Rode Heath Primary School – a launch of epic proportions

Here at Sentintospace we love to inspire young minds with their very own space mission. Our trip to Rode Heath Primary School was a special one for us.

The whole project was centered around the UK “Science week” for schools across the country, but the story begins a long time before then…

Several months ago we were asked to come and launch with the school by head teacher Carl Leech and class 5 teacher Julie Wiskow. Little did we know how much the passion and enthusiasm of the staff were already driving forward with this mission to give the students the ultimate in space experiences. A whole sequence of events was to unfold in the next few months culminating in a space craft launch of the pupils very own making.

How many people can say that before they’d left primary school they’d spoken to a real life astronaut? The students of Rode Heath can!


The conference call from the ESA to pupils gave them the opportunity to ask all kinds of questions about life on board the ISS to astronaut Tim Peake.

All kinds of science activities took place in the lead up to the launch including 3d printing of things that could be used on the ISS, transforming the school library into a space station, various experiments and lessons, and, perhaps more importantly, getting our payload to look good!


And so arrived launch day. A full write up can be found on the school’s website:

Where would a launch be without a local radio team? Coverage of the day can be heard here from Radio Stoke:


Our day started with an assembly and some good questions from some very bright young students. All kinds of things were discussed; How does the balloon go up? How do we track it? What happens if it lands in a zoo and a pig eats it? All very good questions.

We then got to work with the set up and filling. The whole school was out to watch. After all, the names of all of the pupils were on the payload and would be heading out into space. Then one lucky boy, Jack Castle from Year 5 whose number had been picked at random was given the privilege of being the man to release the balloon.


All systems ready ready to go!



29 miles away via 32km up and we were tracking it to near Matlock…. but there was a problem. An exceptionally tall problem:


The main problem being that the payload was stuck at the very top of a 120ft+ tree (we know because we ran out of rope!). The tree it was stuck in had no branches low down so Alex had to climb a different tree to get started, traverse over to a second intermediate tree, and then eventually get onto the branches of the main event. He only fell out once when a branch broke.

4 hours later we had the payload back.. was it all worth it? You bet!






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