ASU students launch high-altitude balloons at local amateur radio event | New


Today, members of the student branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Athens will launch up to two high-altitude telemetry balloons in conjunction with the local Athens Amateur Radio Club.

The event will provide aerospace systems management students with training in mission control and communications. It will also support a course of the same name taught this summer and serve as one of their planned mission simulations.

The Athens State Mission Control student team will track the balloons which report GPS coordinates, altitude, speed and other measurements.

“What we’re doing here is a very small electronics box, probably weighing only a few ounces at most. Not a lot. It doesn’t even have a battery. It’s powered entirely by solar cells and it’s lifted by a 36-inch diameter mylar balloon that looks like a big party balloon. It’s a foil-covered balloon,” said ASU’s Professor Wayne McCain. “And, if things go well, we expect this balloon to reach about somewhere between 30 and 50,000 feet. And what it does is it returns its location using GPS coordinates; it returns its altitude; and it also sends the speed at which is moving. And, using a free software application, you can actually track the balloon across the United States for one type, and then the other type of balloon that we launch, you can track it around the world.

The balloon launch is part of preparations for the launch of a small aircraft in the fourth quarter of next year.

“It’s a great opportunity for the mission to become familiar with the different software packages used. We’ll be looking at basic protocol for mission control and operations, and it supports a course we’re teaching this summer on mission planning, control, and communication. So it’s kind of a hands-on demonstration of what they’re learning from the textbook,” McCain said.

Launch today, June 25, is tentatively scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at Swan Creek Park, adjacent to Athens High School. The public is invited to attend.

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