British High School Students a Small Step Closer to Space Science

TechDemoSat's selfie... in space.  Source: Surrey Satellite Technology

TechDemoSat's selfie... in space. Source: Surrey Satellite Technology

Surrey Satellite Technology posted a space selfie as TechDemoSat-1 completed its Launch and Early Operations Phase. The satellite launched from the Baikonur Kosmodrome on July 8 on a mission to test technology from the United Kingdom’s growing space industry. The most exciting part of the mission from an amateur space explorer’s point of view is Lucid - a cosmic ray experiment designed by British secondary school students.

Using technology developed for the Large Hadron Collidor, students at the Langston Star Centre created a first-of-its-kind cosmic ray detector that will generate unique data on high-energy particles and photons emitted by the Sun and distant supernova explosions. At the Centre’s website professional scientists emphasize the professional quality of Lucid’s data:

"It’s like the Langton are playing at being NASA or the European Space Agency; only they’re not playing, they’re doing the real thing."
- Professor Larry Pinsky, Chair of Physics, University of Houston

“Lucid is not just an educational experiment, it will be the UK's latest space facility. Lucid’s research-quality data will be of direct interest and use to the wider science community, allowing students to engage in real research, studying the basic physics of how space weather works.”

- Dr Jonathan Eastwood, Lecturer in Space and Atmospheric Physics, Imperial College

The Langton students won’t keep the data to themselves. Schools around the world can share in the excitement - and the science - by joining the Cern@school program. Students will download Lucid data collected from space and compare it to space weather data they collect using particle detectors on the ground. 

As the mission managers at Surrey Satellite get TechDemoSat ready for full operations, the student mission managers at the Simon Langton Grammar School’s Langton Star Centre are counting down to early August when Lucid will send its first data streaming to Earth.

Read my earlier article about Lucid for more details.