Intrepid students from a school in Worthing have sent cameras into space.
After months of computer programming, testing equipment and visiting primary schools to promote their project, Robert Vella and Kieran Malandain from Chatsmore Catholic High School and head of physics Peter Clarke launched the cameras at around 3pm this afternoon.
If everything goes to plan, the polystyrene capsule containing the cameras, computers and sensors will be carried by a large helium-filled balloon to the edge of space - 31km in the air - to take photographs of the curvature of the earth.
Speaking after the launch, Robert, 16, from Goring Street, Worthing, said he felt ‘completely exhilarated’: “I’m lost for words. I’m so glad it has gone so smoothly and that it is finally in the air.”
Once it reaches 100,000ft - three times the cruising altitude for aeroplanes - the balloon will expand to 9.1m in width when it will pop, causing the parachute to deploy and it to fall back to earth.
Using online prediction websites, the team believed the capsule - known as the payload - would be in flight for two and a half hours and should land north of Petworth. It should be sending readings of humidity, internal and external temperature, altitude, speed and pressure during the flight, as well as a picture every ten seconds, to the team on the ground.
Mr Clarke and the two students are currently tracking its progress using the GPS in the capsule while driving towards its expected landing spot.
The project is the brainchild of Kieran, 16, from Seafield Avenue, Worthing, who got his teacher and Robert involved.
The two Year 11 students pitched to the school’s governors for £1,500 to pay for the equipment, which included a digital single lens reflex camera and a 360 degrees 4K video camera which will produce an immersive video when the footage is retrieved.
Over the months, Robert designed computer programs for the flights written in Python programming language which he learned in Computer Science. His father Peter Vella recalled his son staying up late at night to finish them and build circuits for the computer, and Robert and Kieran testing out the receivers between Worthing Pier and Goring Gap.
He said: “Rob has lived and breathed this project since it’s inception.
“If I was at school now, I would have loved to have done something like this.”
Kieran’s dad he was ‘incredibly proud’ of his son’s achievements.
According to headteacher Peter Byrne, if the mission was successful it would be the first time this type of equipment had ever been sent into space.
He said: “I am extremely proud of the students and Mr Clarke. They are doing something that you would not think of doing until university, but they have written the code and done the calculations. It is really impressive.”
Visit @CHITS_Project on Twitter for live updates.