To Infinity and Beyond - The Coleham Weather Balloon Project
17 Jun 2022

James Warman drops in to Coleham School and finds it has become mission control for a project to launch a weather balloon into the skies of Shrewsbury.

Coleham Primary School temporarily become mission control and launch site for a stratospheric project this week. Led by teacher Tom Larkham and watched on by pupils, parents and staff, the school successfully launched a weather balloon high into the skies above Shrewsbury. 

The helium-filled balloon was equipped with GPS tracker, a camera, and was “piloted” by Tony the Parasaurolophus. The whole project was part of the school’s Space Cadet Club where Year 5 & 6 learn about science, meteorology, and astrology.

The launch was timed to coincide with the Belle Vue Arts Festival, which rather fittingly has this year’s theme as “'Journeys'. The school is also especially grateful to Phil Allmark from Asset Surfacing Ltd who generously provided the helium for the launch.

Coleham Primary School weather balloon launch

Tom explained, "The balloon will expand on its way going from about 2 meters wide at launch to around a 4 meters before attaining ‘Burst Altitude’ at around 30,000 meters. There it will pop and gently fall back down to earth under a parachute.

It’s expected to be up for around an hour to an hour and a half and it’s likely to head over Stafford before coming down safely somewhere near Derby.”

This is not the first time the school has launched a balloon. Last year Tom did a similar thing, and he was clearly happy with the launch this time:

“There’s only so much you can practice beforehand. Filling the balloon with helium is one thing you can only do at the time of launch so it’s a bit of an unknown factor. Last year we didn’t fill the balloon up enough and it only just made it over the nearby trees. We also lost its signal, but it was eventually found - on an island off the coast of the Netherlands! 

weather balloon tracker

"I remember the moment it was discovered, I was taking a class and the School Secretary come running in saying, "I’ve got a lady on the phone from the Netherlands! She’s found our balloon!"

With crowds of onlookers Tom was clearly relieved the launch was a success this year. As soon as it was released it soared straight up into the clear blue Shrewsbury skies. Checking its progress on his App, Tom announced “Its already over Telford Estate'.

The kids were clearly excited by the whole experience, and I wonder how much work will get done today whilst they wait to hear about the balloon and it’s intrepid pilot Tony.

What next for the Space Cadets? Well maybe next year they’ll go for a larger balloon, or maybe something else… watch this space!

For updates on the balloon (and Tony!), check out the school’s website:

Coleham primary weather balloon launch too
The balloon is airborne