The results are in – the Challenge team are pleased to announce that Epsom College have swept the board and claim all three £1000 prizes for the highest altitude, the greatest distance and the greatest endurance balloon flights. They put in a Herculean effort, launching 6 flights in all (with a seventh in reserve for the evening of 31st December). The students who built the balloon payloads were inspired and proactively led by two very enthusiastic teachers who engaged with our competition in a most positive way. From the outset, their appetite for the Balloon Challenge, and their determination to win it, was palpable.
Ryde School with Upper Chine were also enthusiastic competitors. The Ryde team planned their flights with full appreciation of NOTAM requirements; and with commendable attention to the engineering detail of optimal gassing – the trick being to put not too much gas into a balloon. In the event, the Ryde balloon flew furthest and for the longest duration (by a large margin), but since the balloon itself had a larger bursting diameter than the maximum size permitted in the Challenge, their attempt could not be ratified as a competitive entry. It was, nevertheless, a significant achievement in its own right.
The Challenge Team would also like to take this opportunity to announce a further prize to be awarded from the Challenge – the ‘surprise prize’ – which will be awarded to Ryde School with Upper Chine in recognition of their participation in the competition. Kindly donated by Chris Hilcox of HABsupplies.co.uk, the prize is a free high altitude balloon flight at a time and place of their choosing within mainland UK. Chris will provide a balloon, helium, and all the bits and pieces to make it happen. Ryde will be able to take their flight in any direction they want; trying to go much higher, doing a tandem balloon flight, trying to float a balloon around the world, or maybe doing some aerial photography.
Prizes will be awarded at our prize giving event on 10th February 2017, to be held at MOD Boscombe Down. The event will be attended by representatives from our sponsors, QinetiQ, University of Southampton, and HABsupplies.co.uk, and our supporters, Cameron Balloons. We will also be welcoming representatives from the headquarters of the Royal Aeronautical Society, including the President, Prof. Chris Atkin.
A few of the students from one of the schools that has already launched, Epsom College, has kindly prepared a short blog post talking about their efforts:
"Scrutineers from MOD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire visited Epsom this week to witness the launch of the College's first entry in the Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge. A STEM outreach event, the Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge has been organised by the Boscombe Down Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society to celebrate the society's 150th Anniversary. It is open to all schools to enter and seeks to challenge students in a field that is not normally available to them. The main objectives are the development of a telemetry unit and selection of a balloon to try and achieve any, or all, of three goals: The highest altitude; the furthest distance from launch; and the longest flight duration.
Given the strong wind and weather conditions, the College's first entry was for the distance category. The high pressure foil balloon was launched on Epsom Downs on Tuesday by 6th formers Thomas Grealis, Darren McGaghey, Aiden Finlay and Pavel Dokazov with the Boscombe Down scrutineers on hand to ensure that the College team adhered to the comprehensive set of rules that govern the challenge. The team managed to track the flight of the balloon 224.64 kilometres from Epsom to its landing point in the North Sea. Having posted the flight plan on habhub.org, people from around the country and in the Netherlands helped to track the balloon as the line of sight from Epsom Downs was lost."
Well done Epsom College!
If any other schools would like to post here on their efforts then please contact myself via the team email address or your STEM ambassador.
Quick update to let you know that schools have begun launching their balloons and I hope to have some photos, video and words from each launch. Some schools are attempting for several of the prizes and we are now having several launches a week booked. We can only scrutineer one launch a day so please get your dates booked in as soon as possible by contacting your STEM ambassador or the team email address. A current launch diary can be found on the Resources page of this website.
Best of luck to everyone launching!
Our Summer Update is brought to you by James Baseley, Treasurer of the Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge!
Towards the end of June some of our participating schools spent the day with us at MOD Boscombe Down in Amesbury. The purpose of this visit was for the entrants to gain an insight into the test and evaluation activity that is carried out here by the partnership between the UK MOD and QinetiQ. There was also an opportunity for the students to test their initial balloon payload designs in our Environmental Test Facility (ETF), putting the transmitters through their paces at temperatures as low as -56 degrees Celsius!
After the morning site health and safety briefing, payloads were delivered to the ETF cold chamber whilst the students were given a tour of the apprentice hangar by Ryan Potter. This hangar is used by the apprentices in the first years of their careers at QinetiQ and it is where they learn vital knowledge on aircraft maintenance and serviceability through hands on experience. Ryan took the students round a selection of aircraft and everyone had a seat in an aircraft cockpit – the highlight of the trip for some!
The rest of the morning was spent enjoying an aeronautical themed quiz run by Saarim Siddiqi, as well as a presentation and Q&A session with Rod Angel, project lead. Subjects were brought up that got the students thinking about how they could tailor their balloon designs for maximum effect. These included thinking about the properties of the atmosphere and how this changes with height, high altitude effects on payloads and the likely behaviour of balloon envelopes during an ascent (and parachutes on subsequent descent!).
After a much needed lunch, the students caught the site shuttle bus across the runway to the ETF, passing other interesting facilities such as the rolling platform (used to simulate ship deck motion) and the anechoic chamber (used for complete absorption of sound and electromagnetic waves). Following a tour of the chamber, some group pictures were taken under the very large sun lamp and a video was shown on previous test and evaluation activities undertaken at Boscombe Down. Not long after, the payloads had completed their simulated “flight” and they were returned to their respective institutions. At this point the students really got an understanding of just how cold their balloons and payloads would be in the upper atmosphere – mainly because they were still completely covered in ice!
