“We've got a wide plethora of customers,” May dell said, from folks interested in curve-of-the-Earth imagery to those who want to assess the speed of the jet stream or measure high-altitude temperatures and pressures. “It’s about the closest an average person can get to being in space, and you can do it for about the price of a nice iPad,” May dell said.
One recent user of High Altitude Science services was Lauren Rojas, a seventh-grader at Cornerstone Christian School in Antioch, Calif. Rojas' Hello Kitty doll soared to an altitude of 93,625 feet (28,537 meters), gaining a spectacular view of Earth before coming back down in a tree-snagging parachute landing.
Hello Kitty's mission also involved onboard sensors to gauge temperature, air pressure and altitude, along with cameras that documented the ride. The video of Hello Kitty's trip has been an Internet sensation, garnering more than 820,000 views since it was posted on YouTube on Jan. 25. AdvertisementHere’s the sort of crazy idea that animates our office conversation at Scientific American.
It all started with my colleague Michael Mayer’s joke that a certain politician could build his moon base using a balloon: just capture the hot air and float all the way up. Even intergalactic space is filled with matter, albeit tenuous; by its standards, Earth’s extended atmosphere is a thick soup.
Drag force will limit the balloon's ascent velocity, but shouldn’t stop it altogether and can be minimized by choosing a prelate rather than spherical shape. As the balloon rises, it will expand in inverse proportion to the ambient pressure and, neglecting temperature, density.
The limit is set not by physics, but by trifling engineering problems such as material strength and permeability. Another caveat is that the laws of gas dynamics assume a continuum, an approximation that already fails in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Explore our digital archive back to 1845, including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners. In 2002, a balloon named BU60-1 reached a record altitude of 53.0 km (32.9 mi; 173,900 ft).
Other purposes include use as a platform for experiments in the upper atmosphere. Modern balloons generally contain electronic equipment such as radio transmitters, cameras, or satellite navigation systems, such as GPS receivers.
These balloons are launched into what is termed near space “, defined as the area of Earth's atmosphere between the Armstrong limit (18–19 km (11–12 mi) above sea level), where pressure falls to the point that a human being could not survive without a pressurized suit, and the Menopause (85 km (53 mi) above sea level), where aerodynamics must take over from aerodynamics in order to maintain flight. Due to the low cost of GPS and communications equipment, high-altitude ballooning is a popular hobby, with organizations such as Has assisting the development of payloads.
An example image from a hobby high-altitude balloon launched by the Make Stuff Club from Kalamazoo College A photo taken from a 1,500 g (3.3 lb) weather balloon at approximately 100,000 ft (19 mi; 30 km) above Oregon latex weather balloon bursting at about 29.5 km (18.3 mi; 97,000 ft) In France during 1783, the first public experiment with hydrogen-filled balloons involved Jacques Charles, a French professor of physics, and the Robert brothers, renowned constructors of physics instruments. Charles provided large quantities of hydrogen, which had only been produced in small quantities previously, by mixing 540 kg (1,190 lb) of iron and 270 kg (600 lb) of sulfuric acid.
The balloon, called Charlie, took 5 days to fill and was launched from Champ de Mars in Paris where 300,000 people gathered to watch the spectacle. The expansion of the gas caused the balloon to tear and it descended 45 minutes later 20 km (12 mi) away from Paris.
Embedded computer Marietta G25, custom PCB and different sensors (temperature, pressure, passive radiation detector). Photo taken after the flight. High-altitude balloons are often flown by students and by amateur groups to altitudes on the order of 30,000 m (98,000 ft) for both scientific and educational purposes, and have become popular among educational institutions and enthusiasts as they do not require many resources for conducting launch.
Testing radio range is often a large component to these hobbies. Amateur radio is often used with packet radio to communicate with 1200 baud, using a system called Automatic Packet Reporting System back to the ground station.
These smaller trackers have used Morse code, Field Hell, and RTT to transmit their locations and other data. Bill Brown (amateur radio call sign WB8ELK) is considered to have begun the modern Arab movement with his first launch of a balloon carrying an amateur radio transmitter on 15 August 1987.
