On May 3rd, 2013 at 2:20 EDT, members of the Space Hub Southeast program in Atlanta, GA launched a high-altitude weather balloon into the earth’s upper atmosphere. The balloon carried a payload consisting of 130 self-contained science experiments—housed inside ping-pong balls—and one Omnilink OM210 electronic monitoring device. The payload was supported be a flexible fiberglass vehicle that was architected by the team.The non-profit program’s space missions champion science and innovation, and help to educate students about high-altitude environments by measuring it’s impact on everything from everyday objects like bubble wrap and marshmallows to tiny circuit boards capable of recording radiation dosage and pressure.
The helium-filled balloon and it’s attached payload rapidly ascended through the sky to an altitude where human life cannot exist without the support of a pressurized and heated suit. The balloon and its payload encountered extremely low pressure (.013ATM, about 1% of the pressure on the surface), temperatures below –60ºF, and cosmic radiation from solar flares. After reaching an altitude of 100,000 feet and 1.3% of normal atmospheric pressure, the balloon burst and the payload glided back to earth with assistance from a ripstop nylon parachute. As the payload was landing in Jasper, GA, the OM210™—unimpeded by exposure to extreme atmospheric conditions—communicated the payload’s precise latitude and longitude back to Omnilink and the Space Hub Southeast field crew for retrieval.The payload returned to earth at 4:21 PM EDT, 41.46 miles from the launch site, having successfully completed its mission to space.
The team had no expectation that the OM210′s internal components would be able to withstand the extreme atmospheric conditions in order to contributed to the recovery of the balloon and its payload. Yet, despite the pressure and temperatures it encountered, the device functioned without issue, and transmitted its location with perfect accuracy, proving its superior ruggedness and reliability beyond a shadow of a doubt.
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