AUG. '17 - DEC. '17
As a part of a freshman seminar I participated in, I was put into a small group and challenged to research, design, and build a payload that would fly to near-space on a weather balloon. My group and I then put together a post-flight presentation that we delivered to our class, professor, and visiting attendees.
Our original presentation can be found here.
My teammates and I came up with the research idea of recording the abundances of various wavelengths of light throughout the ascent in altitude to near-space, and then displaying this data in easy-to-read graphs/tables.
After drawing up our payload in Solidworks (pictured here), we went through the process of creating it in real-life. To acquire the data we were after, we utilized 3 Neulog sensors (infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light spectrums), a custom Verhage sensor (capable of detecting 8 frequencies simultaneously), and a GoPro (to record reference video footage). We also made sure to incorporate heating elements so our payload could continue functioning in the extreme cold temperatures of near-space.
These aren't your average party balloons... in order to reach near-space altitudes of around 100,000 feet that we were shooting for, we used industry-grade latex weather balloons filled with helium. These balloons flew our payload to around 103,000 feet in about an hour. After bursting due to the low pressures of near-space, they drifted back down to earth.
Three hours after watching our balloons soar up into the sky in the middle of Minneapolis, Minnesota, we recovered our payloads and balloon remains in a marsh in Wisconsin.
In order to follow the balloons, we had GPS and radio transmitters in our payloads which we tracked with laptops hooked up to antennae on top of our vehicle, simply driving in whichever direction the balloons were going.
Here is a very busy graph of the data we collected throughout the duration of our flight. In short, we concluded that the abundances of light within the visible spectrum and infrared frequencies stayed mostly the same as altitude increased, while the abundance of ultraviolet light changed most drastically. We also confirmed, as expected, that cloud coverage plays a major role in light abundances at all frequencies.
Our complete original post-flight presentation can be found here.