View of the first launch from the UFSM campus

The Federal University of Santa Maria (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria or UFSM) was established in 1960, and is one of the major public educative institutions from Rio Grande do Sul state, in the southern part of the country.

His infrastructure -whose main campus is located in the city of Santa María- houses near 15.000 students, and occupying among their different sites an area of almost 1.870 hectares. Among their teching activities there is an agreement between the Science and Technology Ministry of the Federal Government, through the National Institute of Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais - INPE) which have facilities and research programes focused on space sciences in the main campus and an observatory in the vicinity of São Martinho da Serra, 40 kms from there.

This link allowed in the first months of 2006 to perform there a stratospheric balloon launch campaign, using small balloons. The main field launch was the Santa Maria campus and the operations were managed by INPE's Balloon Launch Sector (Setor de Lançamento de Balões or SLB) which provided the balloons as well the launch devices. Aditionally a telemetry station was mounted in the aforementioned observatory in São Martinho da Serra.

The campaign -named SPRITE II- involved several Universities of the United States (Washington, Duke and Utah state) and a local team from INPE's Atmospheric Electricity Laboratory (Laboratório de Eletricidade Atmosférica or ELAT). The main objective was to study the SPRITES an elusive atmospheric electrical phenomena occuring above the thunderstorm clouds which causes powerfull energy discharges to the stratosphere reaching a height of 100 kms.

The original plan was to launch at least four balloons, but finally only two were launched. The lack of storms in the zone forced to close the campaign before launching the rest.

We don't know if the site will be used again for this purpose in the future.

Details of the two launches performed at the Federal University of Santa Maria campus

DateHourFlight DurationExperimentPayload landing place or cause of the failure
2/15/2006T~ 30 mSPRITES DETECTIONNear Agua Boa, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil
3/17/200622:02 local10 hSPRITES DETECTIONPayload not recovered. Estimated landing site near Alegrete, Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil