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Annabel, Former Pupil

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Space: the Final Frontier

Friday, 04 April 2014

Bolton School In Space - High Altitude Balloon Project

At 1.30pm on Friday 4th April, staff and pupils from Bolton School Boys' Division successfully launched a tethered helium balloon from the playing fields to test, calibrate and make final adjustments to payload equipment in advance of a “live” summer launch which aims to send a capsule containing a high resolution camera and other experiments to the edge of near space.

Pupils have been working on the project for nearly eighteen months and all their hard work is at last coming to fruition. They aim to send an insulated capsule to an altitude of 100,000ft above the earth’s atmosphere to the edge of “near space”, to take photographs and capture video footage of the curvature of the earth, to track the flight with the help of amateur radio equipment and retrieve the payload wherever it eventually lands via GPS.

A dedicated team of talented Bolton School boys, co-ordinated by Mr Alec Jones, a member of the Central Services support staff and guided by Mr Chris Walker, Head of the Schools’ Technology Department, have designed and built the project from scratch. They have had to custom build most of the hardware, electronics and have written most of the software for the onboard computer themselves. The project has really captured the boys’ imagination and has demanded a high level of problem-solving skills to bring it to completion, reminiscent of NASA and the early days of space exploration. 

The venture will mark a first for Bolton School. Over the years, pupils have visited most continents, mounted expeditions to various places around the globe and have even built their own ocean going yacht, “Tenacity of Bolton”, to feed this need for adventure. However, this will be the first time they have attempted to leave the Earth and explore such an inhospitable but beautiful environment, where the temperature is down to -60 degrees C and where the oxygen content of the atmosphere is down to less than 0.1% of what it is on the surface.

The tethered test launch having been a success, the School will now apply to the Civil Aviation Authority for permission to go ahead with the real launch sometime during Summer Term in June. Details of this launch will be announced at a later date.

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Technology and Electronics students seal the box with Mr Walker, Head of Technology

Technology and Electronics students seal the payload box with Mr Walker, Head of Technology

The balloon starts to inflate with helium

The balloon is successfully launched on a trial run to 200ft

The balloon is successfully launched on a trial run to 200ft