Particle physics experiments

Student experiences float over New Mexico

Student experiences float over New Mexico

Press release from:
Posted: Tuesday October 5 2021

University students from North and South America put their classroom knowledge and technical skills to the test when their experiences flew on a recent NASA science balloon flight over New Mexico.

Launched on September 14 from Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the balloon carried the High altitude student platform or HASP, with its 11 student experiments but also 23 student experiments through the Rock On! Program.

HASP is a joint project between the Wallops Flight Facility Balloon Program Office, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium (LaSPACE) in Baton Rouge, and the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas . The HASP principal investigator is Gregory Guzik of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Rock On! Is a partnership with the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.

Rock On! experiments typically fly on a NASA sounding rocket. However, in 2021 the program went virtual, allowing more experiments to be successfully developed than in previous years, resulting in more flight-ready projects than the rocket could accommodate. Therefore, 23 of the experiments flew with HASP on the balloon mission.

The NASA balloon flew at a floating altitude of 122,000 feet for 14 hours before descending and landing on September 15.

Over 110 undergraduates from 11 institutions worked on the HASP experiments. Of these teams, 50 students were able to take charge of the integration and HASP system test at NASA’s Columbia science balloon facility in early September.

“This authentic, practical and real experience for students allows them to work as a team to manage, design, build and test a unique payload in their area of ​​interest. HASP offers faculty and students the opportunity to work as a team to solve problems in a different way than in the classroom, ”said Randal Larimer, deputy director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, who worked with the Montana State University HASP team. “This opportunity offers an open-ended, start-to-finish project that can be completed within a reasonable time frame.”

According to Larimer, faculty have an important role to play in helping their students understand that they can successfully build an experience for HASP. Often, HASP is part of a Senior Design Capstone course.

Typically, most teams participating in HASP flights are from institutions in the United States. However, for this 15e HASP annual flight, for the first time a team from South America participated in the program.

The team consisted of 18 undergraduates from the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria in Lima, Peru. The team was formed three years ago, when two French students did an academic exchange at the university. They taught professors and students different aerospace technology projects, such as rockets, high altitude balloons or rovers.

Ramiro Tintaya, the project team leader, said: “Through this experience, we learned to work as a team with people from different careers, as different abilities were needed to develop our payload. Another big challenge was that we developed most of the payload during the COVID-19 pandemic, which required us to learn how to use digital tools to make work easier. It has been a truly amazing experience. We are very grateful for all the help that was given to us throughout the process.

HASP participants agree that the program provides valuable access for faculty and students to a unique set of hot air balloon professionals, allowing networks and collaborations to flourish within the hot air balloon community. This year’s student teams and projects include:

  • Westview High School in San Diego, Calif., Tested the performance of three subsystems of the OreSat CubeSat at Portland State University in Oregon in a space-like environment. This is also a STEM opportunity for Westview High School, as they led the assembly, integration, and theft of the payload.
  • Louisiana State University uses its experience to measure the azimuth and payload elevation of the balloon during flight.
  • McMaster University in Ontario, Canada piloted a charged and neutral particle equivalent proportional counter payload designed to provide insight into the amounts of ionizing radiation from charged and neutral particles at higher altitudes absorbed by human tissue .
  • Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, performed their Radiation vs Altitude and Time (RAT) experiment, which measures high-intensity ionizing radiation.
  • The Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería in Peru has tested a cost-effective way to measure the properties of stratospheric aerosols using lidar and dust sensors.
  • The Inter-American University of Puerto Rico in San Germán developed an experiment to understand how seismic waves travel through rubble asteroids.
  • The University of North Florida at Jacksonville and the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks flew their payloads for the eighth time with HASP, continuing to improve their designs for measuring ozone in the various atmospheric layers of Earth.
  • The College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, flew a compact scintillator to detect antimatter collisions in the stratosphere.
  • Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania piloted a project to measure cosmic ray interactions.
  • Arizona State University in Phoenix flew its payload to measure Earth’s atmospheric transparency, which will be tested against data from ground-based telescopes.
  • Montana State University at Bozeman tested a balloon flight termination system project.

HASP provides an authentic educational experience for working within a team and between teams, including experts in NASA’s suborbital platform and launch facilities. Universities and community colleges wishing to participate in HASP 2022 can apply to https://laspace.lsu.edu/hasp/index.php.

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