Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Recovery Attempt #2

Late on Friday we had concluded that we would likely not recover our payload until early next week but that all change when Chuck gave me a call on my way home.  He said that he would be able to go out to the site on Saturday morning where our payload was and see if he would be able to recover it for us.  I shared with him our coordinates and anxiously awaited that morning.

On Saturday morning just before 8 I thought that he might benefit from having a picture of what he was looking for so I sent along the following.


The coordinates marked while standing under the tree and a picture looking up at the payload.


Shortly after 8:30 I received a text, he had located the payload and was headed back out of the forest to get his gear to climb.  At this point I was excited and relieved.  I waited for further communication and about an hour later I received a text saying “Got it”.  I know that I didn’t out loud but I think an internal yell of WooHoo rang out.

His text was followed with these pictures.

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The payload hanging in the tree!

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Chuck himself who came out to the rescue.

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The look down for a top the tree.


And the payload safely sitting on the tailgate of his tree.

This followed with a few tweets…


The Chase and Recovery

Like any great adventure, there needs to be a chase and it all starts here just a couple minutes east of the launch site.


Navigating our way closer and closer we could see that our payload had landed in a forest.

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As we neared the GPS coordinates we could see the forest.IMG_0760

We arrived on site to this! Hmmm…the tweets said it all!




You can see our payload in the tree that looks like its growing out of the top right hand corner of the picture.  At some point while starring up into the trees, there was the idea of cutting down the tree to retrieve our package.

A visit to a local farmer/homeowner asking if we could borrow a chainsaw failed and we then returned to the house of the person whom we felt owned the forest land to tell them who we were and the situation that we were in with our HAB science project.  I did asked if they would be ok with cutting down the tree however, the farm and the trees had been in the family since they settled in the area nearly a century ago.

An alternate plan was considered, we needed to find someone who could climb the tree for us.  Many phone calls to local arborists and tree service companies were made.  I think Julie had a good laugh at our own expense because each call had me asking “Do you climb trees?”  Sometimes she could hear a laugh or odd comment come from the person on the other line.  One would assume that arborists/tree service companies would climb trees but not all do.  A few of those we spoke to about “climbing a tree” said that they would get back to us, one was Chuck Guy who said he would get back to us at some point on Friday.  It was the end of the business day so we were forced to call off the recovery of our payload.

We made a quick stop for a cold drink and a snack!  I recognized the gas station from one of my favourite TV shows “Suits”.  No selfie, but I had to make mention of this stop.


After a short drive back to the school, I made one more call to a family member who works for the fire department in the Whitby area, the thought “firefighters climb trees sometimes” or at the very least know someone who could.  He ended up connecting us with Chuck “The Tree” Guy whom we had already spoken to.  Maybe this would be the key to our recovery.  Our other option was our office managers son, who climbs poles as a part of his job.

SGTS Launch – #csvpsHAB

Through and through it was a day full of hands-on learning, excitement and adventure, the culmination of months of work.  Today we launched our high altitude balloon with parachute and payload attached from (44 13’ 55”N 79 46’ 50” W) just to the west of Egbert, ON at the Meteorological Service of Canada Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments. (That’s a mouthful!)



It is hard to reflect on the day in words so the majority of my look back at our day will be visual with a selection of photos and videos taken by the students in the group responsible for the visual documentation of the event.



We are ready to go, can we board the bus already?


On the road to Egbert, what a great day to launch a balloon!


The gateway to our launch site, inside those doors is where it all happens…wait we didn’t kaunch a balloon indoors!


A flat, open area, facing south, unobstructed by anything that would have interfered with our launch.IMG_4892

Lacey was getting use to hanging out upside down.


Preparations of the launch area.  Getting everything organized and ready was key to a successful, efficient launch.


The helium needed to be brought down to the launch site from the garage within the CARE facility.  The was a question asked of us whether or not we wanted to inflate the balloon indoors out of the wind.  A the students had watched int he many youtube video on HABing most launches occur outside.  So we proceeded to setup to inflate outside the building.


Lloyd resident meteorologist working for NAVCAN was checking out the contents of our payload.  I must say he was quite impressed with what we decided to send up with our balloon.  Well done team!  The research paid off.



Getting all of the technology up and running was challenging when looking for LED indicators to show in full sun.


The final additional of Lacey and her wooden plank.


Our friends Lloyd, Bernard and Liisa discussing how nice it was to get out of the offices/labs and outside to join in on the fun of our balloon launch.


Test launch of a party balloon to gather an idea of which way the wind would blow our balloon on launch.


The payload and parachute all strung out read to be attached to the balloon once it was ready and inflated.

The videos below cover the efforts of the students, ourselves and the experts for the CARE facility as we near launch.  At this point we are T-minus under an hour.

Recorded by Ryan N.

Periscope feed by Mrs. Simons

Following our successful launch of our high altitude balloon, we headed inside the office/lab building to grab a quick snack and had a great discussion about all things science that occur at the launch site with our experts Lloyd, Bernard and Liisa.  Students then had the opportunity to have a tour around the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments.

The tour of of the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments featuring Liisa Jantunen, Bernard Franski, Lloyd Barnaby, Nick Spayda (IMPROVE Network) and Kulbir Banwait.

Meanwhile, Julie (Miss Harper) and I headed off on the chase of our balloon.

The SGTS High Altitude Balloon takes flight today…

I must admit that I should have checked off the list, “sleep” but knowing that today was our launch sleep was not happening as it should have.  That being said I am here at school, knowing that we are ready to roll out shortly after the kids arrive at school, attendance is taken and the bus is reloaded.

This mornings prediction for the flight path…NOT what was seen last night…landing further south and east.  It is obvious that forecasted winds have picked up.

