Soaring highest above all to reach altitudes up to 120,000 feet, our balloons are breathtaking wonders that push aerospace technology to new heights at extremely lowered costs. The Balloons team has successfully flown over 75 high altitude balloon research payloads since its founding, whether it be traversing the country to descend in Boston and Quebec, or trekking across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain. We are aiming to have our record-breaking balloons circumnavigate the globe within the next year.
Balloons launched by SSI from California have flown over three continents and two oceans. What better way to leverage these high-precision, long-endurance flight capabilities than to fly into and collect data from hurricanes, Nature’s most awe-inspiring and destructive storms? That’s exactly what Cycloon, the Balloons Team’s newest and fastest-growing project, is up to. In just one quarter, our team successfully launched five missions that tested marine tethers, control algorithms, launch maneuvers, and trajectory optimizations to reach storms over the ocean. In the coming year, we’ll be developing radiosondes to drop into weather systems over the continental US, with our eyes set on the big prize: collecting data from an Atlantic or Pacific hurricane in fall 2020 and publishing our results in a conference!
The Balloons team launches scientific and experimental payloads into near-space using latex weather balloons. During standard flights, balloons ascend to up to 120,000 feet and travel over 200 miles for a duration of 2-5 hours. A low-cost, alternative vehicle to drones or airplanes, balloons are a great way to collect data and take fantastic photographs at the frontiers of Earth.
In order to achieve controlled recovery of our payloads, our parafoil team, known as Balloonerang, is dedicated to developing a novel system that can steer the payload to a specified GPS coordinate. With the potential to be implemented on every balloon payload flight, Balloonerang aims to combine lightweight mechanical design and parafoil gliding to facilitate ease of payload retrieval.
To facilitate the development of scientific research payloads, the Balloons team is developing a standardized modular payload system. The avionics component, known as HABEES (High Altitude Balloon Electrical Engineering Systems), provides for general system functioning while supporting additional circuit boards. The mechanical assembly is designed to support a wide range of payload types, including external sensors and professional cameras.
To track and direct payloads like ValBal, we use a website called HABMC (High Altitude Balloons Mission Control), created by a member of the balloons team. By efficiently parsing and displaying incoming data from our satellite communication module onboard the payload, HABMC enables us to remotely send commands. It also features balloon path prediction based on current wind and weather patterns at various altitudes.
There’s a new space race in America, as college teams across the country work to become the first to send a rocket to the 100km Karman Line that defines the edge of space. Stanford SSI has a unique architecture to make this possible, based on the technology developed by our world record-breaking balloons team – we’re launching a rocket, named Hitchhiker, off of a balloon. As we near our demonstration flight to space, the spaceshot team is completing the final few tests. In the meanwhile, every single day, we learn something new, push our skills a little farther, and bring the teams of SSI a little closer to reaching, together, the goal that was printed on our T-shirts years ago: Let’s Go To Space.
The SSI Balloons team hosts workshops and onboarding projects that allow new members to gain valuable hands-on experience with mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, materials research, and more. If you’re a research group, company, or simply curious to learn more and even fly an idea on our balloon, reach out to our Team Leads today!