The payloads were tested to see if they still worked – the answer was yes but not as well as they had been before the flight period. This instantly prompted discussions on how the schools could insulate their payloads more effectively to result in a successful flight.
After a few more group photos the visitors were escorted back to the main gate where we said our goodbyes. Overall the feedback was positive and it was very clear that enthusiasm amongst the entrants was high as they left the site. For those who could not attend on the day, the visit showed that you must not to underestimate the extreme conditions of the atmosphere on a transmitting payload – something to think about during the design phase of your projects!
The Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge offers heartiest congratulations to Fedor Konyukhov and the Morton team for their fantastic achievement in completing a successful circumnavigation of the southern oceans by balloon. What an epic example of aeronautical planning and operations, underwritten by world-class aeronautical engineering at Cameron Balloons! Well done to those who made it happen!
I hope you are all keeping well and making good progress with the challenge. If you haven't entered yet then we are still open to all entries. Just drop me an email and we'll get you sorted and answer any questions you might have.
Our post today is about a group of students in Bristol who recently got in touch with us to talk about their own efforts with pico balloons. They are from the University of Bristol branch of the UK group called "Students for the Exploration and Development of Space" (UBSEDS). They've achieved some remarkable results and their most recent balloon UBSEDS15 actually managed to travel around the world.
Built with a custom envelope and payload, it traveled over 50,000km around the world spending 47 days in flight. All this with a balloon only 1.5m in diameter. Well done UBSEDS!
Head over to their website to find out more about how they did it.
It's truly incredible what can be achieved with these balloons and we hope that one day those involved in this challenge will be able to emulate their achievement.
After some thinking, it has been decided to extend the deadline for qualifying flights to 31st December 2016, thus all balloons launched up to and including the 31st December will be eligible for one (or more!) of our grand prizes. Don’t worry if you missed the boat the first time around, registration remains open to all and we’d like to remind everyone that schools are welcome to enter as many teams as they can to try to win all the prizes.
The advantage of this change is that we can therefore celebrate the entirety of the 150th Anniversary Year of the Royal Aeronautical Society! We are also aware of the time pressures around the end of the summer term (best of luck with exams everyone!) and hope that in moving the deadline more students can get a shot at trying their hand at High Altitude Ballooning.
So register now to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Aeronautical Society and be in for a chance to win your school up to three thousand pounds!
Just a quick update on our current progress. We now have 4 schools fully signed up to the contest and our ambassadors have been out paying them a visit to brief them on the competition and provide some helpful starting advice.
We've been amazed by the enthusiasm shown by all the schools we've visited and are delighted at how high everyone is aiming. We hope to start a spotlight section soon that will highlight all of the excellent engineering that the students are doing. I'm genuinely amazed at the ambition and talent on the display. UK Aerospace engineering certainly has a bright future. There is certainly going to be fierce competition for the prizes with some of the schools planning on entering multiple teams each to try and scoop the full £3000!
We'd also like to remind everyone that entries are not closed and we welcome more schools to enter. The more, the merrier!
Next month, we hope to continue progress on our own balloon and we're definitely going to step up our game to compete (don't worry we can't win the prizes!). We hope it will be a nice challenge for everyone to see if you can beat a team of actual aerospace engineers. I've got to say, I'm a little concerned we might lose to you guys as you've started so strongly!
Onwards and upwards until next month!
I hope you are all doing well!
To provide a bit of an update, we’ve decided to not have any formal entry date for schools at this time so as to allow as many teams as possible to participate. The only deadline is that any launch takes place before the end of August 2016 so that we have time to validate any results before the prize-giving in October. However, we would appreciate it, and recommend that, schools formally register no later than the end of May so as to give us time to mentor teams as well as teach them about ballooning and engineering in general.
As an additional bonus from QinetiQ, we should now be able to invite any school that enters before the Close of Play on 29th of April to MOD Boscombe Down near the end of June for a morning or afternoon visit to our world-leading Environmental Test Facility which has the largest climactic testing chamber in Europe and is capable of testing equipment at all temperatures naturally found on Earth. As part of this opportunity, you will be able to put your design into one of our smaller chambers where it will be exposed to the temperature profile that it will experience during a balloon ascent. This is a unique opportunity for teams to visit a professional testing environment and learn more about working in engineering.
If you do decide to enter before the end of April and are interested in this visit opportunity, please also provide a list of student names (no more than 6) and the accompanying teacher’s details (name, nationality, direct or mobile telephone number) with your entry form so that we can begin the process of booking people onto the site. As this is an active military base, there are several security protocols that must be followed and they require several weeks to complete. Unfortunately, this means any students and teachers visiting must be UK nationals.
Finally, you might be wondering what that logo at the top of this article is doing there. We are delighted to announce that the University of Southampton has generously agreed to provide half of the competition prize fund and get involved in the contest.
We hope to be able to announce more about our partnership with the University of Southampton in the near future and we'd like to thank them once again for their kind support.
Thanks for reading!
We are delighted to announce that QinetiQ have agreed to further sponsor the competition by buying Helium balloon gas for the first 18 schools that enter. This should reduce the cost to enter by approximately £25 per school.
If you have already submitted your completed entry form then do not worry, you need not do anything. We've already allocated your school Helium from the 18 available and your lead ambassador will contact you in the coming weeks to discuss how you can obtain it.
For those of you who haven't submitted your entry form (found here), get your forms in quick to save money and avoid disappointment.