged 14 years or younger, there is absolutely no reason for them not to take part in Astro Pi Mission Zero. And, since they’re probably not reading this blog post right now, it’s your responsibility to tell them about Astro Pi. This is how you take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge: you become the bearer of amazing news when you sit your favourite kids down and tell them they’re going to be writing code that will run on the International Space Station…IN SPACE!

To find out more about Mission Zero, click here. We want to see you pledging your support to your favourite non-adults, so make sure to tell us you’re going to be taking part by leaving a comment below.

There really is no excuse.



*ESA Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Residents of Slovenia, Canada, or Malta can also take part.

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Raspberry Pi in space!

via Raspberry Pi

We love ‘Raspberry Pi + space’ stuff. There, I’ve said it. No taksies backsies.

From high-altitude balloon projects transporting Raspberry Pis to near space, to our two Astro Pi units living aboard the International Space Station, we simply can’t get enough.

Seriously, if you’ve created anything space-related using a Raspberry Pi, please tell us!

Capturing Earth from low orbit

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) sent a Raspberry Pi Zero to space as part of their Demonstration of Technology (DoT-1) satellite, launched aboard a Soyuz rocket in July.

Earth captured from Low Earth Orbit by a Raspberry Pi

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So, not that we’re complaining, but why did they send the Raspberry Pi Zero to space to begin with? Well, why not? As SSTL state:

Whilst the primary objective of the 17.5kg self-funded DoT-1 satellite is to demonstrate SSTL’s new Core Data Handling System (Core-DHS), accommodation was made available for some additional experimental payloads including the Raspberry Pi camera experiment which was designed and implemented in conjunction with the Surrey Space Centre.

Essentially, if you can fit a Raspberry Pi into your satellite, you should.

Managing Director of SSTL Sarah Parker went on to say that “the success of the Raspberry Pi camera experiment is an added bonus which we can now evaluate for future missions where it could be utilised for spacecraft ‘selfies’ to check the operation of key equipments, and also for outreach activities.”

SSTL’s very snazzy-looking Demonstration of Technology (DoT-1) satellite

The onboard Raspberry Pi Zero was equipped with a Raspberry Pi Camera Module and a DesignSpark M12 Mount Lens. Image data captured on the space-bound Raspberry Pi was sent back to the SSTL ground station via the Core-DHS.

So, have you sent a Raspberry Pi to space? Or anywhere else we wouldn’t expect a Raspberry Pi to go? Let us know in the comments!

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Astro Pi Mission Zero: guarantee your code’s place in space

via Raspberry Pi

Today is the official launch day of Astro Pi Mission Zero, part of the 2018–2019 European Astro Pi Challenge, an ESA Education programme run in collaboration with us at Raspberry Pi. In this challenge, students and young people get the chance to have their computer programs run in space on the International Space Station!

Astro Pi Mission Zero 2018/19

Text an astronaut!

Students and young people will have until 20 March 2019 to from teams and write a simple program to display their personal message to the astronauts onboard. The Mission Zero activity can be completed in a couple of hours with just a computer and an internet connection. You don’t need any special equipment or prior coding skills, and all participants that follow the guidelines are guaranteed to have their programs run in space.


This year, to help many more people take part in their native language, we have translated the Mission Zero resource, guidelines, and web page into 19 different languages! Head to our languages section to find your version of Mission Zero.

Take part in Astro Pi Mission Zero

To participate, the teams’ teacher or mentor needs to register for a classroom code that will let students submit their programs. Teams then follow our online resource to write their programs using the browser-based Trinket emulator: with just a few lines of Python, your team will create a program for one of the two Astro Pi computers aboard the ISS!

Astro Pi Mission Zero 2018/19

Each team’s program will run for 30 seconds aboard the Space Station, visible for all the astronauts including this year’s challenge ambassadors: ESA astronaut and ISS Commander Alexander Gerst and CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques.

Astro Pi returns for a new 2018/19 challenge!

Ever wanted to run your own experiment in space? Then you’re in luck! ESA Education, in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, is pleased to announce the launch of the 2018/2019 European Astro Pi Challenge!

Every team that submits a valid Mission Zero entry will also receive a certificate showing the flight path of the ISS above Earth at the exact time their code ran!

Astro Pi Mission Zero 2018/19

The challenge is open to teams of students and young people who are aged 14 years or younger (at the time of submission) and from ESA Member or Associate Member States*. The teams must have at least two and no more than four members, and they must be supervised by an adult teacher or mentor.

Have fun, and say hi to the astronauts from us!

