Students at Summerland Secondary School are preparing to launch a balloon this morning

Students plan balloon launch

If weather conditions cooperate, students at Summerland secondary School will release a balloon on May 2.

If weather conditions cooperate, students at Summerland secondary School will release a balloon on May 2.

During its 2.5-hour flight, the balloon is expected to travel east 100 to 150 kilometres, reaching an altitude of more than 34,000 metres.

Trevor Knowlton, careers teacher at the high school, said the balloon will carry a series of cameras, an aircraft transponder and a spot GPS unit to track its location. It will also have a digital video recorder to record the video and still images from the flight.

Emily Henderson, a Grade 11 student, will coordinate a live broadcast to the McMillan Space Centre in Vancouver while Ryan Varchol, in Grade 12, will coordinate the filming which will be sent to the International Space Station.

Knowlton said around 20 students, from film, broadcast, woodworking, metal work, textiles and art are involved in the balloon project.

Knowlton, along with Principal Chris Van Bergeyk and Vice-Principal Doug MacDonald, are also involved, as is Jack Wrobel, a radio-controlled helicopter expert.

“This is probably the most complex balloon that’s ever gone up,” Knowlton said.

The balloon launch will be coordinated with transport Canada.

In addition, the public can watch live coverage of the flight online at

Later, the edited video will be posted to the site.

Knowlton got the idea for the balloon project in September, when he was invited to the Canadian Space Agency to attend astronaut Chris Hadfield’s launch.

“It’s a natural thank-you card to Chris Hadfield for what he’s doing,” Knowlton said.

During his time in space, Hadfield is serving as commander of the International Space Station.

When the balloon is launched, Transport Canada will restrict access to the airspace in the balloon’s path.

Once it lands, it all be recovered.

“We’ve carefully put a lot of components into it,” Knowlton said.


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