Passepartout Sherpa

The Forum’s High-Tech-Stratosphere Balloon

he balloon gets filled with Helium shortly before take off at the Lustbühel Observatorium in Graz.

he balloon gets filled with Helium shortly before take off at the Lustbühel Observatorium in Graz.

The passepartout stratosphere balloon system has been developed for flights up to 30-40km height. The specifically developed payload pod can carry experiments of up to 1.2kg into the stratosphere, as well as send telemetric data and follow commands from a ground station. After reaching a height of 35km the balloon rips apart and falls back towards the Earth. Thanks to a highly developed tracking system the trajectory and landing place can be determined to send out a recovery team.

The project was originally conceived as a training- and test project for the PolAres programme, but has become a project on its own right since 2007: Passepartout is the only system in Austria, which can take these specific payloads and up to the Stratosphere, especially considering the unique telemetry and telecommanding infrastructure.

Sherpa is the avionic Module of the Passepartout balloon: It consists of a polystyrene box (24 x 24 x 16 cm) which holds the energy supply, communication modules, sensors and – most important of all – the on board computer “STACIE” (Stratosphere Telemetry And Command Interface), which is able to measure position and environmental data as well as follow commands from a ground station. Via the APRS network of amateur radio operators a back-up telemetry is guaranteed, and the SPOT-module allows satellite tracking for the recovery team. In addition to satellite positioning, tracking via a radar reflector is of high importance for air traffic.

System descriptions

M. Taraba et al. “Passepartout Sherpa - a low-cost, reusable transportation system into the stratosphere for small experiments”, Advances in Space Research, 2014

Passepartout flights of the OeWF

Ballon Sherpa III SYS I / launch postponed

Launch postponed due to new Austrian regulations.

A complete System check and evaluation of the Sherpa architecture will be performed during this launch. A fictive experiment shall be executed, which shall be automatically controlled by Stacie as well as manually by the ground station. An exactly weighted dropping dummy shall be dropped manually at an exact altitude. After the balloon bursts, the balloon mantle shall be dropped automatically by Stacie. Because of the small weight of the system, an altitude record shall be flown. If ready, the visualization software shall be tested particularly with regard to the real-time forecast of the balloon track prediction.

Mission Parameter

  • Launch date scheduled: postponed
  • Launch area: Lustbühel, Graz, Styria, Austria
  • Balloon: 3000 g scientifc Sales
  • Balloon size on ground: t.b.t.
  • Ballon gas: Helium, 6m3
  • Payload mass: t.b.t.
  • Ascent velocity: t.b.t.
  • Descent velocity: t.b.t.
  • Burst altitude: t.b.t.
  • Landing: t.b.t.
  • Intrumentation:
    • MicroTrak 300 + GPS
    • STACIE + STACIE Interface + GPS
    • Stacie Interface Exp Dummy
    • 2 Cut-Off mechanisms for flight operations
    • 1 Cut-Off mechanism for recovery operation
    • LED Flasher
    • Bearing transmitter (70cm ISM band)
    • Spot Messenger
    • Sensors: T1, T2, T3, P, RH, GMZ, UV
    • Keycam upwards
Balloon SHERPA I - Hess / 21. April 2012

The balloon was launched part of the event to 100 years discovery of the cosmic radiation. This mission was the LONGEST FLIGHT of a LATEX BALLOON EVER, 275km distance in 7 hours and 13 minutes.

Just almost 100 years ago, the Austrian physicist Viktor Franz Hess has measured, during numerous balloon flights, that the natural radioactivity is increasing with increasing altitude. Thereby he discovered that the Earth is permanently struck by particles from space – the cosmic radiation. Viktor Hess has named this radiation as “Höhenstrahlung”. For this discovery, he earned the Nobel prize in Physics in 1936. 2012 is the Viktor Hess-year. For this reason, the Austria Space Forum in cooperation with the High Energy Physics Department oft he Austrian Academy Of Sciences, has launched a stratospheric balloon at the 1st of September from the Kasematten in Graz, Styria, Austria.

