After months of meticulous planning, our group of Y8 Scientists launched our high-altitude balloon (HAB) into the stratosphere. Much time over the previous week leading up to the launch had been spent preparing the payload, running many flight predictions and preparing all equipment required. Regular checks of the predicted flight path suggested that the balloon would not travel all that far from school, looking like it may end up just South of Chester. Over the week, the predictions changed slightly as more accurate weather data became available – at one point, it looked like it may end up landing on top of a Welsh mountain!
The morning of the launch arrived, calculations were done, predictions run and it appeared that once released it would land a few hours later just North East of Wrexham. The pupils spent time preparing the payload, attaching the parachute and then attaching it all to a latex helium-filled balloon – all in all, from the balloon to the payload, it was 25m long! Very carefully pupils filled the balloon with a precise volume of helium and then, after a count down, it was released, gently floating off into the air.
From this point, we tracked the flight of the balloon using GPS, the sensors on board and laptops on the bus. We quickly bundled into the minibus, with data and photos already downloading from the payload. Up it went, through 1000m and quickly beyond the highest point in the UK. As we drove towards where we had predicted it would land, the numbers kept tumbling by, 2000m, 5000m, 10,000m (more than the height of Everest!) and so it continued. Shortly after 1pm, the data recorded a height of nearly 28,000m, three times higher than a jetliner, more than 3 times higher than Everest and into the uppermost reaches of the ozone layer, but this was to be the highest point we reached – the balloon, now exploded, left the payload to begin its descent with the aid of the attached parachute. It was touch and go as to whether we would reach the landing zone to see it land – data was now changing every few seconds, altering the landing zone slightly but significantly if we wanted to watch it land. Then, as we parked up, jumped off the bus, we saw it disappear behind a hedge in a farmer’s field, no more than 100m from us.
Overall, it was a hugely successful launch with some amazing photos from beyond the ozone layer!