Nova is a student run project to develop high altitude lighter-than-air craft that can reach the edge of space. Vehicles at high altitude (25-40km) have a wide range of applications including education, atmospheric research, surveillance and a platform for launching a rocket into space.

We aim to develop adaptable vehicles that can be used for a wide variety of applications to enable us and others to explore the potential of high altitude flight. The primary purpose of the Nova project is as a testbed for Comet & Martlet electronics.


To date, Cambridge University Spaceflight have launched 19 missions under the Nova project. Some notable ones follow. More information can be found on the wiki.

Nova 19

Another UK altitude record for CU Spaceflight at 36206 m! The dual payload consisted of the Squirrel project using a Nexus One smartphone flight computer and the Weasel payload, consisting of an Arduino tracker and a Canon A560 camera.

CUSF Nova 19
The horizon from 36km as seen by Nova 19

Nova 8

Our second dawn launch aiming to capture sunrise from near space and test a new prediction and tracking system. We planned to launch at 4am and got off the ground at 4:07am watched by a large number of people via Ustream. Our backup telemetry was also streamed to the Internet allowing people to follow the progress of the flight.

The balloon carried a payload of the Badger 1 flight computer loaded with our new predictive software and three digital cameras plus the HAPS-D (High Altitude Photo System Dawn) camera.

A stunning dawn horizon captured by the HAPS-D system on Nova 8

The predictive tracking used wind speed and drag data collected during the flight to update the team with the possible landing site. The model proved to be a great success and we were able to drive and wait less than one kilometer from the actual landing site. The camera systems all functioned correctly producing some stunning imagery which can be found on our Flickr. The only slight disappointment was that we only reached 32.9 km so our previous altitude record still stands.

Nova 7

This was our first dawn launch, aiming to photograph sunrise from near space. We calculated a launch window of 3:10-3:20am, prepared the payload and got off the ground at 3:21am. With hindsight, we should have launched earlier as our altitude was lower than expected when sunrise started.

Telemetry was good again, and we were remotely tracked live on the highaltitude99 forum by those who stayed up to see the record being broken again. Sadly, a problem with the onboard cameras occurred, resulting in only getting a few decent pictures before the cameras cut out. The photo shown here is one of the tantalising few that came out, and it is easily enough to spur us into doing another dawn launch soon.

One of the only images captured by the Nova 7 camera