Purpose of the flight and payload description
The objective of the flight was to test the Micro-Instrumentation Package (MIP) a compact telemetry system for use on lightweight balloon missions launched by NASA.
The (MIP) has been developed since 2005 as a lightweight, cost effective, modular, low power, reusable command and control system. It also satisfies all FAA and NASA requirements for ballooning. This lightweight system enable small payload missions to be flown by NASA.
The MIP provides uplink and downlink communications, an interface to the science, housekeeping information including global positioning system (GPS) position, and relays. Instead of a power-hungry microprocessor, the MIP's central consists of a microcontroller. Microcontrollers are lower power, easily programmed, and are cheap. For uplink and downlink telemetry, the MIP uses an serial transceiver in case of conventional flights (Line of Sight system or LOS) and an Iridium unit for longer flights (Over the Horizon or OTH). A relay deck is also included for powering subsystems and for flight termination. Furthermore, the scientific experiment onboard is able to interface to the MIP through a serial connection, although the data rates for the science interface will be limited compared to those of standard telemetry support packages. Overall, the MIP provides the basic necessities for the safe operation of a balloon flight without the weight and the expense of the current CSBF telemetry support packages.
There are three configurations: Backup Navigation, Micro-SIP, and Pathfinder. Depending on the flight requirements, the appropriate configuration can be used. In addition, a solar power system can be added for longer duration flights. During the qualification phase which started in 2006, the MIP has been flown on test flights of rubber balloons, piggyback on science flights, and qualified with dedicated test flights like this one.
Details of the balloon flight
Balloon launched on: 4/13/2008 at 13:02
Launch site: Scientific Flight Balloon Facility, Fort Sumner, (NM), US
Balloon launched by: Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF)
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon 4.000.000 cuft
Flight identification number: 582NT
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 4/13/2008 at 17:55
Balloon flight duration (F: time at float only, otherwise total flight time in d:days / h:hours or m:minutes - ): 5 h 45 m
Landing site: 17 nm ESE of Plainview, Texas, US
This was the final flight qualification mission for the system after being carried aloft by a balloon that suffered a burst during that same year. The flight was launched on April 13 at 13:02 UTC, from the NASA balloon base in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The mission endured near six hours and ended 17 nautic miles southeast of Plainview, Texas. During the balloon cruise the MIP successfully performed all of the flight monitoring and commanding functions, with no problems noted and also performed both the flight termination and parachute separation.