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Project Stratosphere

Stratosphere Balloon project of Kevin Glinka (projectvortex (at) gmx (dot) net).

Planning to make several ascents with different university supplied payloads.


The objective of Project Stratosphere is to send small rubber balloons into the stratosphere (similar to the daily ascents of sounding balloons of the Weather Bureaus all around the world), but the payload of this balloon should be enhanced in comparison to the standard weather probe.

The Project began in early 2009, when I met a person from the Netherlands at the Internet Forums of the free Space Flight Simulation Orbiter. As he had read about my interest in high-altitude ballooning, he asked me whether I would be interested in making such an automatic balloon and to fly it in Summer 2009, to which I agreed.

After an intended meeting at Osnabrueck in July 2009 did not take place, the Dutch Member of the team retired due to other occupations which left him not enough time to work on the balloon. In the meantime I had built up a manned balloon research project called Project Vortex, which would have utilized a manned balloon to carry research instruments up to an altitude of about 18,000 feet. After several discussions with my Physics Professor at University, I have decided that a total of £900 per flight is simply too much and it gives too little flexibility. Also, training would have been needed to operate all the instruments efficiently at altitude. Thus I closed down Vortex and concentrated on the unmanned balloon again.


The search for Scientific Institutions who could have interest in the flight was the next step. I found the following persons and institutions:


  • Dr Ulrich Poeschl, Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, Mainz: Would like to fly a bacteria trap on the balloon.
  • The Department of the Genetics of Microorganisms at the University of Osnabrueck: Would like to fly E. coli specimens on the balloon to investigate any changes that might occur to the DNA.

Czech Republic:

  • CzechSpace: Would like to fly an STS-6 Geiger Counter Tube.


  • Dr Alexey Kondyurin: Would like to investigate how stratospheric conditions trigger polymerization of materials.

South Africa / UK:

  • Mr Gerrit Avenant, SunSpace, University of Stellenbosch and Dr Keri Nicoll, University of Reading: Would like to provide an electric field mill to determine the electric field strength at different altitudes.


  • Dr Lorena Rebecchi: Would like to investigate the survivability of Tardigrades at high altitudes.


  • Dr Noel Aquilina: Would like to take air samples at different altitudes.

Launch Site

The Launches should be made on the campus of the University of Osnabrueck, Germany, next to a lecture building which has a hall and big enough doors to prepare the balloon for launch in there. 52.283564 N,8.02179 E

Dr Francesco Zaratti of the University of La Paz, Bolivia, offered the use of a launch site at Mount Chacaltaya (16.2 S, 68.1 W, 5270 m asl), which could be considered at an advanced stage.

Further Assistance

The UK High Altitude Society also gave me some very valuable pieces of information, such as an Excel spreadsheet which gives for a given balloon; gas inflation volume and payload weight data on ascent rate, time to balloon burst and maximum altitude. If a 1500g balloon is used and inflated to a diameter of 2 m (which corresponds to 4.2 cubic meters), it will carry 2.3 kg (which is the maximum payload according to the manufacturer) aloft at a rate of 3.2 m/s and reaching an altitude of 33,697 m. The limit of 2.3 kg also gives, that any other experiment installed on the balloon might only weigh up to 1.5 kg, thus giving with Mr. Schneider’s platform and parachute system a payload weight of 2 kg, a safety margin of 300 g.

After burst, the payload will descend on a 1.8 m parachute at a rate of 3.5 m/s. This Parachute (being white, yellow and orange for high visibility) is manufactured by Spherachutes Inc. of Greeley, Colorado, USA at a discounted price especially for the project. To pick it up, it will emit a signal on the European license-free frequency of 433 MHz, also, a prediction program by the University of Cambridge helps to determine the most possible landing spot/area.

I have shown my project to Dr. Thomas Prince of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology (a former member of the NASA Scientific Ballooning Program), and he saysthat although there are measurements being made with the huge polyethylene balloons, a student project would surely yield important information. Dr. Michael A. Gottlieb, the editor of the Feynman Lectures on Physics, stated that my project is not just valuable from the scientific point of view, butv also offers great educational opportunities which should not be missed in his opinion.


The Costs of the Project are as follows: The Balloon System for the first flight would consist of the balloon (100 €), parachute and the payload (lent from the respective research group), whereas some electronic parts would need to be purchased (For this another 100 € should be available, also to have some reserves in case of emergency). Every successive flight would then only need a new balloon for 100 €. This would mean, that for the 1,000 € needed for one manned ascent, the unmanned balloon could fly 10 times, which is much better in terms of flexibility and versatility.

projects/stratosfaira.txt · Last modified: 2010/10/16 15:36 by lunar_lander