New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory partnered with Stratodynamics and UAVOS to perform a series of stratospheric flights with HiDRON, an autonomous aircraft, at Spaceport America.
The HiDRON stratospheric glider achieved controlled flight following a release from a sounding balloon at altitudes above 82,000 feet June 1 and 4, and 98,000 feet June 6.
The mission objectives were to advance new systems for forward-sensing turbulence detection onboard aircraft at near-space and commercial flight altitudes. The flight campaign team included Aliaksei Stratsilatau, CEO of UAVOS, the HiDRON autopilot developer and supplier; Sean Bailey, principal investigator; Ryan Nolin, flight technician from the University of Kentucky; Qamar Shams, sensor inventor from NASA Langley; and balloon launch specialists Andrew Denney and Victor Davison from PSL to assist with launch logistics.
The collaboration converged at Spaceport America to combine the novel, high-altitude aerial platform with multi-hole wind probe and infrasonic microphone sensors to advance forward detection of turbulence systems. During the ascent phase, the platform captured a stunning view of New Mexico which has recently been selected as NASA’s June 17 Image of the Day.
"It was great to have the support of Henry Cathey, Andrew Denney and Victor Davison from NMSU’s Physical Science Lab. Their vast experience enabled the key balloon launch activities to be managed by their team smoothly and contributed to the successful outcome,” said Stratodynamics CEO Gary Pundsack.
“The PSL team was enthusiastic to be part of this pioneering launch. Our goal is to provide launch services and expertise that support advancements in research and technology. The safety of the crew and research instrumentation remains at the forefront of our launch priorities; as does the success of our partners,” said Denney, lead electrical engineer at PSL and principal investigator for this effort. “Building the right team is critical. In this mission, PSL was joined by Victor Davison, a ballooning expert who retired from PSL after 27 years and now owns and operates his Texas-based company, Ballooning, Rigging and Crew Chief Services.”
Henry Cathey, director of NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory Aerospace Division, said “PSL’s 25-plus years of management and operation of NASA Balloon Program captures a wealth of technical and personal expertise unavailable anywhere else. The success of this important mission with Stratodynamics is a testament to the region’s capacity to support this type of work. Being able to collaborate with Spaceport America and utilize their airspace is a significant regional advantage.”
The flight campaign was supported by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program to advance turbulence-detection sensors developed by the University of Kentucky and NASA’s Langley Research Center.
PSL was founded in 1946 in response to the nation’s space and rocket programs, PSL’s growth in capability and talent has enabled NMSU to provide exceptional support to numerous scientific and technical activities across the nation and around the globe. Today’s domain expertise includes electronic warfare, counter measures, cybersecurity, telemetry and missile systems, 21st century aerospace and scientific ballooning. PSL maintains a catalog of telemetry and antenna systems designed and built in our laboratory. Additionally, custom flight hardware can be designed to meet customer needs.