Second flight for BEXUS acomplished - 11/23/2010
Kiruna, Sweden.- Finally was launched the second balloon of this year's BEXUS (Balloon EXperiments for University Students) effort. Following the succesful flight of the BEXUS 10 mission carried out in past October, a new flight was acomplished today, November 23 from the snow paved launch pad of the stratospheric balloon launch base of the Swedish Space Corporation of ESRANGE near Kiruna.
Release of the 100.000 m3 balloon occured at 8:19 utc and after reaching a ceiling of 33 km, it started a eastward course that took it over Finland. Three hours later the mission ended and the 334 kg payload landed north of the Finish town of Kajaani, apparently unharmed.
BEXUS is a platform that allow students from different years and courses to be involved in a near space project, which means that different groups of students meet and get a chance to work together on the basis of their respective areas of competence. And are the students themselves who lead, design and build the experiments and the instruments destined for the balloon launch, following basic guidelines and fighting several constrains as weight, power consumption, and RF interference among instruments, to name a few. As an aftermath of the experience, the students made post-flight reports to expose the data collected during the balloon flight and later used in their courses.
Onboard BEXUS 11 were mounted several experiments, among them were:
CASS-E (Cranfield Astrobiological Stratospheric Sampling Experiment) developed by a team of the Cranfield University (UK), devoted to collect a statistically significant number of microbes in the stratosphere. This instrument also was flown in the BEXUS 10 mission but after the flight was sent back to England to make some adjustements and returned in time to Kiruna for the second flight opportunity.
I-BATE (ISU-Balloon ATC Technology Experiment) developed by the International Space University in Strasbourg, France as a proof of concept for space-based air traffic control with ADS-B receiver. At an estimated balloon altitude of 30 kilometers, the receiver will have a line-of-sight range of nearly 1000 kilometers to any aircraft flying at a 10-kilometer altitude and will receive the transmissions of all equipped aircraft within its range. This experiment was flown also in the first Bexus mission in October.
As part of the flight components was included in the parachute rigging a Q6034-E network camera developed by Axis, which made it possible for the researchers to validate the parachute system and the landing with high quality images in real time. According to the AXIS' press release the SSC's researchers were very pleased with the test. "...To be able to visually see what is happening in real time, combined with the data we are recording, is invaluable for assessing how the parachutes behave and where they land. It will lead to more reliable and secure landings...", explained Per Baldemar, head of the launching team of Rocket & Balloon Systems. A short but nice video of the impressive view from 35 km is available clicking here (Thank's a lot to Carlos Santos Andersson by the heads up on this)
Next BEXUS missions (12 & 13) will took place from the same place in October 2011.
Two new articles in Stratocat - 11/16/2010
Some days ago was commemorated the 75th anniversary of the "Explorer II" balloon mission, a flight that set a new height altitude record for the time and alsp closed the era of the stratospheric manned ascents before the onset of the Second World War and the discovery of the polyethilene as a light material to make balloons. The ascent took place in November 10, 1935, and was piloted by Captain O. A. Anderson and Captain A. W. Stevens from ther United States Army Air Corps under sponsorship of the National Geographic Society. To celebrate that event, our good friend Greg Kennedy has written an article entitled "The two Explorer stratosphere balloon flights" in which deals with his usual accuracy and particular style, the details surrounding two of the biggest stratospheric flight efforts of the first half of the twentieth century.
On the other hand, after several months of study, research and writing, we have finished a fairly complete and polished version of the history of the activities of Holloman Air Force Base balloon branch, one of the most active groups in the United States between 40's and 80's, but which is quite difficult to get precise details on infrastructure, launch records and specially current ongoings.
As a result of these months of dedication, we believe that we could collect the most salient details of the activities carried out there for almost half a century. I hope you enjoy it.
Antarctica: some come and others go - 11/4/2010
McMurdo Station, Antarctica.- As the spring advances and with sixteen balloons still in the air, the launch operation phase of the Concordiasi campaign in the McMurdo Antactic station, has come to an end.
As you may remember from our past updates, the effort was aimed to study -at a never before achieved level of detail- two main issues: the polar stratospheric cloud formation and the dynamics of the atmosphere in an unexplored region as Antarctica and also to obtain in-situ measurements coordinated with overpasses of the MetOp-A satellite, using a special kind of balloon-borne gondola called "Driftsonde" that allows to eject tiny dropsondes at will by remote command to obtain measurements over zones of special interest.
The campaign was carried out mainly by a French team from the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the Institut Paul Emile Victor (IPEV), Météo-France, the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) and the Laboratoire de Glaciologie et de Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE). Also were part on the US side of the field deployment personnel from NSF, NCAR, the University of Wyoming, Purdue University, GMAO and the University of Colorado.
These are some preliminary numbers and facts from the campaign:
- The first balloon was released on September 8th while the last one was launched on October 26th, for a total of 19 gas bags floating around Antarctica mounted in the winter polar vortex.
- Of these 19 balloons launched, there are 16 of them still flying.
- At the time of this writing the longest flight endured 50 days airborne.
- The first dropsonde was released by command from the Control Center in Toulouse on September 23. Until October 22 near 330 dropsondes were released from the several Driftsonde gondolas carried by the balloons.
- As the flightpath of the balloon can be followed in real time, coordinates launches of smaller balloons carried out from different Antarctic stations added more data as well served to confirm the well health of the onboard instruments.
- One of the balloons was terminated during an overflight of the launch base, and as far as we know for the first time in ballooning history -thanks to the very calm wind conditions and special quietness of the moment of termination- the ground team was able not only to spot the separation moment from the base but to hear the "bang" of the explosive cutting separation device.
The last balloon of the campaign was launched on October 26, and the very next day the remaining members of the team started the dismantling of the installation that served as home during the last two months. The details of the now ended campaign were covered in a detailed weblog still available on the LMD web site
Several kilometers away from there, in the Williams Field airport, the NASA long duration balloon facility started to receive the scientific teams whom will take part of the 2010/2011 launch campaign. The instruments to be sent aloft in the summer polar vortex around the pole will be four.
CREAM (Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass) developed by the University of Maryland and NASA Wallops Flight Facility which was built to explore the supernova acceleration limit of cosmic rays, the relativistic gas of protons, electrons and heavy nuclei arriving at Earth from outside the solar system. This will be the sixth flight of the appoaratus on Antarctica. The other "big boy" will be BLAST-pol (Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetery) which combines a 1.9 meter Cassegrain telescope and a submillimeter polarimeter to determine what role magnetic fields play in star formation. A previous version of the instrument has had two scientific flights one from Kiruna, Sweden, in 2005 and the other in Antarctica in 2006. After landing of the last mission in 2005, the parachute failed to detach from the gondola and was inflated by the wind dragging for miles and miles the instrument, demolishing it.
Also will be part of the campaign BARREL (Balloon Array for RBSP Relativistic Electron Losses) initiative aimed to obtain new information about Earth's Van Allen Belts, a ring of energetic charged particles that encircle our planet as well another launch of the formerly ULDB (Ultra Long Duration Balloon) which ultimatelly is refered to as SPB (Super Pressure Balloon) which aside their not much succesful recent history of flights had set a new endurance record of 69 days back in 2008/2009 season.
The current ongoings of the campaign can be followed daily through the weblog of the BLAST-Pol team called "Dropping BallAst".
There is no clear information on regard how will affect the operations, the recent publication of the Mishap report (see bellow) which will force NASA to make deep changes to their policies and procedures. Stay tuned !