An Arab flight consists of a balloon, a recovery parachute, and a payload of one or more packages. The payload normally contains an amateur radio transmitter that permits tracking of the flight to its landing for recovery.
Most flights use an Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) tracker which gets its position from a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and converts it to a digital radio transmission. Other flights may use an analog beacon and are tracked using radio direction finding techniques.
Long duration flights frequently must use high frequency custom-built transmitters and slow data protocols such as radio teletype (RTT), Hellschreiber, Morse code and PSK31, to transmit data over great distances using little battery power. In addition to the tracking equipment, other payload components may include sensors, data loggers, cameras, amateur television (ATV) transmitters or other scientific experiments.
Some Arab flights carry a simplified payload package called Balloon Sat. A typical Arab flight uses a standard latex weather balloon, lasts around 2–3 hours, and reaches 25–35 km (16–22 mi) in altitude.
A zero-pressure flight by the Spirit of Knoxville Balloon Program in March 2008 lasted over 40 hours and landed off the coast of Ireland, over 5,400 km (3,400 mi) from its launch point. On December 11, 2011, the California Near Space Project flight number CNSP-11 with the call sign K6RPT-11 launched a record-breaking flight traveling 6,236 mi (10,036 km) from San Jose, California, to a splashdown in the Mediterranean Sea.
Since that time, a number of flights have circumnavigated the Earth using super pressure plastic film balloons. Each year in the United States, the Great Plains Super Launch (GPS) hosts a large gathering of Arab groups.
BEAR program Balloon Experiments with Amateur Radio (BEAR) is a series of Canadian-based high-altitude balloon experiments by a group of Amateur Radio operators and experimenters from Sherwood Park and Edmonton, Alberta. The experiments started in the year 2000 and continued with BEAR-9 in 2012, reaching 36.010 km (22.376 mi).
The balloons are made of latex filled with either helium or hydrogen. All the BEAR payloads carry a tracking system comprising a GPS receiver, an APRS encoder, and a radio transmitter module.
Other experimental payload modules include an Amateur Radio cross band repeater, and a digital camera, all of which is contained within an insulated foam box suspended below the balloon. They are a popular introduction to engineering principles in some high school and college courses.
It was created as a hands-on way to introduce new science and engineering students interested in space studies to some fundamental engineering techniques, team working skills and the basics of space and Earth science. The Balloon Sat program is part of a course taught by Space Grant at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
This encourages good engineering practices, introduces a challenge, and allows for the inclusion of many Balloonists on an Arab flight. The airframe material is usually Styrofoam or Foam core, as they are lightweight, easy to machine, and provide reasonably good insulation.
Most carry sensors, data loggers and small cameras operated by timer circuits. Popular sensors include air temperature, relative humidity, tilt, and acceleration.
Experiments carried inside Balloonists have included such things as captive insects and food items. These tests are designed to ensure the Balloon Sat will function properly and return science results.
Geostationary balloon satelliteGeostationary airship satellite Geostationary balloon satellites (GBS) are proposed high-altitute balloons that would float in the stratosphere (60,000 to 70,000 feet (18 to 21 km) above sea level) at a fixed point over the Earth's surface and thereby act as atmosphere analogues to satellites. A propulsion system would allow the balloon to move into and maintain its position.
A GBS could be used to provide broadband Internet access over a large area. Laser broadband would connect the GBS to the network, which could then provide a large area of coverage because of its wider line of sight over the curvature of the Earth and unimpeded Fresnel zone.
^ G. Potter, History of the use of Balloons in Scientific Experiments “, Space Science Reviews 13:2 pp.200 (1972). “The Role of Balloons in the Future Development of Space Tourism” (PDF).
World View to Loft Experiments on Balloon Test Flights This Year. “ ^ Has, A Beginners Guide to High Altitude Ballooning.
“Two Silicon Valley high-altitude ballooning groups vie for record”. “Amateur Radio Balloon Flies From California to Algeria”.
^ Balloons Carrying Amateur Radio Payloads Still Circling the Earth”. ^ “Party Balloon Carrying Ham Radio Payload Circles Southern Hemisphere a Second Time”.