Croydon High School, in partnership with the University of Bath and experts Professor Cathryn Mitchell and Dr. Robert Watson, specialists in space and atmospheric physics, announced the success of its Astrogazers project.
This project involved launching a weather balloon into space. A team of girls from Year 5 – 11 launched two meteorological balloons that ventured to an altitude of 32,380 metres. The balloons carried essential equipment, including cameras, data loggers and GPS trackers designed to explore how different materials respond to atmospheric conditions.
Arabi Karteepan, Head of Physics at Croydon High School for Girls, started the Astrogazers club in 2021 with the goal of inspiring girls to pursue their interests in physics, engineering, and space-related careers.
The first launch took place on 30th June 2023, from the University of Bath campus, but was unsuccessful due to strong gusts of wind.
Undeterred by the launch failure of the ‘generation 1’ payload, the students of Croydon High School worked hard over their summer holidays to prepare for another launch with two ‘generation 2’ payloads being launched in September, each named after a pioneering female figure in Physics – Jocelyn Bell-Burnell and Helen Sharman. The payloads were named Sharman payload and Bell-Burnell payload.
On 12th September 2023 both generation 2 payloads successfully launched with the flight predictor indicating a course towards Oxford, while the GPS tracker provided real-time position updates every 3 minutes, confirming its journey towards South Oxfordshire.
As Bell-Burnell payload travelled towards Oxford, the Croydon High team contacted the local Post Office to obtain permission to enter the private land where Bell-Burnell payload had landed. Paul Harwood, who worked in the local Post office and is the editor of the village magazine said that it was the most exciting thing that had happened in the village in quite some time!
The Astrogazers project was a huge success and the team were delighted that the weather balloon reached the edge of space.
Mrs. Karteepan said, ‘This balloon launch project provides a unique opportunity for girls to work together on a large-scale, real-world project outside of the classroom. I believe that diversity of perspectives and skillsets is crucial to tackling complex problems, and I am proud to be a part of empowering girls to pursue their passions in physics and engineering.’
The University of Bath supported this project through the use of their campus facilities and with technical support from Clare Cambridge, Siva Sivaraya and Linden Weyer-Brown. It was also supported by the Royal Society and Spirent Communications through an Industry Fellowship.