Astro Pi: New chance to send your code into space!

Right now, British ESA astronaut Tim Peake is using one of our intrepid Astro Pi flight units, Ed, to run UK school students’ code on board the International Space Station. Ed’s sister unit, Izzy, will be turned on next week to carry out more students’ experiments. These two specially equipped Raspberry Pi computers are running apps and investigations made by young people in our Astro Pi competition last year, and if you’re aged 18 or under and in the UK, we’re thrilled to be able to offer you another chance to send your code into space!

If you’re already working on our new coding challenges, be sure to read on for news of a new requirement that we have introduced to one of them, to take account of operational constraints we have to abide by in order to run code on the ISS.

New Coding Challenges – Astro Pi

2016 challenges: your code in space! Write Python code to turn our flight units into an MP3 player for Tim Peake, or write a Sonic Pi tune for him to play.

Tim Peake explained to us that he enjoys listening to music while exercising, which is a daily activity for him during his mission. But he won’t be able to upload new music to his player because the software used for this isn’t allowed on the ISS laptops. To solve this problem, Tim invites UK students to try two coding challenges: one is to write a program to turn an Astro Pi flight unit into an MP3 media player that he can operate using its buttons, and the other is to write a tune in Sonic Pi for him to listen to on the MP3 player.

You can try both challenges, or just one. Up to four winners for each challenge will have their code uploaded to the International Space Station and run on Tim Peake’s Astro Pi units.


The Sonic Pi music challenge is an exciting, creative challenge that you can carry out whether or not you have any experience of coding, and without any special hardware. Go to the Sonic Pi music challenge page to see exactly what you need to do, and to find resources that will introduce you to everything you need to know to start work on an amazing electronic tune for Tim.

Sonic cover

The MP3 Music Player challenge is an interesting task for people who already have some experience of Python programming. For this challenge, you’ll need to use hardware the same as Tim’s to develop and test your program, so you’ll need access to a Raspberry Pi and a Sense HAT, which are available to buy online. The MP3 Music Player challenge page explains the requirements for your MP3 player, and links to resources that will help you meet them.

We’ve added a new requirement for the MP3 Music Player challenge since announcing it earlier this month, because the European Space Agency has explained that, due to operational constraints, we can’t upload new Raspbian or Pip packages to the ISS to support the new coding challenges. You can read more about the restriction and what it means on Astro Pi’s GitHub. Happily, it’s not hard to work around this restriction, and to help you get going, we’ve created two examples of MP3 playback that are known to work on the Astro Pis in space, and that you can adapt and integrate into your own code.

Tim on ISS w Astro Pi mission patch

It’s not often that you get the chance to send something you’ve created into orbit – don’t miss out! Check out the new challenges, pick one and start working on your code to send into space. You’ve got until 12pm 31 March to submit your entries. We, Ed, Izzy and Tim can’t wait to see them.