element14, a collaborative global electronics community from Premier Farnell, has launched the Icarus Design Challenge for engineers to develop a two-way communication system between the ground and a weather balloon high above the Earth.

At present, Icarus, the project that has revealed expansive images of Earth from near space using a camera attached to a weather balloon, can only send communications in one direction – from a device that transmits coordinates to the ground station using 50 baud radio teletype (RTTY).The challenge is to develop a system that will enable reliable two-way communication, over a distance in excess of 50km.

The communication requirements are minimal in terms of data volume, and may be as low as one character per second. 

The winning designer will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to meet and get their system tested with Robert Harrison, who developed the initial project. The winner will also choose the image to be photographed.

Would-be designers are required to submit the circuit design and specification no later than 9 March 2012.