The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program’s Stratospheric Balloon Launch is a project being undertaken by our 38 students in conjunction with UniSA and the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group (AREG). This is the second year our program has launched a stratospheric balloon and this year we will be launching two helium balloons simultaneously, from launch sites at Serafino Winery in Mclaren Vale and Mt Barker High School, the first time a dual simultaneous launch has been attempted.
Our balloons are designed to simulate two small satellites, carrying their payloads to an altitude of approximately 30km above the Earth’s surface. Onboard, each balloon is carrying both an infrared and visible light camera to image the Adelaide winery region. The images gathered will be analysed by our image processing team to assess the current growing state of vegetation in the region. The project is to act as a demonstration of the potential agricultural and remote sensing applications of small satellites in the Global South region.
The balloons are also equipped with a parachute to facilitate a smooth descent back down to earth, once the balloons have popped.
Our payload team is responsible for assembling, configuring and modifying our payload hardware with the help of AREG. The code for both payloads has been extensively modified by the payload team to include frequency updates, time delay fixing and focusing of the onboard cameras. The payload team has also designed and installed a balance system to prevent self-rotation of the payload once it is launched.
Launching teams will be present at both launch sites to inflate the balloons with helium and attach the payload on-site, in conjunction with AREG. The balloons must be carefully weighed and filled to ensure a smooth, slow ascent to the target altitude. Once the balloons have been launched, the chase teams will depart from both launch sites and head out to track the balloons as they move across the sky over Adelaide. AREG will be tracking our balloons and our chase teams are be responsible for safely recovering our payloads once the balloons have landed.
The weather team has been carefully monitoring weather in the Adelaide region over the past week to help forecast for Sunday and predict the probable trajectory of the balloons. Data from the Bureau of Meteorology has been used for weather forecasting and landing predictions have been made using data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On the day of the launch, our image processing team will be processing the images captured by the on-board cameras in real-time, colouring the images to indicate the health of the vegetation being observed, These images will be overlaid over maps of the region and uploaded to our live web stream. Following the balloon mission the team will be further rectifying and processing the images to generate statistical analysis about the health of various grape crops in the winery region.