High-Altitude Balloon Technology Comes to Penn State Wilkes-Barre

Dr. Albert LozanoThe Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, a member of the National Space Grant Foundation, recently awarded a $7000 grant to Penn State Wilkes-Barre Engineering Professor Dr. Albert Lozano, funding which Lozano will use to make high-altitude balloon technology available at the campus.

A high-altitude balloon, which is filled with helium, can carry multiple payloads bearing cameras, sensors, telemetry systems, and multiple experiments.

The balloon can reach heights of 80,000 to 100,000 feet, which is about three times as high as commercial airliners and more than 20,000 feet beyond the threshold of "near space."

Lozano said this new opportunity will allow students from all disciplines to conduct experiments that interest them and relate to their own studies.  He also said primary and secondary schools in the area will likely be able to benefit from this technology by including their own experiments in with a launch.

Each launch involves multiple steps from planning and research to instrumentation, the launch itself, tracking and recovery of the balloon and materials, analyzing the data, and then publishing the findings.  Lozano estimates the cost of one launch to be $400-$500, a cost that is mostly made up of the balloon itself, helium to fill it, and gas for the vehicle that is chasing the balloon; all other materials are reusable.

One benefit of this technology is that it provides real-time data from the balloon to the ground crew.

"Even if some of these pods in which the telemetry is placed, if something happens and they are lost, at least we have the real-time date that was sent up to that time, meaning that we don't need to wait to recover the balloon to recover all of the data," Lozano said.

Lozano hopes to have enough involvement from students, faculty, and staff to host a launch in May or June of this year.

For more information, please contact Dr. Albert Lozano at [email protected] or 570-675-9245.