Getting Started with High Altitude Ballooning

Want to launch your own weather balloon in the stratosphere? Here are some resources to get you started:

The best approach to this project, especially for beginners, is to purchase a kit from several companies that are dedicated to weather ballooning. These companies provide you with most of the supplies required along with instructions on building, launch, and recovery. Two companies to check out are: High Altitude Science and Stratostar.

High Altitude Science Kit

We purchased the 600g Eagle Pro Near-Space Kit from High Altitude Science for $700. The kit contains:

  • Eagle Flight Computer: Ability to record pressure, temperature, altitude, and GPS. Worked great, but it wasn't weather proof.
  • Delta Flight Frame: A light and strong wooden frame to attach all hardware. Very easy to build and put together.
  • Camera Mount: To fasten a Go-Pro or other camera to capture the action!
  • Near Space Balloon
  • Parachute
  • Inflation Nozzle and gas regulator: For filling up balloon with helium. Very easy to set-up and safe.
  • Spot II Satellite Tracker: GPS tracker for recovering balloon. A $150 annual service subscription is required. This ended up being very finicky and caused a lot of stress during the project.
  • Eagle Flight Manual:  A manual with details on launching and recovering balloon. I found this manual was missing a lot of critical information that I had to search for elsewhere. I would have also liked more background information on the science behind the flight.

What Else You Need:

  • Helium
  • Ultimate Lithium Ion Batteries: AA, AAA, 9V
  • Micro SD Card (Flight Computer)
  • Go-Pro Camera, SD card, back-up battery
  • Audio Beacon (for easier recovery, but this can have a downside to be described in a future post)
  • Gloves (to prevent touching the balloon with bare hands)
  • Clipboard
  • Duct tape
  • Experiment: What do you want to spend to near-space?
  • Label or marker for adding contact information to payload
  • Spring scale to measure amount of helium in balloon
  • Lighter
  • Laptop for tracking balloon and transferring data
  • Tool box
Students preparing payload

Students preparing payload

Overall, I think that High Altitude Science provides a great product for educators. The equipment is easy to use, durable, and reliable. However, I would have appreciated a more in-depth manual and instructions. For example, I could not figure out how long to make the flight train attaching the balloon to the payload. Also, what kind of knots are required to attach the flight train? A more in-depth launch procedure would have also enhanced the manual. High Altitude Science has now added some tutorials to their website, which were very helpful. Also, adding lesson plans or support on how to integrate into the current science and math curriculum would have been awesome. Stratostar appears to provide more curriculum for teachers, so I am looking to check-out their company for a future launch.

-Natasha