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October 22, 2012

NASA Seeking Experiments from Students to Carry on Balloon Heading to Near-Space

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

The sky’s is the limit for some lucky college students who will provide NASA their experiments to be flown in a balloon that travels so high, it almost reaches outer space.

The experiments are included in a High Altitude Student Platform (HASP). HASP is an instrument stack on the balloon, which provides room for student projects annually. There is space for 12 instruments built by undergraduate or graduate students.

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The stack is used to test compact satellites, prototypes and other small payloads designed and built by students, NASA said.

“HASP fosters student excitement in an aerospace career path and enhances their technical skills and research abilities while they are involved in every aspect of the program,” Bill Wrobel, director of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, told TMCnet in a recent statement.

Wrobel knows something about excitement and exploration. A veteran NASA administrator, he has run marathons on all seven continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) and Antarctica.

In order for a student project to be included in the balloon flight, he says, there is a national competition.

A panel from NASA's Wallops flight facility in Virginia and LaSPACE (Louisiana Space Consortium in Baton Rouge) review the applications and select the finalists, according to a NASA statement.

Flights are launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility's remote site in Fort Sumner, NM. The flights remain airborne for about 15 to 20 hours at an altitude of about 23 miles.

HASP provides power, mechanical support, interactivity and communications for the students’ instruments.

HASP can carry about 200 pounds of payloads and test articles.

Since 2006, the HASP program has flown 60 payloads from some 500 students representing 14 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.

The program, like some others from NASA, gives talented students a chance to explore careers in science and engineering.

"NASA offers a variety of hands-on scientific and engineering programs designed to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies," Jim Stofan, deputy associate administrator for education at NASA, recently told TMCnet. "Giving students a chance to experience some of the same challenges and successes that our NASA technical professionals experience every day is key to building the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers.”

The deadline for applications for the next flight in 2013 is Dec. 14, 2012. A teleconference for interested parties will be held on Nov. 16.

To get an idea of the range of accepted projects, here are the universities and payload titles that participated in HASP during this year’s flight, as provided by NASA to TMCnet:

  • Boston University/Georgia Institute of Technology (News - Alert): Student Platform Integrated First Flight (SPIFF) – Test of CubeSat Interface technology
  • Gannon University: High Altitude Radiation Detector
  • University of Minnesota: High Altitude X-Ray Detector Testbed
  • Montana State University: Single Event Effect Detector
  • University of Maryland: University of Maryland StratoPigeon III – test of recoverable data capsule
  • University of North Dakota/University of North Florida: Measurement of the ozone profile in the stratosphere using nanocomposite sensor
  • Arizona State University: High Altitude Turbine Survey (HATS)
  • University of Colorado: HELIOS (Hydrogen-alpha Exploration with Long Infrared Observation Systems of the Sun)
  • Louisiana State University: Sampling for Microorganisms in the High (SMITH) Atmosphere
  • Louisiana State University: Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flash (TGF)
  • InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico: ARIES-DYNAMICS – Test of CubeSat ADS System.

For details on the program and how to apply, click here.




Edited by Braden Becker