Students launched an 11.8 million-cubic-foot scientific balloon (about the size of 58 blimps) carrying a total payload of one ton over New Mexico on September 1. The balloon carried 12 student experiments to the near-space environment and flew at an operational altitude of 120,000 feet on a mission that lasted several hours.
This was one of the first in a series of six experiments designed for NASA’s High- Altitude Student Platform, which has 125 students from 13 universities, this year.
“HASP is a terrific program for training the next generation of aerospace scientists and engineers,” said Debbie Fairbrother, NASA’s Balloon Program Office chief. “It’s a great way to kick-off our annual New Mexico campaign, which includes five more flights over the next several weeks.”
Technicians will monitor the HASP flight from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility’s field site in Fort Sumner. After the mission, technicians will send flight termination commands kicking off a sequence that separates the payload from the balloon, deploys the payload’s parachute, and rapidly deflates the balloon. Both the payload and balloon material will be recovered.
Balloons are built with polyethylene film similar in appearance and thickness to the type used for sandwich bags, but the material is stronger and more durable.
The High-Altitude Student Platform (HASP) payload, is a collaboration with the Louisiana Space Consortium. This is the 11th HASP mission since the program’s inception in 2005. To date, 965 students have been part of the HASP program.
Five other balloon flights are scheduled from Fort Sumner during the 2016 campaign:
1.Long Duration Balloon Systems Test Flight (LDB Test Flight)—A test flight of new communications systems, solar power system, and rotator. In addition, the test flight is carrying five payloads of opportunity.
2.X-Calibur—An X-ray telescope mounted to the Wallops Arc Second Pointer (WASP) seeking to observe two black holes, a crab nebula, and an expanding neutron star.
3.Jet Propulsion Laboratory Remote (JPL Remote)—Profiles of over 40 chemical species will be measured throughout the stratosphere. They will be analyzed in conjunction with a variety of photochemical models to improve understanding of stratospheric chemistry and the stability of the ozone layer.
4.Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope and Infrared Interferometry (BETTII)—BETTII will explore a region of the electromagnetic spectrum, the far-infrared (FIR), using a technology called interferometry. Astronomers will gain a sharper, more detailed view of star formation, galaxy evolution, and the formation of planetary systems around other stars.
5.Primordial Inflation Polarization Explorer (PIPER)—PIPER will measure the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background to search for primordial gravity waves created during a rapid expansion of the universe that occurred shortly after the Big Bang.
For more information about the HASP mission, see: http://laspace.lsu.edu/hasp.
Adapted in part by Sitara Maruf