West Ferris School Near Space Program

The West Ferris Near Space Program has three primary goals: To challenge the students with a real-world engineering problem, to record and exploit experimental data with an eye toward future endeavours, and to provide contextual anchors that will help students understand and retain physics concepts, such as radio wave technology, terminal velocity and the conservation of energy in a closed system. For more information on this program contact teacher Kelly Shulman (VE3KLX) at kelly.shulman@nearnorthschools.ca

MOONSHOT: The Flight of Apollo '19

On Tuesday, May 14th students in Miss Shulman's physics class launched a high altitide balloon from the center of the football field. By 2:00pm, the retireval team was able to locate and retrieve the payload in the country-side just east of Powassan. Use the following links to download a selection of images from the mission. The download is a ZIP file containing multiple image files so the contents must be extracted.

Images from the Launch Site

Images from the Stratosphere

still still



Actual Flight Path


The class held a couple of debriefing sessions post-flight to get a look at the fruits of our labour. When we checked the SD cards we found that all cameras functioned throughout the flight, although the position of the video cameras shifted during the balloon explosion and so it did not capture the descent effectively. The still camera took stunning images throughout the flight including the descent. A selection of images from the launch and stratosphere are available for download from shulman.x10host.com

One goal for this mission was the Moonshot. But we did have some issues with the position of the video camera shot for a great deal of the flight such that the astronaut was not fully visible. However, the camera adjusted position when the balloon burst and we were able to get the Moonshot - our tribute to the Apollo 11 mission that landed on the Moon 50 years ago this July. Happy Anniversary NASA!


Both sets of sensor data from the flight were complete, detailing the temperature, pressure, heading and acceleration of the payload throughout the flight, as well as the voltage and power data essential to the on-board experiment designed by student Liam Kelly. Analysis of this data is a focus of the culminating project for the course: Each student will analyze an aspect of the data and present their findings in a report. This collection of analyses will be used in future missions to determine mission goals and inform design decisions.

Flight Data with Compass

Flight Data with Accelerometer

More specifically, compass data will be analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the weather vane in stabling the payload - didn't work very well. The kinematics of the flight will be investigated through the analysis of accelerometer data. Temperature data will be analyzed to determine the height of the ozone layer, among other things. Image analysis will be used to determine the altitude of the balloon when the image showing all of the North Bay area was captured. An analysis of the solar panel effectiveness will involve correlation with altitude, temperature and compass data.



GO: Apollo '19 Launch Tuesday, May 14 @ 10:30am

West Ferris students will proceed with the launch of a high altitude balloon from center field on Tuesday, May 14th. The launch procedure is set to begin at 9:30am, with the release of the balloon form the football field at around 10:30am local time.

Tracking the flight in progress: On the date of the flight the links below will provide real-time tracking of the flight.


Apollo '19 Launch Window Opens

On Tuesday, May 7th the launch window opens for West Ferris School’s High-Altitude Balloon flight. Grade 12 physics students have completed the design and build of the payload and flight train, and now wait for favourable atmospheric conditions to align. The mission is highly dependent on high altitude winds and so an exact date cannot be selected in advance. Once a day is identified, the actual launch date will be announced about 48 hours prior to the event.


The launch will take place at the centre of the football field at West Ferris Secondary School. At the launch a large helium balloon will be used to lift the payload to an altitude over 30 km, at which point the balloon will explode and the payload will return under parachute. A NOTAM will be filed to advise pilots and Transport Canada of the flight.

Dubbed Apollo ’19 as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, the complex payload includes three trackers, two video cameras and a still camera, an array of sensors recording in-flight data, as well as an experiment involving solar radiation capture. Student Liam Kelly has designed an integrated system that will study the most effective placement on the payload for solar panels; the analysis of his data will be used for innovations on future flights.

payload payload payload
payload payload payload


For more information on this mission and the West Ferris Near Space Program contact teacher Kelly Shulman (VE3KLX) by email at kelly.shulman@nearnorthschools.ca, or through the school at 705-475-2333.


Snow Day: A Canadian HAB Adventure

On October 29, 2018 a team of grade 11 West Ferris Secondary School physics students launched a high altitude balloon from the center of the football field. This was the beginning of a 5 day effort to retrieve the errant balloon from the dense interior of Algonquin Park. Three separate retrieval attempts were made before the balloon was finally located by student Jared Kelso.

Video courtesy of Jared Kelso Productions

For more information view the Mission Gallery Page.

launch strat