About the European Astro Pi Challenge

The European Astro Pi Challenge is an ESA Education project run in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It offers students and young people the amazing opportunity to conduct scientific investigations in space by writing computer programs that run on Raspberry Pi computers on board the International Space Station (ISS). The Astro Pi Challenge is divided into two separate missions with different levels of complexity: Mission Zero (the basic mission), and Mission Space Lab (one step further). This year’s Mission Space Lab is closing for applications at the end of October. Click here for more information about it.

*ESA Member States in 2018:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

ESA Associate States in 2018: Canada, Slovenia
In the framework of the current collaboration agreement between ESA and the Republic of Malta, teams from Malta can also participate in the European Astro Pi Challenge. ESA will also accept entries from primary or secondary schools located outside an ESA Member or Associate State only if such schools are officially authorised and/or certified by the official Education authorities of an ESA Member or Associate State (for instance, French school outside Europe officially recognised by the French Ministry of Education or delegated authority).

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Tim Peake congratulates winning Mission Space Lab teams!

via Raspberry Pi

This week, the ten winning Astro Pi Mission Space Lab teams got to take part in a video conference with ESA Astronaut Tim Peake!

ESA Astro Pi students meet Tim Peake

Uploaded by Raspberry Pi on 2018-06-26.

A brief history of Astro Pi

In 2014, Raspberry Pi Foundation partnered with the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency to fly two Raspberry Pi computers to the International Space Station. These Pis, known as Astro Pis Ed and Izzy, are each equipped with a Sense HAT and Camera Module (IR or Vis) and housed within special space-hardened cases.

In our annual Astro Pi Challenge, young people from all 22 ESA member states have the opportunity to design and code experiments for the Astro Pis to become the next generation of space scientists.

Mission Zero vs Mission Space Lab

Back in September, we announced the 2017/2018 European Astro Pi Challenge, in partnership with the European Space Agency. This year, for the first time, the Astro Pi Challenge comprised two missions: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Mission Zero is a new entry-level challenge that allows young coders to have their message displayed to the astronauts on-board the ISS. It finished up in February, with more than 5400 young people in over 2500 teams taking part!

Astro Pi Mission Space Lab logo

For Mission Space Lab, young people work like real scientists by designing their own experiment to investigate one of two topics:

Life in space

For this topic, young coders write code to run on Astro Pi Vis (Ed) in the Columbus module to investigate life aboard the ISS.

Life on Earth

For this topic, young people design a code experiment to run on Astro Pi IR (Izzy), aimed towards the Earth through a window, to investigate life down on our planet.

Our participants

We had more than 1400 students across 330 teams take part in this year’s Mission Space Lab. Teams who submitted an eligible idea for an experiment received an Astro Pi kit from ESA to develop their Python code. These kits contain the same hardware that’s aboard the ISS, enabling students to test their experiments in conditions similar to those on the space station. The best experiments were granted flight status earlier this year, and the code of these teams ran on the ISS in April.

And the winners are…

The teams received the results of their experiments and were asked to submit scientific reports based on their findings. Just a few weeks ago, 98 teams sent us brilliant reports, and we had the difficult task of whittling the pool of teams down to find the final ten winners!

As you can see in the video above, the winning teams were lucky enough to take part in a very special video conference with ESA Astronaut Tim Peake.

2017/18 Mission Space Lab winning teams

The Dark Side of Light from Branksome Hall, Canada, investigated whether the light pollution in an area could be used to determine the source of energy for the electricity consumption.

Spaceballs from Attert Lycée Redange, Luxembourg, successfully calculated the speed of the ISS by analysing ground photographs.

Enrico Fermi from Liceo XXV Aprile, Italy, investigated the link between the Astro Pi’s magnetometer and X-ray measurements from the GOES-15 satellite.

Team Aurora from Hyvinkään yhteiskoulun lukio, Finland, showed how the Astro Pi’s magnetometer could be used to map the Earth’s magnetic field and determine the latitude of the ISS.

@stroMega from Institut de Genech, France, used Astro Pi Izzy’s near-infrared Camera Module to measure the health and density of vegetation on Earth.

Ursa Major from a CoderDojo in Belgium created a program to autonomously measure the percentage of vegetation, water, and clouds in photographs from Astro Pi Izzy.

Canarias 1 from IES El Calero, Spain, built on existing data and successfully determined whether the ISS was eclipsed from on-board sensor data.

The Earth Watchers from S.T.E.M Robotics Academy, Greece, used Astro Pi Izzy to compare the health of vegetation in Quebec, Canada, and Guam.

Trentini DOP from CoderDojo Trento, Italy, investigated the stability of the on-board conditions of the ISS and whether or not they were effected by eclipsing.

Team Lampone from CoderDojo Trento, Italy, accurately measured the speed of the ISS by analysing ground photographs taken by Astro Pi Izzy.

Well done to everyone who took part, and massive congratulations to all the winners!

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