Weather balloon project takes off


On Memorial Day weekend in 2017, RAHS Satellite Club plans to launch a weather balloon in Ritzville, Washington to test their software for future use.


A special sub team was created to design and launch the weather balloon, comprised of juniors Miles Durnwirth, Brynne Hunt, Andrew Struthers, Josh Sherbrooke, and Cole Evans. Their main goal is to synthesize all the work they have done by launching a smaller project before their eventual satellite.


“A lot of people wanted to focus just on building a satellite,” said Evans, “but we’ve progressed a lot as a team and we want to get experience building something tangible that we’re going to launch.”


Durnwirth, who launched a weather balloon in his middle school days, feels that a weather balloon is logical step before launching an actual satellite.


“We wanted to test the systems,” said Durnwirth, “and if that goes fine, then, as a secondary goal, we’re kind of hoping it will break the speed of sound, which is very possible with the design that we’re using.”


Andrew Struthers and Josh Sherbrooke were tasked with the programming of the weather balloon software.


“Along with Josh, I’m the only other person [in Satellite Club] who knows how to program well enough to do anything on the balloon,” said Struthers, “and we need to have programmers, so I was put on the team.”


Hunt, on the other hand, is in charge of the business side of the weather balloon team, which includes reaching out to the community.


“We’re teaming up with the Highline School District,” said Hunt, “and we’re going to launch at least five middle school payloads, [such as] projects that they want to send on the balloon, under a 10 x 10 x 10 cm size constraint.”


Planetary Resources Director of Marketing and Communications Caitlin O’Keefe Dietrich is proud to say that the company has been mentoring and providing guidance to the club.


“We really hope to see the Raisbeck Aviation High School Satellite Club not only succeed in their goals of building and launching,” said Dietrich, “but also having opportunities to take away key learning points to help [their] future projects.


In fact, Planetary Resources, in their effort to support Satellite Club, donated balloons and parachutes to the weather balloon team.


“The main reason why we wanted to make sure we were involved in [the Satellite Club] is because we’re very dedicated to helping [them] promote [their] study of anything STEM related, certainly aerospace related,” said Dietrich. “We also have an investment in making sure that all the students there [at RAHS] have many learning opportunities to help prepare them for college.”


Planetary Resources is preparing not only for the future of the students, but also the future of the aerospace field.


“We feel that you are the future of our industry, and we want to do what we can to help you grow and succeed in the future, so supporting the Satellite Club is priority for us,” said Dietrich. “Also, offering things like internships is a priority for our team here at Planetary because we want to be involved in your path through high school and beyond.”


With every project comes unique challenges, and Satellite Club recognizes those challenges and is currently formulating plans to overcome them.


“Tracking is the main issue we’re having now, said Evans. “It goes up 120,000 feet and gets blown hundreds of miles by the wind, so we need to be able to actually find it after it lands because we have thousands of dollars worth of equipment.”


For Satellite Club, the whole experience of building and launching their rocket is what matters, far from the end product.


“I hope it works,” said Hunt. “If we can get everything together and get it to launch, even if it comes crashing down, I’ll still be happy. I’m just happy that it’s happening.”

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