Stratospheric Payload Test Bed Development, 16-9297

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Principal Investigator
Le Moey Wiebush

Co-Investigators
Allan B. Black
Kurt A. Franke

Inclusive Dates: 02/04/02 - Current

Background - Stratospheric platforms provide potential advantages over satellites. These advantages include lower price, station-keeping ability at lower altitudes, and rapid deployment. Previous development has achieved limited success in placing sensors and communications in the stratosphere. The Institute's Buoyant Stratospheric Vehicle (BSV) program is currently in need of a payload flight test method that is fast, low cost, and allows easy payload recovery. This research project was funded to produce a prototype test bed vehicle.

Approach - The current project efforts utilize a weather balloon launch method with release of the flight vehicle by the onboard navigation system at a selected altitude. The flight vehicle is a two-meter wingspan glider having rudder and elevator control surfaces. The onboard flight control and navigation systems include a GPS receiver, a flight speed sensor, a yaw rate gyro, a navigation computer, and a radio-frequency modem. The ground control and recovery system consists of a laptop computer with map displays, operator control functions, data-logging capability, and a joystick control box for landing. The payload for this early phase consists of wideband radio communications, temperature measurements and flight dynamics measurements.

Accomplishments - During this project, the following tasks have been accomplished:

  • A commercial glider airframe with two-meter wingspan and a similar diameter lifting weather balloon were selected for the scale-model test bed.
  • Sensors, computers, and actuators have been integrated into the prototype flight vehicle.
  • A successful release latch has been developed and tested.
  • Numerous low-altitude flights have been made, providing experience in handling the glider and testing the initial flight control programs.
  • An algorithm for heading control that accounts for wind has been developed and tested.
  • Ground-based software for monitoring and issuing commands to the glider has been written.
  • Limited environmental chamber testing of parts has been performed.

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