Darwen Aldridge Community Academy came up with the idea at the start of the year that they would like to do something really big during British Science week. “We realised that there would be a partial solar eclipse on the Friday of Science week so we thought we would have a space themed week.”
The plan was simply to see how high we could get a camera and then get it back again. We contemplated rockets, but realised that a large Helium balloon would go much higher. We did many preliminary checks including a wind predictors, gained a licence and sent notice to local airports before launching the balloon at the Academy on Tuesday morning.
The balloon lifted a parachute, a radar deflector and a payload box which contained the camera and some scientific instruments. The balloon was 2 metres in diameter before launch but due to the pressure difference at altitude swelled up to 10 metres which would cause the balloon to burst and deploy the parachute landing the camera and scientific equipment back to Earth. The balloon travelled at around 10mph on its ascent reaching a maximum altitude of 34km before it burst. The footage from this height give a wonderful insight into the thickness of the atmosphere, the fragility of our planet and the curvature of the Earth.
The equipment in the payload box included a camera and sensors sensitive to altitude, speed, temperature and pressure. The lowest recorded temperature was -45C, the fastest speed 30mph and the journey length 3hours 40 minutes. Also on-board were GPS locators which sent information to our mobile phones about the whereabouts of the balloon. We travelled to Hebden Bridge, where our flight predictor suggested the balloon would land. We received messages on the balloons descent and when it landed it gave us the coordinates which we put into Google Earth.” The balloon landed on the Airedale Shopping Centre in Keighley, and after we spoke to them on the phone they were wonderfully helpful in giving us a hand to get onto the roof and retrieve the balloon
“The footage we captured from the camera has blown the students minds and shown them what you can achieve with scientific knowledge and hard work. The students now want to launch a balloon at night so that they can see the stars more clearly.”