23/06/16 – Post Launch Update

High Altitude Balloon Launch 

Well we did it!

After months of research, planning, fund raising, organising and forecasting, on Wednesday 22 June 2016 at 10:49, the Pi Code and Chips Club launched a High Altitude Balloon into near space. And here’s one of our pics to prove it.


Preparations at the launch site went well, considering we had never done this before.


The children looked on as the payload (Polystyrene container, covered in yellow hazard tape) lifted off under the power of a large helium filled weather balloon.



Following a nail biting, nerve wracking flight, up, up and away over North Devon, CAEN_CP1 crossed the Bristol Channel, skirted past the Brecon Beacons in Wales and after bursting at a fantastic height of 32,540 metres, it deployed its onboard parachute (A 4ft RocketMan). At 13:28 it landed safely in the middle of a nicely mown field SW of Dilwyn, NW of Hereford in Herefordshire.


The flight was being tracked and monitored in ‘Mission Control’ by Eve, Maya and Leo along with the rest of the team, Jimi, Tean, Roddy Bridgery (Chief Cameraman) and Oli Avery. They were all able to follow the balloon and the chase team on the Internet using the fantastic web resource HabHub.org.


Here is a pic of ‘Mission Control’. The tentage, vehicles and two Army Commandos from Logistic Support Squadron were kindly supplied by the Commando Logistic Regiment Royal Marines from RMB Chivenor.


The Radio Tracking (an essential component) was provided and manned by members of the Appledore and District Radio Club (Steve, Alan and Graham). We are very greatful for their help prior to and during the launch and for giving up their own time to make this project a success.

The payload contained a Raspberry Pi (a £6.00 Zero model), which is a small affordable computer designed to encourage children to get involved in Science, Technology, Electronics and Maths (STEM) activities, especially with real world applications – just like this one. Attached to the Pi was an 8 Mega Pixel Pi Camera and a Pi In The Sky (PITS) board which contained a Radio Transmitter and GPS.

After the successful lift off and a bit of re-organising, the chase was on. Oli Argyle, Hamish and Zac set off in a car with Hamish’s and Zac’s mums along with Mr Harvey and his wife in another car. Along the A361, up the M5 to Worcester and on towards Wales. We were able to track each other progress using Smart Phone Apps which uploaded our positions onto the same map as the balloon.

As we had the last known location (thanks to a local reciever) who was listening to the flight, we had a very good idea of where the payload would be. As we drove down one of the A roads towards the landing site the Radio burst into life (we were very close!).

We stopped and rigged up the ground radio tracking gear which consited of two Radio Scanners (bought by Mr Harvey) and two Yagi directional antennas (made and donated by Steve from the Appledore Radio Club). The children had used these before during a club night when they successfully found the payload hidden in the school grounds, so they had a good idea of how they worked.

Hamish and Oli manned one of the radios and Mr Harvey took charge of the other (just to be sure). We all walked in the general direction of the strongest signal, through a field of very long grass, along streams, through hedges and orchards – the closer we got the stronger the signal.

In the pic below you can see us on the Map (the car icon) and the payload CAEN_CP1 in the field to our NE. This pic is a screen shot from HabHub/Tracker which the club and Miss Fidges class have been using to track balloon flights and carry out flight predictions over the past few weeks.


We had no internet signal in the area so we were relying only on the hand held trackers to guide use however, with a stroke of luck, we received a phone call from Hamish’s Dad, who could see us on HabHub via the Internet. Armed with this information he was able to guide us onto the landing sight.

Finally, at 6:20pm, with much excitement and shouting, the children spotted the payload and parachute in a field. We returned to our cars and after a celebratory, much needed meal in a service station on the M5, we (and the payload) returned safely to Braunton.

The balloon reached an amazing height of 32,540 metres (three times higher than Everest) and using the onboard camera fitted to the Raspberry Pi we were able to capture some absolutely fantastic photos. Here is a small selection:

1. Rising over Braunton (view towards Saunton).


2. Above the clouds.


3. The Earth at approximately 32,000 metres.


4. Coming into land – steady, steady, we met these cows when we picked up the payload.


This has been an amazing experience for everyone involved and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has helped out either during the build up or on the day.

A special thanks to the parents, children, RMB Chivenor, the generous donations from the Vivian Moon Braunton Community Trust Fund and Jimmi Wiliams Grandad, Boots of Barnstaple for donating raffle prizes, Millie Norcott for her cake sale and finally the Appledore Amature Radio Club, without all of whom this project would not have got off the ground!.

If we have forgotten anyone please accept our apologies and thanks.

What’s next?


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