Presentation Open Access

Low cost multi-purpose balloon-borne platform for wide-fieldimaging and video observation

Ocaña, Francisco; Sánchez-de-Miguel, Alejandro; Conde, Aitor; Daedalus Team

Contact person(s)
Gomez, Miguel Angel
Data collector(s)
Ortuño, Fernado; Leon, Pedro; Mayo, David

p>Atmosphere layers, especially the troposphere, hinder the astronomical observation. For more than 100 years astronomers have tried observing from balloons to avoid turbulence and extinction.nbsp;nbsp;New developments in card-size computers, RF equipment and satellite navigation have democratised the access to the stratosphere./p> p>As a result of a ProAm collaboration with the Daedalus Team we have developed a low-cost multi-purpose platform with stratospheric balloons carrying up to 3 kg of scientific payload. The Daedalus Team is an amateur group that has been launching sounding probes since 2010. Since then the first two authors have provided scientific payloads for nighttime flights with the purpose of technology demonstration for astronomical observation./p> p>It is a passive craft, with basic stabilisation and 2-hour length nominal mission. Current design has up to 4 observational ports, three at the sides of the square-shaped probe and one aiming at nadir for Earth Observation. The probe uses one or two meteorological sounding balloons to get out of the troposphere. The probe usually rises to 30km of altitude and then falls free with a parachute. The probe has GSM, RF and GPS beacons and some missions had also bidirectional communication. During the flight the probe is chased from ground using the beacons in order for recovery as all the data is stored inside./p> p>The first of these flights was in 2010 as an instrumental test to monitor light. The same year a second flight over the city of Jaeacute;n successfully took the first images for scientific use. In 2014 the project was repeated over the city of Madrid, acquiring images of quality comparable to the ones from airborne instruments with a hundredth of the cost./p> p>The other scientific objective of these night flights is the estimation of meteoroid influx at Earth through the observation of meteor showers. Observing meteors from the stratosphere improves detection efficiency thanks to much lower extinction and less background brightness. Other teams had already demonstrated the benefits of airborne observations for these objects. In 2011 the team sent a low-light video camera to observe the Draconids 2011 outburst. Unfortunately the recording system failed and then mission had to be redesigned. For Geminids 2012, Camelopardalids 2014 and Geminids 2015 the instruments have worked flawlessly and the data are under analysis. Imaging and video devices with broad-band filters have been employed and results are comparable with airborne and satellite products, especially for high-resolution images./p>

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