Fakenham space shot success

Moments before the launch of FANHAB1 are (L-R) Charlie De Jong Cleyndert, Chloe English, Mrs Sue Gray (ICT Teacher) and Brandon Archer ANL-160513-111556001
Moments before the launch of FANHAB1 are (L-R) Charlie De Jong Cleyndert, Chloe English, Mrs Sue Gray (ICT Teacher) and Brandon Archer ANL-160513-111556001

After months of planning, preparation and one postponement due to the weather, Fakenham Academy have finally managed lift-off.

The students launched a High Altitude Balloon (HAB) into the Near Space region of the earth’s atmosphere at the weekend – with FANHAB1 reaching a height of 26,533m.

The students launched the helium-filled latex balloon from Elsworth, in Cambridgeshire, on Sunday, May 8.

FANHAB1 climbed steadily towards the heavens for exactly 80 minutes, reaching Near Space (approximately 26Km above the earth’s surface), and capturing some stunning images of the curve of the earth through its on-board camera.

The pupils were able to track the balloon’s progress from the ground thanks to its “payload” which contained a Raspberry Pi computer and tracking boards.

The students all helped with the pre-launch preparations of putting the payload together and preparing the “train”, consisting of the balloon, a parachute, the payload plus fifteen metres of cord.

After being launched at 10:53am, FANHAB1 ascended rapidly, reaching an altitude of 1,681m after just five minutes and 3,282m in the first 10 minutes.

FANHAB1 continued to rise until 12:13pm, when it had reached an altitude of 26,533m, before the balloon finally burst and its payload was carried by the parachute back towards the ground.

Although the payload stopped transmitting shortly afterwards, forcing the group to rely on a predicted landing location in order to find it, it was successfully located late in the day in a field near the River Glen at Hack’s Grove near Peterborough by one of the volunteers tracking the balloon.

The Fakenham Academy Norfolk students (aged 12 to 13) who have been involved in the project are Brandon Archer, Chloe English (Year 7) and Charlie De Jong Cleyndert (Year 8). Together with their IT teacher, Sue Gray, they have joined the UK’s small but growing community of High Altitude Balloon (HAB) enthusiasts, thanks to the Raspberry Pi Skycademy initiative.

Year 8 Fakenham Academy Norfolk student Charlie De Jong Cleyndert, 13, said after an exciting and eventful day: “Launching the high altitude balloon was awesome! Filling the balloon with helium was the most exciting, but scary, thing. I had to hold the balloon in case it decided to fly away. Because the balloon was so thin, a bit of grass, or my hair, could pop it!”

Mrs Gray, who runs the after-school computer club, said: “We’ve had quite a long wait for this moment, having originally planned to launch in February, so it was fantastic for the students that FANHAB1 successfully reached Near Space. The students were amazing, confident when handling the equipment and took care of the tracking confidently and calmly.”

Stratus who went along to the launch to observe and assist as they are also preparing to launch this summer. They are one of 401 High Altitude Balloon teams worldwide taking part in the Global Space Balloon Challenge (GSBC).