ISU SH-SSP17 participants launch balloons into stratosphere

ISU’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program’s (SH-SSP17) 36 participants from 12 nations have successfully launched monitoring equipment — and grape seeds into the stratosphere.

"One of the projects we are doing in our summer programs is designing, building and launching a stratospheric balloon," ISU participant Laurence Trevor told ABC Adelaide Drive.

Each balloon was filled with about four cubic meters of helium and grew to about two meters in diameter prior to launch. The balloon carries the payload to higher than 23 kilometers above Earth, where its diameter grows to 10 meters due to the difference in air pressure.

An array of monitoring and filming equipment was tethered to the balloons, as well as a packet of local grape seeds. Telemetry checks are done before the launch. And balloon chase teams are hot on payload’s tail!

"When the grape seeds come back down we are going to get our resident biologist to do some experiments on them and see if the seeds are still viable after they have gone into space," participant Jessica Todd said.

"We are hoping that, following this, we can plant them and grow some space wine."

Mr. Trevor said the seeds would be exposed to extreme conditions and would be bombarded with solar radiation and that they might have "X-men grapes" should they still be viable.

"The conditions up where the balloon will be flying are pretty extreme," he said.
"It is about minus 80 degrees Celsius and the air pressure is about 1 per cent of sea level."

shssp174 balloon2This project gives the participants the experience of launching a payload as well as collecting and analyzing infra-red images of the land below.

More information about SH-SSP