High Altitude Balloon

What is a high altitude balloon?

A high altitude balloon is not the ordinary balloon you see at birthday parties. It is a large balloon a diameter upwards of 3m (in our case, there are others who use significantly larger balloons) that is used to carry a payload of up to 2 kg to over an altitude of 27 km! This is pushing towards 100 000 feet! The balloons used by the USST are filled with hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is the lightest gas so it enables the largest possible payload. However, the usage of hydrogen requires safety to be of utmost importance due to the danger of working with hydrogen.

Among team members the USST's High Altitude Balloon Program is referred to as the 'HAB Project'. Team members design the payloads carried on the balloon, analyze the results and actively track the balloon during launch.

This project is being accomplished in collaboration with the Saskatoon Amateur Radio Club SABRE Team. They assist us with launch logistics, tracking and provide invaluable expertise to the team members have they have completed a significant number of launches! We thank them for all of their continual support in this endeavor!


Why is the USST launching High Altitude Balloons?

The USST decided to undertake the High Altitude Balloon program for multiple reasons:

1. It is a very fascinating projects that enables team members (new and old) to participate in a small project and design a system from the ground up with a really neat end goal, without a large amount of time, or a large budget.
2. Provide members experience in writing safety manuals, standard operating procedures and implementing all of them to ensure safe launches
3. To expand opportunities for students in high school and elementary schools
4. To provide a launch platform for other experiments

As an added bonus, the USST gets awesome pictures and video just like this one to the left!

What kind of payloads does the USST launch?

The USST payloads are compromised of multiple different hardware systems including:

- antennas and communication hardware to enable tracking of the balloon
- GPS to provide positional information
- Environmental sensor package which includes:
- Pressure sensor
- UV sensor
- Humidity sensor
- Temperature sensor (inside and outside of the payload
- InfraRed Sensor (NDVI Scans - shown to right)
- Video cameras
- Still picture cameras

The image to the right displays the payload of the August 2 launch in 2014 after it had been brought back to the USST office and opened for inspection.


Is it possible for non-USST members to get involved?

This is one of the primary goals of this HAB project. While we are continually working with the SABRE team, we are always interested in having more partners.

If you are from a local school that is interested in having the USST visit them, or potentially launch your students experiments please get into with us. If you are not from a school but are interested in launching an experiment on board the next USST HAB launch please also get into contact with the USST.

This project is open to all students from the U of S campus to become involved in. It offers many unique opportunities for pure science to be completed, and how to learn programming, electronics and component packaging design. No prior experience is necessary.

Please contact the following individuals if you are interested:

We Have Liftoff!

This was our first official launch (and recovery)! The weather was ideal and the launch went off without a hitch! We successfully collected environmental data and some amazing video footage. Sadly however, there was a malfunction with a couple of our video cameras on board. As a result we were only able to recover footage from one of our cameras. The source of the video problem has been determined and the cameras are lready for the next launch.

For more images, please go to this post.

For more details on the flight path, please go here.


Splash Down!

For the second launch, the USST could not have asked for a better launch. The USST's new communication hardware was successfully demonstrated and the payload was entirely recovered. The launch and climb to altitude went extremely well, after the balloon burst early than expected (or desired) the payload had a less than perfect landing in the only pond in the middle of a very large field! Thankfully the SABRE team came very prepared with an inflatable dingy in their vehicle. The USST HAB team lead, Jordan Kubica hopped in and successfully recovered the electronics. Thankfully no electronics were damaged and all the data was salvaged. It was delcared this day that the USST knows no bounds in the name of science, and technological advancement "from high powered lasers, to satellites, to rovers, and even naval operations, it is all in the name of science" For more information on the flight path of the balloon, please go here.