22nd June 18
On June 15th, a team of aspiring young engineers successfully launched and recovered a high altitude balloon (HAB) in the province of Ciudad Real. The adventure started months prior to the event as students came together to organize and design their first launch – this included the planning of all necessary flight equipment and the construction of a payload box containing a GPS tracker, an APRS radio frequency tracking device, and two HD cameras. During the design process and a few days before launch, the team had to carefully forecast the expected flight trajectory by taking weather conditions, balloon size, helium quantity, parachute drag, and total payload weight into consideration. Careful testing of all tracking equipment was carried out to ensure successful real-time tracking and coordinate pinpointing on the day of launch.
It was an exciting and nervous Friday morning as we departed for our launch site at El Castillo de Peñarroya, near Tomelloso. Upon arrival, we enjoyed lunch inside the castle walls with a splendid view of Lake Peñarroya and discussed our preparation plans. After two hours of final work and equipment testing, the team was ready at last. We released the balloon and within minutes, the APRS radio frequency tracker began broadcasting the coordinates, altitude, speed, and direction of our flight. After roughly 80 minutes in the air, the balloon burst at a maximum altitude of nearly 28,000 meters – about three times higher than the altitude of most commercial airlines during flight, just at the top of the ozone layer in earth’s stratosphere. We carefully tracked the decent of our payload, and in less than an hour, we had the exact coordinates of the landing site via our GPS tracker. Just before sunset, we traveled 42 kilometers from our original launch site and began the search – and within five minutes, we found our payload in perfect condition!
Our cameras collected beautiful images and video footage of the ascent, earth´s surface, and outer space. Most importantly, however, the team had a fun and educational time accomplishing the seemingly impossible. We set forth with the primary objective to turn dreams into reality through the application of science and technology – and here we now stand with all equipment intact and stunning images of the whole journey. A big congratulations to Camino Sabio Aedo, Ana Frutos García, Guillermo Pulido Muñoz, Fernando Martín de Laá, and Guillermo Reid Tenney Díaz for the grand accomplishment – you are an inspiration to us all.