Fly It

Payload User's Guide - High Altitude Balloon Missions

The flight platform that we usually fly CubeSat experiments on first is the high altitude balloon (HAB). Balloons do a good job of simulating a CubeSat in orbit and they offer the opportunity to use radio communications to track the payload. Also, balloons are generally the most accessible flight platform due to their low complexity and low cost. Conducting a balloon mission is something an educator can do with their students without needing a great deal of training and resources.

You can contact us at [email protected] for information about sending your payload to us for flight, or for more information about conducting your own balloon missions.

Our balloon missions typically last about 2 hours, rising from the ground to an altitude between 90,000 and 110,000 feet in about 90 minutes, depending on the weather, lift gas, and other variables. At peak altitude, the balloon bursts, and the payloads, attached by a cable to a parachute, fall back to Earth. We use radio communications and telemetry to track the flight and touchdown of the payload. Depending on to the terrain in which it lands, we typically recover the payload within 24 hours.

Your payload’s success depends mainly on the quality of your preparation. Please pack and crash test your payload carefully and pay particular attention to the following specifications:

  1. A balloon mission must not exceed 6lbs. (2700g). We try to fly multiple payloads on a mission, so we would work with you to define what exactly that mass constraint is.
  2. We cannot free fall objects from any altitude, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  3. All electronics, including tracking, must meet all Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and FAA regulations. This generally pertains to electronics that use radio communications.
  4. We use the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) for tracking purposes so that any electronics must not interfere with our device. (1-Watt VHF)
  5. The payload cannot have any explosive or volatile items.
  6. Your payload instructions should note the orientation of the payload for flight.
  7. The payload should be shipped “ready to fly” except for power/battery connections or switches.
  8. Payloads should be able to sit flush on top and bottom. Multiple CubeSats will be connected together in the vertical axis. Keep this in mind if placing sensors on the top and bottom of your CubeSat. The top and bottom should be noted in your payload instructions.
  9. A diagram of payload and its parts should be included. This can be in the form of photos, digital renderings, or hand-drawn schematics.
  10. Have detailed start-up and shutdown procedures for before and after flights.

Email us at [email protected] to get started.