ASU Students Launch High Altitude Balloons at Local Amateur Radio Event

Jun. 25—Today, members of the Athens State American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Student Branch will launch up to two high-altitude telemetry balloons in conjunction with the local Athens Amateur Radio Club.

The event will allow Aerospace Systems Management students to engage in training in Mission Control and Communications. It will also support a course of the same name being taught this summer and serve as one of their planned mission simulations.

Athens State's Mission Control team of students will track the balloons that report GPS coordinates, altitude, speed, and other metrics.

"What we're doing here is a very small electronic package, weighs just probably a couple of ounces at most. Not very much. It doesn't even have a battery pack. It's totally powered by solar cells, and it's lifted by a 36-inch diameter mylar balloon that basically looks like a big party balloon. It's an aluminum-coated balloon," said ASU professor Wayne McCain. "And, if things go well, we're expecting this balloon to reach about somewhere between 30 and 50,000 feet. And what it does is it sends back its location using GPS coordinates; it sends back its altitude; and it also sends the speed at which is moving. And, using a free software app, you can actually track the balloon across the United States for one type, and then the other type of balloon that we are launching you can track it around the world."

The balloon launch is part of preparation to launch a small aircraft in the fourth quarter of next year.

"It's a great opportunity for the mission, for them to become familiar with the various software packages that are being used. We're going to be looking at basic protocol for Mission Control and operations, and it supports a course that we're teaching this summer term on mission planning, control, and communication. So, it's kind of a hands-on demonstration of what they're learning out of the textbook," said McCain.

Today's June 25 launch is tentatively scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at Swan Creek Park, adjacent to Athens Middle School. The public is invited to attend.