Radio Interference Measuring High Altitude Balloon Flights
In 2013 UBNL launched a High altitude Balloon flight to measure the RF noise above Buffalo New York. The goal of this mission was to learn more about the noise environment so we could better design the communications system on our GLADOS spacecraft. This aspect of the communications system is known as the “Link Budget”.
Over the next few years, the balloon flight was repeated a handful of times (with the support of Praxair, who donated the Helium to UBNL). Each Balloon flight took the payload up to the top of the atmosphere at 100,000 feet (nearly 3 times the altitude of commercial airliners), each mission taking more careful measurements than the last. This idea began to grow from a Balloon flight to an entire satellite mission on it’s own. In 2015, UBNL submitted a proposal to NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Project, and in 2016 UBNL was awarded a $100,000 grant to produce a 3U named LinkSat. LinkSat’s goal is to perform the same mission as the original balloon flight in 2013, but over more frequency bands, and to cover the entire planet over multiple seasons. This will give cube satellite developers access to better Link Budget data than has ever been available before.
April 2016 Launch
This flight was launched near the end of the 2015-2016 Spring Semester. It included a 3D print of “Jeb Kerman”, a character from the video game “Kerbal Space Program”. This photograph was taken from roughly 100,00 feet, which is approximately 3x higher than the cruising altitude of commercial airlines!
The balloon flight was mostly a success, however some issues with the flight hardware meant that we needed to design a more rugged payload which we hoped to launch in the Spring. This flight collected radio noise over the 145, 430 and 915 MHz bands, which are some of the bands used by GLADOS for down/up link communications.
September 2016 Launch
The launch scheduled to take place on September 19th, 2016 is especially interesting due to the fact that it will be kicking off UB’s “Space Week!”. The mission will be similar to missions in the past as it will continue to provide us with more useful RF noise data above our ground station and it will continue to give us experience as we develop LinkSat.