Strathclyde students launch stratospheric balloon experiment

By Ellie Smith

Students from Strathclyde have launched an experiment on board a stratospheric balloon with the help of Balloon Experiments for University Students (BEXUS) as part of a prestigious European Space Agency programme.

The team of 3 – Tiago Queiroz, Frazer Brownlie and Andrew Allan – travelled to the Swedish rocket base Estrange to join 4 other teams from Germany, Italy, Hungary and Spain.

The students launched an inflatable structure to 35 km, the same height that Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from last year when he broke the speed of sound.

The launch follows on from research by the University’s Thomas Sinn, a PhD student at the Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory, on bio-inspired smart space structures. Sinn was also the project supervisor. He said:

“BEXUS is a fantastic programme which gives students the chance to design, build, test and fly their ideas on a stratospheric balloon. All the steps are very similar to real space projects.

“Launching large structures into space is very expensive. By making a structure ultra-light and deployable, a very large structure like a space power concentrator can then simply be packed and launched with a single rocket.

“By going a step further and taking all the rigid components out of the structure by disaggregating the electronics and making the structure able to change its shape, the possible applications become countless.”

Speaking about the launch, team member Tiago Queiroz added:

“To be part of such a complex and diverse project as an undergraduate student provided a great opportunity to apply technical knowledge and develop personal skills which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

Seeing the launch of BEXUS, carrying the experiment that we worked so hard on for over a year and to then go to the ground station to see that everything was working as planed was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The University of Strathclyde is already recognised internationally for its space-based research, presently leading the Stardust programme.