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Monday, March 30, 2009

Engineering students plan high-altitude balloon flight

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Engineering students at the University of Southern Indiana will launch a high- altitude balloon flight at 10 a.m. CDT on Saturday, April 4, 2009. The balloon will rise to about 95,000 feet at which point it will burst and begin its chaotic descent, eventually being slowed by a parachute for landing. The entire flight should take two hours. Two onboard GPS pods will allow for continual tracking of the flight and should enable a quick recovery after landing.

USI’s High Altitude Balloon launch will be one of 15 university or college launches occurring simultaneously from across the Midwest to the East Coast as part of the HALO [High Altitude Launch Opportunity] II project. HALO II will attempt to establish a temporary high speed communications network among the 15 balloons as a demonstration project for use in future emergencies.

USI’s balloon will carry a suite of three cameras, and a humidity, pressure, temperature and CO2 sensor package to record conditions throughout the flight. Experiments from South Spencer Middle School, F. J. Reitz High School and St. Joseph School in Vanderburgh County will also be flown.

The prime launch site for the balloon is USI’s Quad. However, in order to insure that the balloon system does not land in either a populated area, a heavily forested area, or a military base, the launch site could be moved off-campus, or even out of state. Landing is expected to be 50 -100 miles from the launch point, depending on the winds.

A mission control will be established in Technology Center Room 220 at USI to coordinate the activities of the launching, tracking, and recovery of USI’s balloon system. A specially equipped antenna will be tracking the flight from the roof of the Technology Center.

The flight is being sponsored by USI’s Department of Engineering, and is being conducted by engineering students in the ENGR 290X, High Altitude Ballooning, and ENGR 471, Engineering Design and Analysis, classes. Dr. Glenn Kissel, assistant professor of engineering, is overseeing the launch.

Kathy Funke
News and Information Services
812/465-7050 or kfunke@usi.edu



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