Near Space Balloon Launch


Corsica River

On Friday, Nov 18 The Gunston Science and Engineering Club successfully launched and retrieved a near space balloon. This high altitude balloon, dubbed “Heron 4” as it is the fourth in a series of balloon missions launched by Gunston students, reached an altitude of 18.5 miles above the Earth’s surface. At that point the balloon burst as planned and the instrument package was delivered safely to Earth via parachute. The instrument package contained tracking equipment which reported the balloon’s position every 60 seconds to the tracking team at Gunston and to a chase and retrieval team that was following Heron 4 from below.

The goal of the mission was to photograph the Chesapeake Bay area from an altitude “near space”, above 95% of the Earth’s atmosphere. At these altitudes the sky becomes black as there are few molecules to scatter the sun’s rays. The curvature of the Earth is also notable in our photographs, although the wide-angle camera lens exaggerates the effect. The instrument package returned to earth after its 2 hour journey at Hooper’s Landing, a golf course in Seaford, DE. The package landed in a small pond.


Delmarva Peninsula

Dr. Ken Wilson and Dr. Mariah Goodall mentor the Science and Engineering Club and Mrs. Alison Vooris lead the chase and retrieval team. Freshman Owen White prepared the payload. Twenty-four student are participating in the club this year including President Ryan Redding ’17, Vice president Alli Webb ’18, and Secretary Garrett Rudolfs ’18. Dale Wegner, father of Gunston Alum Jay Wegner, also provided invaluable assistance for this launch.

Goals of previous missions:

Heron 1 mission: high altitude photography
Heron 2 mission: measurement of pressure and temperature changes at the boundary of the ozone layer.
Heron 3 mission: measurement of cosmic ray radiation above the Earth’s atmosphere.
Heron 4 mission: high altitude photography

Letters to Editor

  1. Jeffrey Staley says:

    Congratulations to all of the Gunston students, parents, teachers and advisors involved with this project!

    The pictures are beautiful and I am sure everyone was excited about retrieving them. Realizing that we can all participate in some way in exploring and creating a better understanding of our world is both exciting and empowering.

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