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NKEC Space Agency Completes Successful Balloon Flight

On June 7, students and staff of the NKEC Space Agency successfully launched a weather balloon loaded with sensors and cameras into the upper atmosphere. The balloon was tracked to Hants County and retrieved on June 8, revealing atmospheric data and amazing video from the balloon’s journey thousands of metres above Earth’s surface.

A team of 10 students and four staff members coordinated the project: Students were Emma Kean, Crewe Bailey, Mackenzie Dean, James Sweet, Connor Scott, Aiden Hainstock, Aaron MacIntosh, James Munday, Jack Webb, Katherine Myers, Sierra Fraser, Ariel Lynch, Madison Armstrong, and John VanLuxemburg, with support and facilitation from teachers Miranda Allen (Biology, Science), Patty-Sue McLeod (Science, Math), Matt Crosby (Math, Physics) and Adam Conner (Math, Computer Science).

The project involved six months of planning. Preparations included programming Arduino micro-controllers to collect data such as GPS location, altitude, pressure, humidity, temperature and wind speed. The payload was also designed to carry two GoPro cameras to capture images and video of the journey. On top of the equipment, the launch itself had to be carefully planned, using weather models and predictions, and taking into account 

many variables that can affect the balloon’s flight path. (The black line on the map to the right shows the predicted flight path, while the orange markers show the balloon's actual course).

Of course, creating a package to carry and protect all of this specialized equipment is another part of the project. One unique feature of the balloon’s payload came about through a student team member’s ingenuity; the Spot GPS used to track the balloon must always face up to function properly, in spite of turbulence or the payload’s orientation when landing. To solve this dilemma, Connor Scott designed and built a gyroscopic mount using a hamster ball, which allowed the team to track the payload accurately throughout the flight and descent.

The payload was retrieved on June 8 in a wooded area between Upper Kennetcook and Shubenacadie. Watch a compilation video of the flight, landing and retrieval at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhwSK8660zU

Teacher Adam Conner credits fellow teacher Derick Smith at Annapolis West Education Centre for the idea of a space balloon launch, as Smith has facilitated similar space balloon launches with students at AWEC.

Photo (left): Retrieving the payload and checking equipment on June 8

Photo (right): Preparing to launch the balloon.

 

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