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Raven Industries Manufactured Balloon Sets Records

Raven Aerostar Zero Pressure Balloon flown by Cornell University graduate students. Source: Raven Industries
by Staff Writers
Sioux Falls SD (SPX) Apr 01, 2011
On March 4, 2011, a Raven Aerostar designed and manufactured Zero Pressure Balloon, flown by Cornell University graduate students, broke the world Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning records for highest altitude and largest balloon envelope. The near-space flight reached a maximum altitude of 135,030 feet and the envelope's fully expanded volume arrived at a record-breaking 141,000 cubic feet.

This flight is part of a graduate program in Systems Engineering at Cornell University. The program has continued to use high altitude balloons as platforms to provide low-cost and fast turnaround solutions. The involved teams have designed and constructed the payload tracking systems and radio frequency data links using amateur radio systems.

Aerostar's high reliability balloons provide a true space mission experience for the Cornell Students.

Mike Smith, a Raven Aerostar Aerospace Engineer, said, "The Cornell program is the perfect example of what we would like to see at universities all over the country. There is no other platform that provides young engineers with the real space mission feel without having to wait years for a ride on an orbital vehicle. Furthermore, instruments can be recovered, upgraded, and re-flown in a matter of weeks."

Aerostar balloons can loiter at constant altitude for hours or days, allowing long term observation and equipment check-out in a space equivalent environment.

Raven Aerostar's High Altitude Balloon Plant, located in Sulphur Springs, TX, can trace its roots to the beginning of modern stratospheric ballooning in the late 1940s.

Since that time, the technology has grown to allow payloads of over three tons to be carried to altitudes of over 130,000 ft. Balloon operations are much less expensive than orbital missions, and project time lines are much shorter.

At the student level, the low cost, fast turnaround balloon projects promote a sense of schedule responsibility that is not possible with student satellite projects. Alternative methods can take years before a student satellite makes it into orbit.

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