New Mexico Eclipse Ballooning Project

On February 26, 1979, the continental United States experienced a complete solar eclipse. After nearly 40 years, the opportunity has come again for us to witness a total solar eclipse on August 21,2017. Many schools around the nation will be sending up balloons to video and take pictures to see the eclipse from a totally different view. New Mexico State University (NMSU) is lucky enough to be one of those schools.

NMSU students will be sending experiments on a high altitude balloon (HAB), which will be streaming live video and images from near space to the NASA website. New Mexico will join a network of teams from Space Grant Consortia spread out over 30 locations across the total solar eclipse path. The balloon launch will take place at the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska. Video and images of a total eclipse near space have never been streamed live and never in a network of coverage across the U.S.

SignificanceStudents putting the ground station together

54 teams from 31 states in the National Space Grant College & Fellowship Program are participating. Organization is led by Montana Space Grant with assistance from other Space Grant Consortia.

Workforce development.

This project presents an amazing hands-on learning opportunity for the hundreds of students who are participating. Norann calibrating the ground station

NMSU Students and Faculty

Norann Calhoun, Chemical Engineering
Alvin Harvey, Mechanical Engineering
Philip Lane, Mechanical Enginnering
Joshua Budish, Mechanical Engineering
Sten Hasselquist, Astronomy
Krishna Kota, Assistant Professor

Students checking the servos and base plateExperiment Components

A -Cutdown: System which mechanically severs the line connecting the payload string to the balloon when commanded.
B -Tracking Payload: Housing an NAL Iridium satellite modem near real time tracking of the balloon and payload string is possible for both FAA and the ground station tracking.
C -Still Image Payload: Using a Raspberry Pi, Pi Camera and 900Mhz modem images can be sent to the ground station and commands/settings can be sent to and from the payload.
D -Video Payload: A Raspberry Pi and Pi Camera are to record and transmit an HD video feed to the ground station using a 5.8Ghz Ubiquiti modem.
E -Ground Station: While tracking the balloon during flight, the ground station gathers live HD video stream and uploads it to the internet. The ground station also allows users to receive images from and send commands to the still image payload.