Balloon sights space

Last Saturday, the RPI Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, which was started as a local chapter of a national organization dedicated to forwarding the development of space, launched a high-atmosphere weather balloon equipped with three high-definition cameras and equipment. The purpose of the balloon was to capture a 360 degree panoramic HD video footage of the earth’s upper atmosphere. This balloon reached a maximum of 89,777 feet—just over three times the height of Mt. Everest—and a maximum speed of 246 mph on its journey.

The balloon was launched on the ’86 Field to fanfare from a group of RPI students and regional media. Its ascent powered by gaseous helium, the balloon rose to near 90,000 feet, where it popped and released the attached cameras to slowly float down to the ground, moved along by the air currents at that altitude.

After the launch, the club’s leadership began following the GPS signals of the camera payload. The signals eventually led them to Springfield, Vt. where the first chase car broke down. Fortunately, the cameras landed within a five minute drive of the breakdown, and a second chase car was able to track them down. The payload was found hanging from a tree in a forest, and not in a body of water as the SEDS team had feared it might be.

The video footage is currently being processed by the SEDS leadership, and when finished, the project will give the viewer the ability to move their view 360 degrees around as they follow the journey. According to SEDS founder Orian Breaux ’12, “The video to come from this project will be an extraordinary opportunity to immerse viewers with the wonder of space. That curiosity has fallen out of public consciousness, and grassroots projects like these will help restore that spark among younger generations.”