Development of a balloon-borne orientation system for astronomical observations for the High Altitude Student Platform – An undergraduate research education experience

PI: Berk Knighton, Department of Chemistry, Montana State University - Bozeman

An undergraduate research experience to design, build and fly a solar tracking optical device on a high altitude balloon is described. High altitude balloons represent a time and cost efficient means of deploying science payloads to the edge of space. At float altitude, ~ 125,000 feet, very little of the earths atmosphere remains and astronomical observations can be made in the absence of the atmospheric distortion. One of the many challenges associated with making astronomical observations from a balloon is the need for a control system that will orient the optical device, such as a telescope, to a fixed location in the sky. We propose to assemble a group of undergraduate students to design a control mechanism that will compensate for any motion in the balloon platform to orient a narrow-field instrument, such as an optical telescope or coronagraph. This proposal seeks to support a total of 7 students (4 senior design students and 3 summer interns) in an educational research experience where they, as a group, are responsible for the design and construction of tracking control mechanism and the optical device. This multidisciplinary project is the first phase of a program that will lead to the students’ device being flown on the High Altitude Student Platform in the fall of 2013.


Contact Information

Mail: Berk Knighton
Department of Chemistry
Montana State University - Bozeman
Bozeman, MT 59717
E-mail: Berk Knighton
Phone: (406) 994-4223

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Updated September 19, 2014