A match made on a high-altitude balloon

May 17, 2018 by Leslie Williams, NASA
Credit: NASA

On March 29, 2018, World View's Stratollite high-altitude balloon lifted off from the company's launch facility in Tucson, Arizona, reaching a float altitude of 115,000 feet. The balloon was aloft for approximately five hours before landing near the border of New Mexico and Texas.

The balloon flight itself was nothing new for NASA's Flight Opportunities program flight provider World View Enterprises. The company has been flying scientific payloads on its high-altitude balloons since 2015. This flight, however, was a matchmaking mission of sorts. Onboard: the Low-Cost, Lightweight, Reusable Radiation Nose payload from NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and the Automated Radiation Measurements for Aerospace Safety-High Altitude (ARMAS-Hi) payload from Space Environment Technologies and the University of Southern California both in Los Angeles. Both payloads aim to detect or monitor radiation on space-based missions—similar capabilities identified by Flight Opportunities Campaign Manager Paul De León as being a likely match for a fruitful collaboration.

"I knew that the Ames principal investigator wanted to fly along another radiation sensor in order to validate his data," explained De León. "It made a lot of sense—the more data they can obtain, the more confidence the researchers can have in the sensor's accuracy. But the other sensors the investigator inquired about were either unavailable or were simply too bulky to be installed on the flight."

Enter ARMAS-Hi—a commercial off-the-shelf sensor experiment featuring a very small footprint, low weight, and low power consumption.

The ARMAS-Hi payload was selected by Flight Opportunities to receive a SpaceTech-REDDI grant, enabling their respective principal investigators (PIs) to choose an appropriate commercial flight provider for demonstration. While Flight Opportunities cannot direct flight providers to manifest specific technologies together, De León had a hunch the principal investigators would want to work together.

"When I saw both technologies I said hey, this would be a great match—if they can collaborate, then they can use each other's payloads to validate the results of their flight experiments," said De León.

He went with his instinct and connected the Ames principal investigator (PI) Meyya Meyyappan, and the ARMAS-Hi PI, Kent Tobiska. The researchers discussed the possibilities for leveraging data from a shared flight, leading to the joint manifest.

"It turned out to be a win-win situation for everyone," said De León.

With the World View flight successfully completed, the two organizations now begin the process of analyzing data in preparation for further research.

Through the Flight Opportunities program selects promising technologies from industry, academia and government for testing on commercial launch vehicles. The program is funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Ames manages the solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial vehicles.

STMD is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

Explore further: NASA Flight Opportunities Program launches science payloads

More information: For more information about the Flight Opportunities Program, visit www.nasa.gov/flightopportunities

Related Stories

NASA Flight Opportunities Program launches science payloads

December 2, 2013

An enthusiastic group of suborbital space researchers arrived at Spaceport America in New Mexico in early November to prepare and load their experiments on an UP Aerospace rocket that would place their technologies in a space-like ...

Small prototype Earth return capsule flight tested

August 4, 2015

A prototype capsule that one day will return science experiments to Earth was tested by releasing it from a high-altitude balloon in Tillamook, Oregon. Technology like this capsule could one day return biological samples ...

NASA balloons begin flying in Antarctica for 2014 campaign

December 19, 2014

NASA's 2014-2015 Antarctic Scientific Balloon Campaign took to the skies Wednesday, Dec. 17, with the successful launch of the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA-III) from the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility ...

Recommended for you

US, Russian astronauts land safely after rocket failure

October 11, 2018

The problem came two minutes into the flight: The rocket carrying an American and a Russian to the International Space Station failed Thursday, triggering an emergency that sent their capsule into a steep, harrowing fall ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.