Mission Parameter

  • Launch date: 1. September 2012, 11:03 local time (CEST)
  • Launch area: Kasematten, Graz, Styria, Austria
  • Balloon: 3000 g sounding balloon
  • Balloon size on ground: 1.85 m, Burst diameter: 9,44 m
  • Ballon gas: Helium, 6m3
  • Payload mass: 1.562 kg (including parachute and radar reflector)
  • Ascent velocity: avg. 132 m/min – 164m/min
  • Descent velocity: avg 733m/min
  • Burst altitude: 20177m
  • Landing: Czech Republic
  • Major components:
    • Instrument package: APRS transmitter (2m band)
    • Telemetry transmitter (2m band)
    • Environmental data acquisition hardware (inside & outside) + GMZ
    • Digicam (horizontal)
    • Live Cam 45°
    • Power supply + LiPo accumulators
    • Bearing transmitter (70cm ISM band)
    • Globalstar Tracking

Unfortunately the weather conditions were not ideal. Thick clouds were hanging over Austria that day, and it rained the whole day. This is why the mission was not completed as it was planned. The main telemetry transmitter stopped working some minutes after launch because of the high humidity in the capsule, so no environmental data was transmitted. The Live Cam showed only the first part of the ascent before the capsule entered the clouds. Over the altitude of 4200m the water was frozen on the balloon mantle, so the balloon system sunk down to an area where the ice was defrosted -> the balloon was climbing again -> was frozen -> sunk down -> climbing -> and so on…. After 5 hours of climbing and sinking the balloon came to an area where the sun was shining (St. Pölten), so the balloon mantle could dry and it was risen to an altitude of 20177m where the balloon was burst and the capsule came down to the bottom again. Our backup telemetry transmitter was working fine during the whole flight. The capsule was recovered in good condition, the recovery systems were working well (thankfully they are waterproof). Some electronic devices were inundated. It was the longest flight of a Latex balloon ever, 275km distance in 7 hours and 13 minutes.

This event was be operated in cooperation with the High Energy Physics Institute, Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences the Österreichischer Versuchssenderverband ÖVSV and the Austrian Armed Forces.

Special Thanks to the Company Mennersdorfer for their sponsorship concerning the radarreflectors.
Fa. Mennersdorfer Fallschirm- und Reflektorerzeugung für den Wetterdienst
1180 Wien, Austria

Balloon SHERPA III - Airsampler I / 21. April 2012

One Part of the TriPolar Sparkling-Science Project is the search for life-forms in the Stratosphere of the Earth. Six pupils of the HTBLA Eisenstadt in cooperation with the balloon-team of the ÖWF are developing an air sampler which will be transported with a stratosphere balloon up to 35km. The sterile air sampler will take samples between 20km and 30km altitude and will return it to the surface of the earth. Afterwards a team of biologists will analyse the samples.

Microbial life in the atmosphere – an extreme habitat as analogue to exoplanets

It is known that the atmosphere can harbor active microorganisms which can show metabolism even up to the stratosphere. To define high altitudes as active ecosystem is the goal of this project where microbial metabolic rates, abundances and diversity will be determined.

Mission Parameter

  • Launch date: 21. April 2012, 09:30 local time (CEST)
  • Launch area: Lustbühel, Graz, Styria, Austria
  • Balloon: 3000 g sounding balloon
  • Balloon size on ground: 2m, Burst diameter: 13 m
  • Ballon gas: Helium 6m3
  • Payload mass: 2.4 kg (including parachute, lashes and radar reflector)
  • Ascent velocity: 300m/min
  • Descent velocity: 800m/min
  • Burst altitude: 16,406m
  • Landing: : Lerchleiten (Gemeinde Gersdorf an der Feistritz), östlich von Gleisdorf.
  • Major components:
    • Instrument package: GPS logger, Environmental data acquisition hardware
    • STACIE Stratosphere Telemetry And Control Interface Equipment
    • Globalstar Tracking
    • 2 Automatic APRS Telemtry transmitter for the 2m and 70 cm band
    • Airsampler

The mission was a partial success. The operation of the airborne computer STACIE and all other balloon capsule subsystems was a 100% success. Due to the fact that the balloon burst altitude was only a little bit over 16km the automatical sampling process of the air sampler could not start, but the in principle working of the air sampler hardware could be proved. The reason of the much to low burst altitude of the balloon was the transit through some ice-clouds between 10 and 13,5km. Some pieces of ice were frozen on the ballon mantle and cutted a hole in it by further expansion of the mantle. The mass of the ice was between 0,3kg and 0,5kg. The balloon capsule was recoverd by our team and the fire brigade in a distance of about 30km in the north-east of Graz, hanging on a tree.

This event was be operated in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Science and Research, the University of Innsbruck, the University of Vienna, the HTBLA Eisenstadt, the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences the Österreichischer Versuchssenderverband ÖVSV and the Austrian Armed Forces.

TriPolar is a project within the framework of Sparkling Science, funded by the Federal Ministry of Science and Research of Austria (BMWF).

