An Undergraduate Student Instrumentation Project (USIP) to Develop New Instrument Technology to Study the Auroral Ionosphere and Stratospheric Ozone Layer Using Ultralight Balloon Payloads

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Michelle Nowling1, Hamza Ahmad1, Rachel Gamblin1, Diego Guala1, Daniel Hermosillo1, Megan Pina1, Erika Marrero1, Daniel raul joseph Canales1, John Cao1, Arian Ehteshami1, Edgar A Bering III1, Barry L Lefer2, Bonnie Dunbar1, Christopher Bias1 and Sikender Shahid1, (1)University of Houston, Houston, TX, United States, (2)NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, United States
This project is currently engaging twelve undergraduate students in the process of developing new technology and instrumentation for use in balloon borne geospace investigations in the auroral zone. Motivation stems from advances in microelectronics and consumer electronic technology. Given the technological innovations over the past 20 years it now possible to develop new instrumentation to study the auroral ionosphere and stratospheric ozone layer using ultralight balloon payloads for less than 6lbs and $3K per payload. The University of Houston Undergraduate Student Instrumentation Project (USIP) team has built ten such payloads for launch using 1500 gm latex weather balloons deployed in Houston, TX, Fairbanks, AK, and as well as zero pressure balloons launched from northern Sweden. The latex balloon project will collect vertical profiles of wind velocity, temperature, electrical conductivity, ozone, and odd nitrogen. This instrument payload will also produce profiles of pressure, electric field, and air-earth electric current. The zero pressure balloons will obtain a suite of geophysical measurements including: DC electric field, electric field and magnetic flux, optical imaging, total electron content of ionosphere via dual-channel GPS, X-ray detection, and infrared/UV spectroscopy. Students flew payloads with different combinations of these instruments to determine which packages are successful. Data collected by these instruments will be useful in understanding the nature of electrodynamic coupling in the upper atmosphere and how the global earth system is changing. Twelve out of the launched fifteen payloads were successfully launched and recovered. Results and best practices learned from lab tests and initial Houston test flights will be discussed.