Why?

As a result of the 2014 UK space industry Innovation and Growth Strategy review, the UK industry was tasked with exploring the outreach possibilities offered by the flight of ESA astronaut Tim Peake to the ISS (see the action plan). UKspace devised a science experiment competition which would promote engagement between schools and the space industry, and identified the Raspberry Pi Foundation as its partner to achieve this.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a registered educational charity whose mission is to advance the education of adults and children, particularly in the field of computers, computer science, and related subjects. They developed a powerful, low-cost computer called a Raspberry Pi to bring affordable, accessible personal computing to people all over the world.

rsz_b-

The proposed plan was to issue a competition to schools with a number of thematic software and hardware challenges, covering some of the diverse needs of the space industry such as survival in the space environment, measurement and calibration, hardware reconfigurability, and image processing. At the core of each of these thematic challenges would be the Raspberry Pi and associated peripherals, which would act as the platform for the winning competitors to send their software into space.

The Astro Pi competition was the result of this endeavour, and the Sense HAT and flight case were made especially for the mission.