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The kids should be here momentarily…We a T-minus 2 hours!

Tomorrow is “Launch Day”

That’s correct tomorrow IS the day we have been working towards since the end of January, four months effort all wrapped together into a span of a few hours to gauge our success in being able to send George “Lacey” to space “near-space”.  After running the predictor just a few minutes ago and importing that data into Google Earth you can see that our predicted landing location (PBL (27-940)) is a favourable one so it looks like we are a “GO”.  Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.54.24 PM 

The T-minus 24 hour checklist,

  • confirm buses
  • notify Egbert (Liisa) that we are a go
  • load Julie’s car
  • submit NOTAM (Notice to Airmen)
  • get sleep
  • ignore the changes in the predictor (Yeah right!)

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 6.05.03 PM

From the morning prediction (Red), to the afternoon (Yellow) to the 12 hours to launch (blue), our landing site moved further south and west.  Lets keep our fingers crossed that no further changes occur in the forecast overnight!

T-minus less than a week

With less than a week to our launch of Countryside’s first HAB (High Altitude Balloon) and everything ready to go there is only one thing to do, run predictions for the flight of our balloon.  Some may ask why we might do this but the answer is quite simple, weather forecasts which include forecasted wind strength and direction change daily if not more frequently and in Southern Ontario where there are many unfavourable landing sites knowing where our payload would land is key to the success of our project.

Predictions in the days leading up to our launch, shown below were prediction landfall to be a little wet which given that our payload consisted mostly of electronics was NOT in our favour.

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With 24 hours notice needed to cancel our buses, Thursday the 21st at around 9am would be the last time we would run a prediction for our launch.  This prediction would dictate whether we would launch on our first planned date.

Unfortunately, this was what we saw with that prediction.

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Calls were made, buses were cancelled, those in Egbert were notified of our postponed launch and a new date was set.  Launch day #2 was set, Thursday the 28th of 2015 would be our new 1st attempt at launching a high altitude weather balloon.

Predictions for the 28th…looking good!

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The 1st #csvpsHAB launch is set…

That’s right months of work has come down to these final days as we prepare for the launch of the 1st #csvpsHAB (Countryside Village Public School High Altitude Balloon).  With approximately 7 days until our first set launch day (Friday the 22nd of May) there are a few things yet to do like confirm the bus and pack the supplies.  This seems to be a simple enough task to complete over the next 7 days but I am sure like everything with a deadline, the hours and days will pass and the launch will be upon us.  The only thing that could change that is an unfavourable landing location (lake, major city centre, or somewhere potentially inaccessible like Darlington Nuclear or the middle of Algonquin Park).

Current predictions see us landing just southeast of Peterborough, ON and Rice Lake and approximately 10Km north of Coburg.  All considering the obstacles that south central Ontario poses this seems to be a favourable landing site for our payload.  At this point nothing will need to be rescheduled.

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Site Identified and Requests for Permission to Launch Initiated

The site @ (44 13’ 55”N 79 46’ 50” W) just to the west of Egbert, ON.


A few emails written to York University and the department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering put us in contact with Regina Lee, Arthur Lin and Robert McLaren.  Follow up emails went out to Robert and Andrew Sheppard, Stewart Cober and Liisa Jantunen of Environment Canada at the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments and within a few hours of emails bouncing around we had approval to launch from Egbert and helium to fill our balloon.


The Search for a Launch Site

The denial of our request left us searching for a new site to launch from.  So, what would make a suitable site?  Most of the students shared that we needed a space that was;

  • free from obstructions (buildings, power-lines, trees or anything that our balloon and payload system could get caught up in),
  • would leave us landing in a favourable location (preferably land based)
  • was located outside the 26NM (Nautical Mile) zone around Pearson International Airport which is the first map below is the outer most ring around Pearson.  The second map shows the major flight corridors in and out of Pearson.

image001 (1)image004

Armed with Canadian Atlases the students scoured maps of Southern Ontario for sites approximately 1 hours distance away from our school and YYZ.  Numerous sites we identified by the students (our Crew) most falling north and west of our school and well outside the 26NM zone.  Those that I recall the students suggesting were; a community centre in Palmerston, ON., Minto, ON., and Walkerton, ON.

While the students were hard at work, Ms. Harper and I followed up on the previous launch site request that had be denied where it had been suggested by NAVCAN’s AERONAUTICAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT team that we consider a launch location often used by a group from York University located at a place called Egbert just outside of Barrie.

Not knowing all of the details about this launch site in Barrie we asked for further information from those at NAVCAN about the site, and those who had previously used it to launch HAB’s. After an email circulated amongst several members at NAVCAN offices we had the location of the York University launches (44 13’ 55”N 79 46’ 50” W)

Next up, gaining permission to launch from this site.  Time to send a few emails to York University and the department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering to see who we would need to speak with in regards to gaining permission to launch from this site in Egbert, ON because from the looks of the image below, it’s not exactly a field we can just show up at, setup and launch our balloon from.

Countryside Launch Pad (DENIED)

Our request to launch from Countryside Village has been DENIED.  The reply to our request reads,

“Unfortunately, given the proximity to CYYZ (Toronto Pearson) and very little track information, this launch would impact both departures and arrivals.  We are therefore unable to authorise this activity with the terminal airspace.  The launch site is approximately 2.5NM north of the downwind for RWY 05/23, as well as potentially impacting our arrival corridor from the NW.  If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us”

Given this unfortunately news we are now in search of another launch site which will provide us much less flexibility when it comes to the date we launch becuase we will need to book a bus to transport the group our to the eventual launch location.

Up next, the search for a site.  What will give us the best possible launch site and meet a need to maintain air safety in Southern Ontario?

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