High Altitude Balloons — The Cheapest and Quickest Way to Get Detectors Above 99.9% of the Atmosphere

  • Aug. 15, 2019, 4:30 pm
  • User's Center
  • Hunter Hall, JPL/Berkeley

A typical high altitude balloon (HAB) can reach altitudes ~38km (120,000ft) lifting a payload of ~6kg (13lbs). The SENSEI team at Fermilab is designing and planning to fly a HAB mission(s) that carries a SkipperCCD to the edge of space in order to search for strongly interacting sub-GeV dark matter above 99.9% of Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been utilizing these balloons in a similar fashion for very rapid, inexpensive, and simple near-space environmental tests of spaceflight hardware and instruments prior to satellite missions.These NASA JPL HAB flights (minus the cost of the scientific instrument) only cost on the order of <$5,000 and (minus the scientific instrument preparation time) can be assembled, tested, and sent into the stratosphere in less than 4 weeks. The same inexpensive and rapid framework has been brought to Fermilab to be utilized to get the SkipperCCD into the upper-atmosphere in the near future!