Using recovery capsules to prevent loss of data from balloon-based telescopes

An international team of astrophysicists, aerospace engineers and balloonists has found that data recovery capsules are a viable means of ensuring data integrity in the event of loss of flight capabilities or communications abilities in balloon-based telescope projects. In their paper published in a special issue of Aerospace, the group describes their test of four Data Recovery System (DRS) capsules containing 5 TB of telescopic data sent aboard a helium-filled, super-pressurized balloon.

Astrophysicists have found that it is much cheaper to send telescopes to the edge of space using balloons rather than rockets. Such balloons can also remain aloft for long periods of time, allowing the telescope to capture enormous amounts of data. In this new effort, the research team sent a superBIT telescope to the Earth’s stratosphere using a helium-filled, super-pressure balloon—its mission was to collect astronomical imaging from above approximately 99.5% of the Earth’s atmosphere.

As part of the mission, the research team also sent four DRS capsules as a means of backing up data collected by the telescope. The idea was that if the balloon and/or telescope were lost, the capsules and their backup data could drift slowly down to earth beneath a parachute, where they could then be

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