(1) To launch a helium balloon along with mascot and science package to an altitude of above 19,350 metres.
(2) To recover the launch vehicle along with footage and data telling us about the stratospheric environment.
We enlisted Chris and Alex from the Sent Into Space team to help us achieve these goals. They provided us with their expertise and the materials we needed to build and launch our vehicle. They also applied for the permissions needed to launch a vehicle to such a high altitude. This is important because aircraft in the area needed to know what we were planning to do.
A step by step guide to high altitude ballooning…
Step 1: building the launch vehicle.
Step 2: prepare your mascot.
Our mascot Schrödinger was provided by Miss Ellender and kitted out with the four house badges and the observatory logo.
Step 3: select a launch day.
We selected Wednesday 10th July as our launch day, there was some wind and a lot of cloud but we were confident that we could get the balloon into the air and reach our targets.
Step 4: launch!
Step 5: wait!
We all waited patiently and were able to track the progress of the balloon using an online tracker. The tracker provided us with real-time updates on the speed, altitude and location of the balloon.
Step 6: retrieve the launch vehicle!
We used GPS trackers to locate the landing site (near Coalville in Leicestershire). We were then able to pick up Schrödinger and his craft.
Step 7: analyse the data and video footage.
The onboard camera contained over two and a half hours of footage. Below is a selection of stills taken from the journey.
The data recorder showed that the highest point of the flight was 24,038 metres or 78,865 feet. Commercial airliners typically cruise at a maximum altitude of 12,000 metres or 39,000 feet.
How close is this to space?
The boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space is usually defined as 100,000 metres above the Earth’s surface, this is known as the Karman line.
However, there is another boundary known as the Armstrong line. This is the point above the Earth’s surface at which the atmospheric pressure becomes so low that water would boil at normal body temperature (37 oC). Any altitude above this would not be survivable by a human being unless they were wearing a space suit!
Our aim was to travel above the Armstrong line into an environment that for a human being is the same as being in space. The Armstrong line can be found at approximately 19,350 metres and our craft travelled 4688 metres higher than this.
Our temperature sensor showed that the lowest temperature reached outside was -45.25 oC and the lowest pressure was 19.5 mbar.
Despite all of this Schrödinger the mascot survived the journey and is now back in school waiting for his next adventure.
For advice on launching your own high altitude balloon visit the Sent Into Space website:
Special thanks to:
All of the students who worked on the project.
Chris and Alex from Sent Into Space.
Miss Rowell for guiding us through the construction.
Ms Blundell for her excellent parachute stitching skills!
Mr Leoni, Mr Peacock and Mr Christie for photographs and video footage on the ground.
The SSAT (Schools Network) and the IOP (Institute of Physics) for providing funding.