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UNM Students Build, Launch Balloon into Ionosphere

May 1, 2012

A team of UNM undergraduates working on a senior design capstone project have designed, built and launched a helium balloon with a payload of sensors into the ionosphere. The group led by Clint Corbin, the lead mechanical engineering designer and Zach Roberson, the payload designer launched the balloon from Moriarty, N.M. on April 14, 2012. It was recovered more than 300 miles away in Colorado.


The team is supervised by Chris Hall, professor of Mechanical Engineering and Christos Christodoulou, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and includes Matt McCullough, who functioned as the lead Electrical Engineer, Scott Wilson, who did payload electronics design, Clint Been who worked on atmospherics analysis, Preston Edwards who worked on the structure, Earl Campbell who did communications and Wallie Kincaid who worked on the electrical systems.

Craig Kief, academic programs and design services for the Configurable Space Microsystems Innovations and Applications Center (COSMIAC) and Brian Zufelt, in charge of small satellite and SPA development, worked as advisors to the team. COSMIAC is a Tier 1 research center in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UNM and a charter program of the Phillips Technology Institute of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.

The first launch was a proof of concept that the team could fly and recover the payloads. The second flight, scheduled for early May will carry a “command module” that contains communications and power systems to ensure all FAA requirements are met. The “command module” is reusable.

Over the summer the team hopes to fly balloons carrying experiments every two weeks.  The balloons, which reach an altitude of 100,000 feet, will be used as a platform for testing imaging, communications, biological and other experiments.

Media contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277‑5627; email: