BLEAT factsheet, 21 November 2012

Hi, thanks for taking an interest in BLEAT! This factsheet covers some FAQs about the project; if you want to know more, please contact Luke on L.Surl@uea.ac.uk

What is BLEAT?

BLEAT stands for ‘Balloon Launch Exploration and Analysis Team’. It is a project by scientists at the University of East Anglia to investigate the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere via means of a large helium balloon.

What are we launching?

The diagram below shows the four principal parts.

Vehicle schematic (click to expand)

The Balloon – A large latex balloon which will be filled with helium. 1.5m in diameter at lauch, as the balloon rises through the atmosphere it will expand as air pressure decreases with height. The balloon can stretch to 8m in diameter before it bursts.

The Parachute – A parachute, which opens automatically upon descent, ensures the safe landing of the scientisfic equipment

The Space-box – The principal payload of the launcher, the box is made from polystyrene, is water-tight, and contains the main scientific equipment (see below)

GPS Radiosonde – A GPS-enabled tracking device that will relay back to the scientists its position and altitude.

How high will it go?
The balloon is designed to burst at about 34,000 m above sea level. That’s about 21 miles or 3.8 times the height of Mount Everest.

This takes the balloon well into the stratosphere and, depending on the conditions at the time, a significant distance into the ozone layer that protects the Earth’s surface from harmful radiation.

What are the scientific objectives?

The first launch will be a “shakedown” flight, and the spacebox will contain two HD cameras to picture the ascent and decent.

Future launches will contain sensors to measure atmospheric conditions and composition. These experiments are still being designed, and BLEAT are keen to hear ideas for what could be in the box for future launches!

Where will it be launched from, and when?

Launch one will take place at a site near Burton-on-Trent. on the 1st December 2012. CAA permission has been acquired for this site and date.

Where will it land?

Guessing where the balloon will land is very tricky! High altitude winds above the UK are quite unpredictable. It is expected that the balloon will be blown at least 70km to the west, however how far north or south it will travel cannot be predicted this far in advance.

BLEAT will track the path of the balloon using the attached radiosonde, and, if there’s a dry landing, will drive out to where it lands and collect the spacebox and its data.

There is a possibility that the box could land in the sea. Should it do so, the box is water-tight and should remain intact until it washes up on shore. The box will have multilingual instructions on how to contact BLEAT and a reward will be offered for its safe return.

Will the results be public?

Yes. Shortly after the balloon has been retrieved we will be discussing the outcomes of the campaign online, and, if the launch and retrieval is successful, posting videos from the edge of space!

You can follow our progress here at https://ueableat.wordpress.com/

Further questions?

Please do not hesitate to contact Luke Surl on L.Surl@uea.ac.uk if you have any further questions.

Thanks for your interest in BLEAT!


  1. a box as discribed will probably explode om high altitudes as well. Pressure should relieved I guess. Both up and down.

    • Chief Engineer Royle

      Hi Peter,
      Yes thanks, we dId think about this and the box isn’t completely as airtight as described – more water resistant than waterproof. I think if this may be a real problem I should look at installing some sort of valved chimneys in the top of the box to let pressure out, maybe sealed with a balloon which would burst rather than the box if pressure got too high..

  2. All right, probably two chimneys out and in, both with a sort of rubber pressure relief as for example in a bicycle tube (various systems, should operate at light pressure difference), All the best and a good flight/results.

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