The First Balloon Flight of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator Technology Demonstration Mission
Presentation: Thomas Randolph - Thursday, March 12th, 08:30 AM - Jefferson
To improve the state of the art in Mars supersonic decelerator technology, the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) technology demonstration mission has embarked upon a series of high altitude balloon lofted, rocket propelled, supersonic reentry tests. Similar to Mars reentry technology tests performed in the 1970s, including the Planetary Entry Parachute Program (PEPP) and the Balloon Launch Decelerator Test (BLDT), LDSD relies on a zero pressure balloon to deliver the test vehicle to its high altitude initial conditions. The test architecture was successfully demonstrated in the first test flight of the project from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai on June 28th, 2014. In adapting this test architecture from the 1970s to today, many new developments were made to the balloon system including: a new balloon static launch technique and new balloon trajectory predictive capabilities. Additional diagnostic tools, intended for characterization of the test vehicle flight, were also available to characterize the balloon flight including: meteorological rockets for atmospheric characterization and the test vehicle’s inertial measurement unit, which was able to measure the dynamic rates of the suspended payload. These results provided the test architecture validation and data necessary for the LDSD flights planned in 2015.
Stratospheric Balloon Missions for Planetary Science
Presentation: Tibor Kremic - Thursday, March 12th, 08:55 AM - Jefferson
NASA and the planetary science community have been exploring the potential contributions of stratospheric balloons to decadal class planetary science. Previous studies of the ~200 questions raised in the Decadal Survey have identified about 45 topics that are potentially suitable for addressing by stratospheric balloon platforms. A stratospheric balloon mission was flown in the fall of 2014 called BOPPS, Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science. This mission observed a number of planetary targets including two Oort cloud comets. The optical system and instrumentation payload was able to provide unique measurements of the intended targets and increase our understanding of these primitive bodies and their implications for us here on Earth. This paper will discuss the mission, instrumentation and initial results and how these may contribute to the broader planetary science objectives of NASA and the scientific community.
This paper will also identify how the instrument platform on BOPPS may be able to contribute to future balloon-based science. Finally the paper will address potential future enhancements and the expected science impacts should those enhancements be implemented.
Design and Performance of the BOPPS UVVis Fine Pointing System
Presentation: Zachary Dischner - Thursday, March 12th, 09:20 AM - Jefferson
In September, 2013 the BRRISON mission suffered an anomaly resulting in a total loss of science data for the duration of flight. The Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science (BOPPS) mission is in essence a re-flight of the BRRISON mission. The BOPPS mission was designed to study multiple comets and other planetary bodies as well as demonstrate a fine pointing system. The performance of this fine pointing system (FPS), designed for science pointing on the 50 milliarscecond level, will be discussed along with the mission as a whole. Due to a telescope focusing issue that manifested in flight during the allocated FPS demonstration window, thorough FPS characterization could not be performed. However, a calibration dataset demonstrated stable pointing of 33 and 58 milliarcsecond (mas) RMS in instrument Azimuth and Elevation respectively. This performance is considered marginal given the conservative FPS settings it was acquired with.
A Multi-Channel Tunable Laser Spectrometer for in Situ Measurement of Planetary Atmospheres
Presentation: Scot Rafkin - Thursday, March 12th, 09:45 AM - Jefferson
A newly developed tunable laser spectrometer (TLS) capable of simultaneously measuring many of the key photochemical species in planetary atmospheres is presented. The instrument consists of a low-power (<10 mW) and low mass (<50 mg) vertical cavity emitting laser source and photodetector, a multi-pass optical cell to provide a long absorption path in a compact design, and laser driving and digital signal processing electronics. The sensor takes advantage of two key technological developments: 1) a patented multiple-pass optical cell design that uses small mirrors and dense spot patterns to give a long optical path with a small footprint; and 2) a low power and compact electronics system. Designs for Mars and Venus are mature, allowing for deployment on probe or balloon missions to either planet, and deployment on landed spacecraft at Mars. The major advantage of this system over previously developed TLS instruments is the multichannel gas measuring capability, an increase in path length and sensitivity without an increase in mirror size, a dramatic decrease in mass and power, and the robust nature of the design in a hostile environment. Current best estimates of total instrument mass and power are 750 mW and 1 kg, respectively.
A Balloon-Borne Acousto-Optic Tunable Filter Imaging Camera for Planetary Science Investigations
Presentation: Nancy Chanover - Thursday, March 12th, 10:10 AM - Jefferson
A balloon-borne Acousto-Optic Tunable Filter (AOTF) hyperspectral imager is ideally suited to address numerous outstanding questions in planetary science. The spectral agility, narrowband wavelength selection, tolerance to the near-space environment, and spectral coverage afforded by AOTFs would enable investigations not feasible from ground-based facilities. A notional AOTF imager design includes both visible and near-infrared channels to take full advantage of the spectral coverage of an AOTF. We explore an example use case of synoptic observations of clouds on the giant planets using the visible channel of such an instrument. Although technical challenges such as detector cooling would require further performance modeling, an AOTF hyperspectral imager is a logical choice for giant planet imaging investigations from a balloon platform. The ability to rapidly acquire hyperspectral image cubes, thereby obtaining spectra of all locations on the planet that could elucidate atmospheric structure and dynamical processes, offers a unique advantage over traditional imaging techniques.
