BLUEsat UNSW team members prep a stratospheric balloon on the back of a ute in country Australia.

BLUEsat’s High Altitude Balloon Team

Members of BLUEsat UNSW's High Altitude Balloon team inspect the payload on the back of a ute before launch.
A member of the High Altitude Balloon team inspecting the payload with Dr Aboutanios before a launch.

The BLUEsat UNSW High-Altitude Ballooning project sends student-developed payloads to over 20km in altitude using stratospheric balloons. These payloads include radio telemetry, tracking, data-logging, custom-built enclosures, remote flight-termination, and flight stabilisation systems. Many of these systems are facsimiles of what may be found in a satellite and have to deal with space like conditions.

When a payload has been built and thoroughly tested, the team embarks on missions up to Muswellbrook or Merriwa in the Upper Hunter Region of NSW, Australia, where the balloon is launched into near-space to gather data, pictures and video. At the end of the flight, the payload descends by parachute and is recovered.

We are currently working with the University of Pisa to develop a radar system called BALSAR (Balloon Synthetic Aperture Radar. The BLUEsat High-Altitude Ballooning Team will engineer a prototype of the stabilised platform intended to carry the small synthetic-aperture radar being developed in Italy.

A view of the curvature of the Earth over NSW, Australia taken by a Raspberry Pi onboard one of the Balloon Teams recent launches.
A view of the curvature of the Earth over NSW, Australia taken by a Raspberry Pi onboard one of the Balloon Teams recent launches.

The final product will incorporate various elements from our test flights, including tracking, remote separation, photography and telemetry, in addition to accurate pointing and stability. Stabilisation is required to isolate the radar device from the spinning and swaying caused by tethering it to a moving balloon.

This project is being supervised by Dr Elias Aboutanios from the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER). It is funded by NATO under the Science for Peace and Security Program.

Additionally we use our balloon launches to test satellite components from our CubeSat Teams in near-space conditions. The team is also working with the society’s Groundstation Team to develop methods for communicating with the High-Altitude Balloon payload whilst in flight.