Guelph Near Space Initiative (GNSI)

All of the original Project files are now accessible on-line here.  These files were graciously provided by the State University of Louisiana's LaACES Management Team, and we are very thankful for their assistance.  Note that we will not be using all of these files, and there will be some modifications as we go along.

What is the Guelph Near Space Initiative all about?

View from Near Space

In September, 2006, I defined and structured the Guelph Near Space Initiative (GNSI); GNSI was funded in October 2006 under the University of Guelph's Learning Enhancement Fund program.  This goal of this extracurricular initiative is to have undergraduate students design, construct and operate a small payload experiment that will be lifted by a sounding balloon to an altitude of ~30 km (far higher than commercial aviation!).  At this altitude, the close proximity to true space causes the sky to be totally black, and the earth's horizon is dramatically curved!  This ascent will take several hours.  Once at maximum altitude, the balloon will burst, leading to the rapid free-fall of the experimental modules until the parachute slows the descent.  During the entire mission the Near Spacecraft will be transmitting its location via short-wave radio, which will be relayed over the internet to allow us to track and retrieve the payloads.

Would you like to participate in GNSI by designing, building and operating a payload?


What sort of payloads can be lifted?

The key is to probe the unique environment of the low-temperature, low pressure, high altitude environment, over a period of several hours.  Examples include high altitude photography (spectacular at these heights!), cosmic ray measurements, sampling of microbial activity, and radiation damage to thin-film devices.  Literally, the sky is the limit!  The only constraints are mass, size and cost. 


Why would a student get involved?

Balloon hoisting a payload into the sky

Mostly because this will be an fun, challenging, and highly rewarding program.  How many chances does a student get to participate in true space-based research, and have fun at the same time?  GNSI provides a unique opportunity for teams of students to dig into a serious, complicated project, and see it through from design through construction and execution.  Unlike normal laboratory-based experiments and courses, in the GNSI the student is in complete control over what gets done, how to do it, and how to interpret the results.  For students with an interest in research, this could be just what you are looking for.  As a bonus, we have a team of experts that will help you design and debug your payload, and to (hopefully) improve your experiment's chances of success.

At the present time, I have to restrict participation in the GNSI to ~20 students, preferably in their fourth year of study here at Guelph.  Each team will have 3-5 students, and will collectively develop one payload module.  In addition to the direct scientific skills associated with your payload in the Near Spacecraft, students will also develop competencies in a large number of technical skills such as


  • electronics design and fabrication
  • microcomputer programming
  • data acquisition and analysis
  • project management
  • results presentation


What is the timetable?

My target is to launch the Near Spacecraft two weeks before or after the final examination period, Winter 2009.  We are very subject to the weather, wind patterns, and our own ability to get things done. To get everything learned, build and tested, we have to get moving as soon as possible.  It will mean weekly meetings, probably after 6pm, where we will go over the factual material, do some hands on work, and prepare for your team-based development project.


How would a student get involved?

Contact Prof. Paul Rowntree (Chemistry, CPES to get your name added to the mailing list.  We are meeting in MacN-307 (upstairs from the Tim Horton's)