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Scientific Ballooning

The Physical Science Laboratory at NMSU uniquely understands the operational balloon flight support needed for safe successful missions. PSL has an extensive background with a set of capacities that fully address all aspects of balloon operations. Our over three decades supporting scientific balloon flights including 25 plus years of management and operation of NASA Balloon Program, captures a wealth of technical and personal expertise unavailable anywhere else. We are experts in flight operations and flight systems for the high-altitude environment (60,000 to 160,000+ ft). We have equipment, processes, and skills required to ensure safe and successful balloon flights. 

Capabilities & Support

PSL provides extensive experience including launching, tracking, and recovering scientific balloons and payloads, providing engineering services for operational support, payload design and integration, quality control, and balloon research and development.  We also have a full understanding of the requirements for various launch locations, both foreign and domestic, and the capabilities and limitations of these types of operations.  PSL has a long history and experience in high altitude scientific balloon services.  Current PSL personnel have decades of experience with almost all aspects of what is required to launch scientific and research balloons.  The skill mix includes personnel and backgrounds including:   

  • Program management of balloon efforts 
  • Campaign management for balloon flight ops 
  • Balloon flight performance analysis 
  • Launch crew support including Crew Chief and all support positions
  • Mechanical and gondola/payload design & certification 
  • Flight line and campaign rigging requirements 
  • Flight electronics and long duration balloon electronics 
  • Unique flight support systems  
  • Payload structural and thermal analysis 
  • Meteorology 
  • Balloon design, construction, fab., and quality
  • Super Pressure Ballooning - all aspects of the design, analysis, launch, and flight performance

Operations

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Launch Operations:

PSL has experience at many launch sites/locations worldwide including domestic location across the US and international locations like Antarctica, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Greenland, and other locations.

Balloons:

PSL has launched Zero Pressure and Super Pressure balloons ranging from very small hand launch to very large (~1,120,500 m^3) with payloads from a few kilograms to over 3,600 kilograms. Our personnel have extensive and hands on understanding of balloon design, construction, materials, finishing, packaging, quality, and handling of these large balloons. We were part of the design team for the NASA super pressure balloon, and the 963,000 m^3 and 1,699,000 m^3 NASA balloons. Float altitudes have ranged up to 48.8 km.

Systems:

Designed, built, and proven systems to support all aspect of flight operations.

Line of sight command and telemetry systems

– Proven LOS communication and telemetry systems

Satellite relay command and telemetry systems

– Proven Over The Horizon (OTH) communications

Power systems and rechargeable power systems

– Ensuring successful flight through on board flight rated batteries, fixed and pointed solar power systems and charge controllers.

Coarse Azimuth payload pointing

– Payload pointing systems for both power and science payload orientation. Terminate / Recovery Systems

– All associated mechanical and electrical systems, parachutes, crush pads, rip stitch (shock attenuators) needed for termination/recovery systems.

Mission Durations:

Missions managed, launched, and monitored, float durations from a few hours to over 50 days.

Public Safety:

Public safety is paramount. PSL’s ground and flight safety are tailored to successful support all missions.

The PSL Ballooning Advantage

PSL understands and has solutions to all aspects related to high altitude balloon flights. PSL provides proven solutions and techniques for both safety and success.  PSL has capabilities beyond balloon flight expertise.  NMSU, a Minority Serving Institution, has many additional and complimentary resources and assets that can be applied to unique balloon flight related challenges. Broad interrelated technical areas provide a strong foundation to address any flight mission/customer need.  The skills and personnel at PSL can be used as needed to support mission operations, integration, and flight operations. We are a collaborative organization with a “can do” attitude focused on safe flight operations and mission success with flight proven systems. 

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