Students set world record for latex balloon flight

SSI logoAfter months of trials to hone its technique, a team of Stanford students has set a world record for the longest high-altitude flight with a latex balloon.

The achievement by the STANFORD STUDENT SPACE INITIATIVE (SSI), a student-led campus group that focuses on space and aerospace research, shows small teams with low budgets how to perform serious high-altitude atmospheric research.

High-altitude balloons – those that fly 15 to 35 kilometers above Earth’s surface – are one way that researchers can deploy scientific instruments for aerial missions such as gathering atmospheric data, observing the sky or testing space systems.

The record-setting flight, eighth in a series of efforts that began months earlier, was launched on June 15 outside Modesto. The balloon flew for 70 hours and 10 minutes, crossing into and out of Canadian airspace, and eventually landed off the Atlantic coast of the United States. The Stanford flight beat the previous world record of 57 hours and 2 minutes, as recorded by the Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning organization.

The helium-filled latex balloon had a gas venting valve and ballast dispenser, allowing it to adjust altitude autonomously or via remote control. Costing under $1,000, the so-called ValBal balloon provides an affordable approach to aerial research.

“Our system presents a high-altitude platform for consumers who want to fly in the upper atmosphere and control systems at a relatively low price,” said ARIA TEDJARATI, a rising senior in electrical engineering who is the ValBal project manager and software lead.

Read the entire story on the School of Engineering website.