April 20, 2016 – On Saturday, April 23, students from MSU Denver’s Introduction to Space class will simulate the launch and recovery of a satellite by launching a high-altitude hydrogen balloon from a meadow in eastern Colorado. The balloon will reach the edge of space, roughly 100,000 feet, before bursting and sending student experiments back to Earth via parachute.
“Students get a great understanding of the space environment without the cost associated with launching a satellite,” said Jose Lopez, engineering lecturer, teacher for the course and retired United States Air Force Colonel.
Student teams design and build the balloons to house experiments, sensors and cameras. Students present their initial designs in class, and at the end of the semester, the final results of the project.
One of this semester’s experiments is a project with Oakman Aerospace on innovative marketing technologies to be developed and used with commercial clients.
After the balloon bursts, the remains could land anywhere in Eastern Colorado, Wyoming and even Nebraska, so the chase and recovery is part of the excitement. And the photo footage captured during flight is nothing short of extraordinary.
Because of their size, the balloons must be cleared for launch by the Federal Aviation Administration. That’s why launches are held on weekends early in the morning. Winds are also watched very closely to make sure the balloons do not head into Denver International Airport air space.
The class is a requirement for MSU Denver’s space commercialization certificate, which provides increased knowledge and understanding of skills as related to the commercial space industry.