On Sunday morning at 9:40AM, students from the Physics 240 class entitled "The Earth-Sun Connection," launched the first
balloon flight of CUA's Student Space Program.
The purpose of this first flight was to bring the excitement and fun of doing science to our promising future teachers. They
definitely see that science is not just a bunch of facts, but it is a very active process. The students
flew a small payload consisting for a fisheye digital video camera, a GPS unit, and a simple analog thermometer, and two
The balloon reached an altitude of approximately 73,000 ft at 55 minutes after launch. Then, the balloon burst as expected,
and the payload parachuted to earth and landed roughly 10 miles NW of York, PA. The entire flight lasted 1 hr and 31 min.
The payload and balloon were tossed around by the Jet Stream and experienced temperatures as low as -70 degrees F as indicated by
external thermometer attached to the payload. The radar reflector was still extrmely cold when touched by the retrieval team.
The GPS unit sent its position to a web-site, where all the students back at CUA could follow its progress. A number of students
sent the latitude and longitude coordinates by text messages to the student retrieval team in the field, who entered them into
their smartphones. They used these positions to find the payload. The recovery proved quite easy and the payload and parachute were
found less than 100 ft from a road, exactly where the GPS data indicated it would be.
This launch is the first of many CUA student balloon flights. The plan is to develop more and more sophisticated
payloads over the next few years and build upon CUA's long-time close interactions with NASA's nearby Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).
The goal is to start building space hardware and actual small satellites at CUA and offer exciting inter-disciplinary opportunities
to students on-campus at CUA.
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