Title: Passive Thermal Control of Balloon-Borne Telescopes
Presentation: Eliot Young - Thursday, March 12th, 10:35 AM - Jefferson
Balloon-borne telescopes typically operate at altitudes of 110,000 - 127,000 ft, above 99.5% of the Earth's atmosphere. They are particularly well-suited to infrared observations in the 1 - 5 micron range, where telluric absorptions (due to water, methane, carbon dioxide, etc.) block access to important spectral regions. A key design challenge is to cool stratospheric telescopes to reduce thermal emission from the mirrors and support structure. We present modeling and vacuum chamber results which suggest that significant cooling - down to our target temperature of 180 K - can be achieved with passive thermal blankets and careful control of orientation to the Sun.
A High-Resolution Pointing System for Continuously Scanning Platforms: The EBEX Example
Presentation: Joy Didier - Thursday, March 12th, 11:00 AM - Jefferson
The E and B experiment (EBEX) is a balloon-borne telescope designed to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background with 8' resolution employing a gondola scanning
with speeds of order degree per second. In January 2013, EBEX completed 11 days of observations in a flight over Antarctica covering $\sim$6000 square degrees of the sky. The
payload is equipped with two redundant star cameras and two sets of three orthogonal gyroscopes to reconstruct the telescope attitude. The EBEX science goals require the pointing
to be reconstructed to approximately 10" in the map domain, and in-flight attitude control requires the real time pointing to be accurate to $\sim$0.5\degree. The high velocity
scan strategy of EBEX coupled to its float altitude only permits the star cameras to take images at scan turnarounds, every $\sim$40 seconds, and thus requires the development of a
pointing system with low noise gyroscopes and carefully controlled systematic errors. Here we report on the design of the pointing system and on a simulation pipeline developed to
understand and minimize the effects of systematic errors. The performance of the system is evaluated using the 2012/2013 flight data, and we show that we achieve a pointing error
with RMS=25" on 40 seconds azimuth throws, corresponding to an error of $\sim$4.6" in the map domain.
Star Camera System and New Software for Autonomous and Robust Operation in Long Duration Flights
Presentation: Daniel Chapman - Thursday, March 12th, 11:25 AM - Jefferson
The E and B Experiment (EBEX) is a balloon-borne telescope designed to probe polarization signals in the cosmic microwave background. It completed an 11 day flight over Antarctica in December 2012 / January 2013. EBEX employs two redundant star cameras to achieve its real-time and post-flight attitude determination requirements. The EBEX star cameras are designed to be robust against multiple classes of challenges that may arise in the long duration balloon-borne environment. We will report on the design, implementation, testing, and successful in-flight performance under challenging conditions of the EBEX star cameras and their associated custom-written software.
The High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) as a Model Multi-Payload Balloon Platform
Presentation: Michael Stewart - Thursday, March 12th, 11:50 AM - Jefferson
An advantage of balloon flights is that payloads can be exposed to a near-space environment for an extended period of time, recovered, revised and then flown again. Thus, instrument and satellite component designs can be tested and refined without the need for orbital launches. This reduces development costs and reduces the time to increase the technology readiness level (TRL) of a particular component. Recently there has been increased interest in developing miniaturized satellites, with low mass, power and telemetry requirements. An inexpensive method for testing “nanosats” components, or full systems, would be to fly them on a balloon platform at 120,000 feet. These systems could be clustered onto a single balloon payload carrier that provides standardized power, telemetry and a physical interface for each experiment. Such an approach reduces the payload development overburden, so the investigator can focus exclusively on experiment, or subsystem, development and, consequently, can reduce experiment cost and improve turn-around time. Here we report on our experience with the High Altitude Student Platform (HASP), the first balloon carrier specifically designed with a standard interface to support up to 12 independent experiments per flight. Since 2006, HASP has flown nine times from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico and carried close to eighty experiments to an altitude of ~120,000 feet for an average duration of 14 hours at float. We will discuss the HASP system design, development and capabilities, the kinds of experiments that have flown on HASP, and the lessons-learned that are applicable to future multiple payload balloon platforms.
First Flight Results of the X-ray Polarimeter X-Calibur
Presentation: Matthias Beilicke - Thursday, March 12th, 04:30 PM - Jefferson
X-ray polarimetry promises to give qualitatively new information about high-energy astrophysical sources, such as binary black hole systems, micro-quasars, active galactic nuclei, and gamma-ray bursts. We designed, built and tested a hard X-ray polarimeter, X-Calibur, to be used in the focal plane of the balloon-borne InFOCuS grazing incidence X-ray telescope with the goal of observing astrophysical sources. X-Calibur combines a low-Z Compton scatterer with a CZT detector assembly to measure the polarization of 20-60 keV X-rays making use of the fact that polarized photons Compton scatter preferentially perpendicular to the electric field orientation. A 1-day test flight of the instrument was performed from Ft.Sumner, NM, in fall 2014. The sensitivity, performance and first results form the flight will be presented
Vision Algorithm for the Solar Aspect System of the HEROES Mission
Presentation: Alexander Cramer - Thursday, March 12th, 04:55 PM - Jefferson
This talk covers the design and test of a machine vision algorithm for generating high-accuracy pitch and yaw pointing solutions relative to the sun for the High Energy Replicated Optics to Explore the Sun (HEROES) balloon mission. Performance is verified on a combination of test data recorded on the ground, artificially generated images, and images from the 2013 flight.
