A university student from Solihull is among a team who have taken their first steps towards a space launch by sending a prototype satellite 30km into the stratosphere.
The successful test launch paves the way towards a longer-term plan to put a small satellite, built almost entirely by undergraduate students at the University of Warwick, into low-earth orbit at around 2,000 km.
The eight students - all in the fourth year of the MEng degree course and including Nicole Blake, from Balsall Common - have been working for the past year on the Warwick University Satellite (WUSAT) Project. The team have built a satellite known as a CubeSat, a 10-cm-wide cube which despite its small size can carry a range of equipment including cameras and sensors.
The test launch took place at an approved site in Welshpool, where a high-altitude weather balloon lifted the device to an altitude of approximately 30km before it made a parachute descent to the ground.
Nicole, a final year engineering student, said: “I was put in charge of planning the launch, we had to speak to the Civil Aviation Authority before we could go ahead. It’s something that we spent the best part of the academic year preparing for and the plan eventually is for the university to put a satellite into space.”
The 22-year-old, who will start work at Rolls Royce’s jet engine plant later this year, said she’d been drawn to engineering after enjoying maths and science at Heart of England School.
“I liked those subjects, but I wanted to do a degree where I was building things and putting the skills into practise, rather than something entirely academic. There are more boys on the course, but it doesn’t bother me. There are more girls than I thought there’d be and I’ve certainly never felt like the odd one out.”
The device was fitted with cameras, a radio communications link and a GPS tracker to aid recovery. It was designed to withstand temperatures down to -60C and transmit data and images up to a range of 30 miles.