Purpose of the flight and payload description

PICTURE C is the acronym of Planetary Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Recoverable Experiment - Coronagraph a balloon-borne mission for the search of exoplanets in Earth-like orbits around sun-like stars. The design and development of the project was possible through a cooperation between teams of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), the Space Telescope Science Institute and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The PICTURE C instrument is composed basically by an off-axis afocal Gregorian telescope with the coronagraph mounted behind the primary mirror. It can spectrally imaging debris disks and exo-zodiacal light around a number of stars spanning a range of infrared excesses, stellar types, and ages. The mission is designed to characterize the background near those stars, to study the disks themselves, and to look for planets in those systems.

The telescope/coronagraph is mounted on the Wallops ArcSecond Pointing (WASP) system, a stabilized balloon gondola developed by NASA. It counts with a gimbal to point the telescope to ~1" in pitch and yaw. At left there is a basic scheme of it. The roll around the pointing axis is not controlled. The system has several active elements to further stabilize the pointing and to correct for thermal, mechanical, and optical distortions.

Video of the balloon in flight

Details of the balloon flight

Balloon launched on: 9/28/2019 at 15:07 utc
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 Raven Aerostar - W39.57-2-113 - 39.570.000 cuft
Flight identification number: 701N
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 9/29/2019 at 11:14 utc
Balloon flight duration (F: time at float only, otherwise total flight time in d:days / h:hours or m:minutes - ): 20 h
Landing site: NW of Techado, New Mexico, US
Payload weight: 5970 lbs

External references

Images of the mission


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