SuperHERO: Design of a New Hard X-Ray Focusing Telescope
Presentation: Jessica Gaskin - Thursday, March 12th, 05:20 PM - Jefferson
SuperHERO is a hard x-ray (20-75 keV) balloon-borne telescope, currently in its proposal phase, that will utilize high angular-resolution grazing-incidence optics, coupled to novel CdTe multi-pixel, fine-pitch (250 µm) detectors. The high-resolution electroformed-nickel, grazing-incidence optics were developed at MSFC, and the detectors were developed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK, and are being readied for flight at GSFC. SuperHERO will use two active pointing systems; one for carrying out astronomical observations and another for solar observations during the same flight. The telescope will reside on a light-weight, carbon-composite structure that will integrate the Wallops Arc Second Pointer into its frame, for arcsecond or better pointing. This configuration will allow for Long Duration Balloon flights that can last up to 4 weeks. This next generation design, which is based on the High Energy Replicated Optics (HERO) and HERO to Explore the Sun (HEROES) payloads, will be discussed, with emphasis on the core telescope components.
System Identification of a Square Parachute and Payload for the LAICAnSat
Presentation: Simone Battistini - Thursday, March 12th, 08:25 PM - Jefferson
This work is a part of the LAICAnSat project of the University of Brasília aimed at developing near-space experimental BalloonSats for scientific missions and remote sensing applications. The project is divided in two main parts: Low Altitude Part (LAP) and High Altitude Part (HIP). Regarding the LAP, which is the focus of this work, the team is currently working on the identification of the aerodynamic model parameters of a square parachute to be used in future launches. The final goal is the implementation of a suitable control system to land the payload in a predefined area. The main motivation to develop such a system is to make the payload rescue easier, avoiding areas of difficult access such as dense forests. It is important to develop a system that is capable to navigate the payload, and the first step for that is the aerodynamic model identification. In order to reach this objective, the team is using a remote controlled parachute to collect data for the identification process and also testing the proposed model. Trajectory and speed are acquired by the BeeLine GPS-2 meter in a trimmed flight and used to identify steady-state coefficients (Cl0 and Cd0) The derivatives parameters, such as Cl_alpha, Cd_alpha, and others, are estimated using biologically inspired computing and parachutes wind-tunnel data from the literature. These work represents the first step in the development of a control system to carry the payload to a predefined area, providing more possibilities for near space missions.
The Integrated Panoramic Surveillance System Based on Tethered Balloon
Presentation: Jessica Gaskin - Thursday, March 12th, 08:50 PM - Jefferson
Tethered ball has the characteristics of the long duration, low cost, large payload, high safety performance, and it is widely applied in military and civil fields, especially in the field of various large-scale civilian activities it plays an important role on monitoring tasks. Currently, there is a suspending contradiction between the surveillance range and resolution of the tethered balloon-borne optical load. It needs urgently to be resolved that expanding the surveillance scope and enhancing the resolution. Besides, in order to improving the surveillance efficiency, panoramic surveillance images are in dire need of acquiring to increase the scope of application of the system. In order to solve these problems, an integrated panoramic surveillance system is proposed, which consists of the integrated optical sensor platform, data transmission system and ground image processing system. The whole system can get the visible 360°panoramic images, 360°cylindrical surface images, high resolution images of the interested target and the unfolding cylindrical surface images, and the system can perform the nighttime task. Integrated panoramic surveillance system can be used not only for military such as battlefield surveillance, early warning and reconnaissance, but also for the civil such as the large-scale civilian activities, public safety, geological exploration, World Expo and the Olympics. This system lay on basis for further development that the panoramic surveillance system based on the tethered balloon.
Modifying a Scientific Flight Control System for Balloon Launched UAV Missions
Presentation: Marc Schwarzbach - Thursday, March 12th, 09:15 PM - Jefferson
We present our work on enabling Balloon launched high altitude UAV Missions for an autopilot system previously used only at lower levels in visual line of sight conditions.
The research was performed in the context of high altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS). To gain operational experience in high altitude flying and for system and payload testing, a balloon launched small UAV (sub 10kg) system was designed including building an optimized airframe. Balloon launching was chosen because it offers fast and clearly regulated access to the desired altitudes.
Hardware design was driven by the special thermal requirements resulting from flying in stratospheric conditions.
In the autopilot software, several mission specific functions had to be added, which only required moderate effort due to the modular system design. Major changes included adding a flight termination manager.
Extensive testing was performed to validate the design. Simulating the mission, including balloon ascend, was used to check the mission software. Thermal and pressure conditions at altitude were replicated in a thermal vacuum chamber. The simulation and control laws were verified by means of low altitude test flights.