The Balloons team has launched over 50 high altitude balloon science payloads since its founding, reaching altitudes as high as 120,000 feet. We have launched a world record breaking balloon system from California that nearly made it across the Atlantic Ocean and are aiming to circumnavigate the world within the next year.
ValBal, short for "Valve-Ballast,” utilizes a gas venting valve and a ballast dispenser to stabilize altitude. It can fly autonomously at any chosen altitude up to 80,000 ft, and offers a low cost option for long duration high altitude research. Most recently, ValBal broke the world record for flight duration by a latex balloon, at 88 hrs 40 min, and nearly made it across the Atlantic Ocean in the process.
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.
The Balloons Team is continually gathering interesting data from our launches. Some research payloads have measured things like UV dispersion and solar radiation. The team plans to continue launch increasingly advanced research payloads, such as the pictured SSTV (slow scan TV) payload, which recently transmitted an image over 70 miles using only radio. ValBal's long duration flights give us the capacity to collect more data and pursue even more advanced projects.
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 payload is designed to support a wide variety of payload types, including external sensors and cameras.
To track and control payloads like ValBal, we use a website called habmc.stanfordssi.org, created by a member of the balloons team. It parses and displays incoming data from our satellite communication module onboard the payload and allows us to easily send commands. It also features balloon path prediction based on current wind and weather patterns at various altitudes.
Join in! The team hosts workshops and onboarding projects that allow new members to gain valuable hands-on experience with mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. Interested in tracking our flights as they happen? Visit our High Altitude Balloon Mission Control (HABMC)