The High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) is a NASA sponsored program supported by the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium and NASA’s Balloon Program Office which allows 12-13 groups of students to build and test payloads on a scientific balloon flight for several hours at a time. The University of Minnesota has flown on HASP once a year since 2012 and has just recently completed their 6th HASP flight. Each flight has served the UMN Small Satellite Research Lab group to develop what has become the CITIES detector system currently being used for the group’s SOCRATES and EXACT missions.
Each year, the group proposes a new project to the HASP team personnel who decide which payloads will fly that year. After that, each team starts work on their payload and is required to submit monthly status reports as well as other documentation to ensure the payload has the proper specifications dictated by the HASP program and to ensure the payload can be properly mounted to the HASP gondola. After the payload is assembled and tested in-house, the team travels to the Columbia Scientific Ballooning Facility (CSBF) in Palestine, TX where they and the rest of the teams integrate their payload with the HASP platform and undergo two thermal vacuum tests to ensure they can operate throughout the flight.
Finally, as the flight date nears, the HASP teams meet in Fort Sumner, NM. Here, they re-integrate their payloads with the HASP platform which is then mated with its supporting electronics, communications system, and ballast systems. After this is complete and all systems are checked, the HASP payload waits for its next launch opportunity and, once this comes around, is attached to a balloon and launches from the Fort Sumner airport. In the next 2.5 hours, the balloon rises to roughly 124,000 feet in altitude where it will stay for 7+ hours as it floats westward towards Arizona. As the flight is happening, student teams analyze data sent from their payloads through serial data downlink and radio from the HASP gondola to ensure proper operation of their payloads and to send any commands needed to perform tasks or fix issues. Finally, once CSBF and NASA safety personnel have determined that they have a safe place to land, the flight is terminated and rapidly descends with a parachute to the ground.
The UMN HASP payload is built using slightly modified designs from the development of the SOCRATES and EXACT CubeSat system so it can mimic these systems as accurately as possible. In addition to the CITIES detector, this year’s payload contained a dust sensor from the UMN High Altitude Ballooning Team and the Multi University Research Initiative (MURI). This project is sponsored by Dr. James Flaten and Dr. Graham Candler.
HASP Flight 2018 took place on Sept. 4th, 2018. The flight lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes with a total float time of 9 hours 1 minute. Internal temperatures of circuit boards ranged from -14ºC to 89ºC. Throughout the flight, the payload seemed to operate well based on telemetry data recorded throughout the flight. Once the payload has been recovered and returns to UMN, the SmallSat team will start to analyze the onboard data to determine detector functionality and results.