Data Buoy for NASA's Long Duration High Altitude Balloons

PI: Tim Lachenmeier, GSSL Inc.

This flight will test a Data Buoy concept as a new capability for NASA’s long duration balloon platforms serving the suborbital scientific community. A Data Buoy, a high altitude UAS glider with appropriate high density data storage, provides the capability to return stored data to suitable recovery sites in a timely matter thereby greatly increasing the flight opportunities and value. The Near Space Shuttle System (NS3) is a specialized high-altitude UAS based on Near Space Corporation’s High Altitude Shuttle System (HASS) and incorporates a specialized drogue parachute to allow it to be released vertically from altitudes up to 130,000ft to serve as data buoy for NASA’s scientific balloon program.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • TA08 Science Instruments, Observations and Sensor Systems
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
Problem Statement

NASA’s scientific balloon program routinely flies long duration flights during its flight campaigns in Antarctica, Sweden, and New Zealand. These flights are all unique but have a common problem... retrieval of the very large volumes of raw, unprocessed scientific data often collected over the course of these long duration flights. Current datalinks used by NASA for scientific balloons generally only have the bandwidth necessary to downlink data that’s been highly processed on-board to fit into these limited links, leaving the raw, Level 0 science data to be retrieved once the mission ends and the balloon flight is terminated. Scientists require the raw data to support further, more refined analysis. Unfortunately, payload retrieval is not always guaranteed in the inhospitable places these balloons traverse (Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, and far northern latitudes), and when it is possible, may not occur until the following year or later.

Technology Maturation

On completion of this effort, the NS3’s operational envelope will be expanded from the former HASS ceiling of 90kft to the required Data Buoy operational altitude.

Future Customers

NASA’s long duration balloon platforms and other government programs seeking to leverage high-altitude balloons or requiring access to very high altitudes.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights19 (Oct 2019)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Balloon

Development Team

  • PI
    Tim Lachenmeier
  • Organization
  • Sponsor

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