NASA's BARREL Mission in Sweden
A BARREL team member recovers the second payload after it landed.
The BARREL team is at Esrange Space Center near Kiruna, Sweden, launching a series of six scientific payloads on miniature scientific balloons. The NASA-funded BARREL – which stands for Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses – primarily measures X-rays in Earth’s atmosphere near the North and South Poles. These X-rays are produced by electrons raining down into the atmosphere from two giant swaths of radiation that surround Earth, called the Van Allen belts. Learning about the radiation near Earth helps us to better protect our satellites.
Several of the BARREL balloons also carry instruments built by undergraduate students to measure the total electron content of Earth’s ionosphere, as well as the low-frequency electromagnetic waves that help to scatter electrons into Earth’s atmosphere. Though about 90 feet in diameter, the BARREL balloons are much smaller than standard football stadium-sized scientific balloons.
This is the fourth campaign for the BARREL mission. BARREL is led by Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The undergraduate student instrument team is led by the University of Houston and funded by the Undergraduate Student Instrument Project out of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. For more information on NASA’s scientific balloon program, visit: www.nasa.gov/scientificballoons.
Image credit: NASA/Montana State University/Arlo Johnson
Thursday, August 18, 2016
BARREL Status Report #12 August 17, 2016
BARREL Status Report #12
August 17, 2016
BARREL Flight 4B was terminated this morning at 0350 UT. The balloon started with a nice southerly trajectory, so we thought we might get a long flight out of it. But, it took a sharp turn to the west right after sunrise and had to be cut down as it approached the mountains. Despite the relatively short flight, we caught all of the RBSP conjunction we were targeting, and even had some substorm activity. We saw a very bright relativistic precipitation event which may have been associated with that substorm. The payload was recovered in very good shape earlier today. Note that this payload was also carrying the Univ. of Houston TEC experiment. We’re excited to see if they saw any change in total electron content due to the energetic precipitation!
The Van Allen Probes EFW team is now requesting playback of burst data from our first flight and they are planning data collections for the next conjunctions. We will not be launching on Thursday due to the predicted flight trajectory (climb out is mostly west which shortens the flight substantially). So, the next launch attempt is likely to be on Friday. I’ll send another update then.