Description of the payload

The instrument, is the first one aimed to obtain focused images of astronomical X-ray sources at hard X-ray energies (20-45 keV).

The key component (the hard X-ray optics) are full-shell electroformed-nickel-replicated (ENR) mirrors coated with iridium to enhance high-energy reflectivity. As the critical grazing angle for reflection varies approximately inversely with energy, these mirrors employ smaller angles than their low-energy counterparts and consequently have smaller diameters and collecting areas per shell. The mirrors have a 6 meter focal length.

To exploit the full potential of the HERO optics necessitates a balloon gondola that can provide commensurate pointing accuracy, stability, and pointing knowledge. The HERO gondola utilizes a coarse aspect system for slewing based on a differential global positioning system (GPS) and a fine inertial-mode pointing system that uses a novel day/night aspect camera system to update onboard gyroscopes.

This flight also included as a piggyback additional scientific payload, an experimental camera called "COSMOCAM" mounted on a side of the gondola and transmitting live from the stratosphere via internet.

Details of the balloon flight and scientific outcome


Launch site: Scientific Flight Balloon Facility, New Mexico, US  
Balloon launched by: National Scientific Balloon Facility (NSBF)
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon Raven - 39.570.000 cu ft - (0.8 Mil.)
Balloon serial number: (912) W 39.57-2-36
Flight identification number: 541N
Payload weight: 3324 lbs
Overall weight: 5313 lbs

The balloon was launched by dynamic method assisted by launch vehicle after several days of weather related delays, on May 9th at 14:18 utc.

After a nominal ascent phase to float altitude (128.700 ft) the balloon started a northern path along the Texas border (click on the left image to see the flight path map).

After crossing during the naight the north part of Texas and the west side of Oklahoma the balloon entered to Kansas were the flight was terminated sending the separation command at 14:46 utc don May 10th. The termination was made using the visual parachute separation procedures.

The payload landed safely at 15:32 utc at coordinates Latitude 37-29.1 N / Longitude 100-47.4 West, 36 miles southwest Dodge City, Kansas.

During this flight, the science instrument functioned normally for over seven hours but then, experienced an unknown electronic failure that led to a loss of commanding of the pointing system.

External references and bibliographical sources

Images of the mission

Hang test of tbhe HERO telescope View of the integration pahse of the telescope in Fort Sumner Balloon launch and float altitude view of the balloon View of one of the Cosmocam's devices The telescope in the landing place