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  • EARS with RNLI
    EARS crew and Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Lifeboat crew after the payload is recovered ©Laurence Stant

On the 7th June 2015 EARS travelled to Cambridgeshire to launch a high altitude balloon (HAB). On this occasion our HAB was carrying a payload for a company called Databarracks and for the Surrey Space Center. Databarracks had requested that we fly a Microsoft Server 2003 DVD case to help them commemorate the end of support for the Microsoft product. On behalf of the Surrey Space Center we were carrying a prototype cosmic radiation sensor to allow them to carry out tests on the sensor’s performance.

With clear sunny skies, light wind and predictions showing our most likely landing site to be just outside of Norwich we were set to prepare for launch.

After some final preparations we launched the balloon. In addition to the case and the sensor, it was also carrying three GoPro cameras, the flight computer and a smartphone, totalling 1.8kg in weight. The flight computer was meant to send out GPS coordinates by radio at 434.275MHz, allowing us to pinpoint its location with help from the community via http://tracker.habhub.org. Unfortunately this system failed meaning that we had to rely on the smartphone–based secondary tracking system to send us its GPS coordinates via text messages.

We released the balloon in Ellsworth, Cambridgeshire, expecting it to land in Norwich after around three hours of flight. Instead unexpected winds carried it 40 miles further east, where it landed 6 miles off coast in Great Yarmouth. We consulted the coast guard, hoping they could contact nearby vessels to retrieve it for us. To our surprise, they agreed to launch a training exercise involving two of Britain’s fastest lifeboats. Within nine minutes Caister Lifeboat had retrieved our payload and handed it to Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Lifeboat. The whole ‘rescue’ mission took less than thirty minutes.

Thanks to Great Yarmouth & Gorleston Lifeboat and Caister Lifeboat, the project was a success. If you’d like to find out more about how our latest hab worked visit our wiki. We’re always happy to help more people get involved with high altitude ballooning. If you’ve got a cool idea for a project just send us an email at ussu.ears@surrey.ac.uk.

You can see a video of us chasing EARSHAB2 here:

The video made by Data Barracks using our footage is here:

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