Gunston Science and Engineering Club enjoy space balloon success
CENTREVILLE — On Nov. 18, the Gunston Science and Engineering Club 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 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. At these altitudes, the sky becomes black, as there are few molecules to scatter the sun’s rays.
The instrument package returned to earth after its 2 hour journey at Hooper’s Landing, a golf course in Seaford, Del. The package landed in a small pond.
Dr. Ken Wilson and Dr. Mariah Goodall mentor the Science and Engineering Club and Alison Vooris lead the chase and retrieval team. Freshman Owen White prepared the payload. Twenty-four students are participating in the club this year, including President Ryan Redding, class of ‘17, Vice President Alli Webb, class of ‘18, and Secretary Garrett Rudolfs, class of ‘18. Dale Wegner, father of Gunston alum Jay Wegner, also provided assistance for this launch.
The goals of previous missions were:
• “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.