Friday, 27 September 2013

NASA to luanch balloon to study Ison

NASA has annouced they are launch a observation balloon to monitor Ison this weekend.

BRRISON to scale with the Washington monument 
The balloon, called "BRRISON"  ( Balloon Rapid Response for Ison) will be launched from NASA's Columbia Scientific Ballon facility in Fort Sumer, New Mexico. At around 204 metre (671 feet) this helium filled polyethylene balloon is capable carrying up to 3,600 kg and reaching an altitude of 37,000 metres (120,000 feet) for approximately 11 hours.
Andy Cheng, principal investigator said "By ascending above 99.5% of the Earth's atmosphere, BRRISON will be able to study the materials within the comet," ......... "It's possible that water and organic chemicals on comets may have played an important role in the evolution of life on Earth."

BRRISON's Mission objectives:

  • Develop and demonstrate gondola and payload systems for a balloon-borne platform designed to achieve planetary science objectives.
  • Observe comet ISON in the near-infrared, near ultra-violet and visible wavelength ranges.
  • Through these observations, measure CO2 and H2O emissions and the ratio of CO2/H2O.
  • These measurements will be used as vital diagnostics of the comet’s origin and journey through our Solar System.
  • How does the composition of Oort Cloud comets compare to Kuiper Belt comets?
  • What are the chemical processes that lead to complex organic molecules in regions of star and planet formation?
  • Were there systematic chemical or isotopic gradients in early solar nebula?
  • How did Earth get its water and other volatiles?


BRISSON gondola
BRRISON's Gondola and instruments
The BRRISON ballooncraft is made of two primary components.

First is the large, stratospheric helium (He) filled balloon, also referred to as a stratospheric scientific balloon, which also serves as the “launch vehicle.”
Second is the gondola, an aluminum structure which houses BRISSON’s scientific instrument payload. The payload includes a refurbished telescope with sensors in the near-infrared, near ultra-violet and visible wavelength ranges. Additionally, a student-led payload of a high-definition camera will be used for scientific and education and public outreach purposes.

  • Balloons fly above 99.5% of Earth atmosphere which results in access to spectral bands not observable from ground-based observatories (such as the Mauna Kea Observatory) or airborne platforms (such as the SOFIA aircraft).
  • The height of the balloon also means that there is an absence of turbulent air mass that can degrade the quality of images being captured by the various sensors onboard the ballooncraft.
  • Balloon-crafts provide access to near-space at a fraction of the cost of spacecraft missions.  Typical balloon mission development costs range from about $5 million to $10 million and typical balloon launch costs range from about $500,000 to about $1.5 million – a fraction of what spacecraft mission development and  spacecraft launch vehicles cost.
  • Balloon payloads can be recovered more than 95 percent of the time.  These payloads can be refurbished and re-flown multiple times.  Plus, since the payload is still within the protection of the Earth’s radiation belts, there is no need for radiation-hardened electronics.
  • Since balloon missions are developed on relatively quick time-scales (within a year or two), they are perfect training opportunities for young space engineers & scientists.

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