Fakenham Academy balloon soars into space

A vew of the earth from near space, captured by FANHAB1.

A vew of the earth from near space, captured by FANHAB1. - Credit: Archant

After months of planning and preparation, and one postponement due to poor weather, a group of Fakenham Academy Norfolk students launched a High Altitude Balloon (HAB) into the Near Space region of the earth's atmosphere reaching a height of 26,533m.

Ready for lift-off.

Ready for lift-off. - Credit: Archant

The students launched the helium-filled latex balloon, named FANHAB1, from Elsworth in Cambridgeshire. It climbed steadily towards the heavens for 80 minutes, capturing some stunning images of the curve of the earth through its on-board camera.

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

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.

It continued to rise until 12:13pm, when it had reached an altitude of 26,533m, before the balloon burst and its payload parachuted back to earth.


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Although the payload stopped transmitting shortly afterwards, it was successfully located in a field at Hack's Grove near Peterborough.

The Fakenham Academy students, aged 12 to 13, involved in the project were Brandon Archer, Chloe English and Charlie De Jong Cleyndert.

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Year 8 student Charlie De Jong Cleyndert, 13, said: '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.'

IT teacher Sue Gray 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. They were a real credit to themselves and their school.'

The Fakenham Academy Norfolk team were supported by Dave Akerman and the Raspberry Pi Foundation education team, Steve Randall of Random Engineering as well as other members of the Skycademy Team Stratus who went along to the launch to observe and assist as they are also preparing to launch this summer.

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