Special Thanks to the Company Mennersdorfer for their sponsorship concerning the radarreflectors.
Fa. Mennersdorfer Fallschirm- und Reflektorerzeugung für den Wetterdienst, 1180 Wien, Austria

Balloon SHERPA I ISU / 13. August 2011

On the 13th of August the OEWF has launched a stratosphere balloon within the framework of the ISU (International Space University) in Graz, Lustbühel.

The idea was to build a reusable, reliable carrier system for high atmosphere experiments. The concept is to divide the capsule in the TAC (Telemetry And Command) module and the EXP (experimental) module. The EXP module was built by the students of the ISU. The TAC module was built by the balloon team of the OEWF in a mode, which is flexible enough to transport miscellaneous experiments from different organisations in the middle stratosphere. This module includes all the telemetry and recovery systems needed for launch, flight, landing and recovery and the systems for specifying the environment. This module is called “Passepartout Sherpa”

Mission Parameter

  • Launch date: 13. August 2011, 09:30 local time (CET)
  • Launch area: Lustbühel, Graz, Styria, Austria
  • Balloon: 3000 g sounding balloon
  • Balloon size on ground: 2m, Burst diameter: 13 m
  • Ballon gas: Helium 5.9 m3
  • Payload mass: 2.123 kg (including parachute, lashes and radar reflector)
  • Ascent velocity: 208 m/min
  • Descent velocity: 1400-1800m/min
  • Burst altitude: 33150m
  • Landing: South of Fehring, Styria, Austria
  • Major components:
    • Instrument package: GPS logger, Environmental data acquisition hardware
    • Geiger Mueller Counter
    • Globalstar Tracking
    • 2 Automatic APRS Telemtry transmitter for the 2m band
    • Bearing transmitter
    • HD video cam (ISU)
    • VLF (very low frequency receiver) (ISU)
    • Biological experiment – alga (ISU)
    • Temperature data logger (ISU)

Mission results

  • 3 hours of HD video during launch and flight
  • characterization of the environment outside the capsule incl. radiation
  • characterization of the environment inside the capsule
  • important information on the behavior of the hardware at low temperatures, high altitudes, high dynamics and low pressure
  • complete telemetry from launch via 33.15km altitude and during the descent from down to 1000 m
  • all recovery systems worked to 100% and made the locating very easy
  • the capsule was recovered in fine condition
This event was operated in cooperation with the International Space University ISU, the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Österreichischer Versuchssenderverband ÖVSV and the Austrian Armed Forces.

Special Thanks to the Company Mennersdorfer for their sponsorship concerning the radarreflectors.
Fa. Mennersdorfer Fallschirm- und Reflektorerzeugung für den Wetterdienst, 1180 Wien, Austria

Flight Track

Passepartout Sherpa 13. Aug 2011 auf einer größeren Karte anzeigen

Ballon Passepartout VI RADECS / 21. September 2010
Launch of Passepartout VI from Längenfeld in the occasion of the RADECS Austria 2010 Conference.

Mission Parameter

  • Black Widow KX131C Camera – Live Picture !
  • 500mW Transeiver, 2410MHz (Channel 1), small stubby antenna
  • Power supply: 6 AA cell Duracell Procell with vottage convertter 7805
  • Weight: 1200 gram
  • Styrodur cube body with printed circuit board bottom,length of the edge: 30 cm
  • Balloon type: 1 kg Kaymont

Flight Data:

Launch: 21. September 2010 in Längenfeld, Tirol, start about 09 am

Burst: 11:07 am at a height of 30km

Landing site: Pfunders, Südtirol

Video on Youtube

Balloon: Passepartout V trans - Hannes Capitano Mayer / 19. Juni 2010

in memoriam “Hannes Capitano Mayer”
On the 19th of June 2010 the ÖWF has launched the fifth stratosphere balloon

“Passepartout V trans”. The launch area was once again the Lustbühel in Graz, Styria, Austria.

This launch has been arranged in remembrance of our long-time friend and enthusiastic co-worker of the balloon project Hannes Mayer, mentioned as “Capitano”.

The payload capsule of  “Passepartout V trans” is divided in two modules. The main module is the telemetry and command module (TAC module). It contains the two telemetry transmitter, one Geiger-Mueller counter, the the camera, the environmental sensors and the recovery systems.

The second module, which was located 5 meters beneath the TAC module, contains the space proved linear transponder (TRANS module).

The goals of this mission was to launch a linear transponder for the 70cm/2m bands, connecting Earth-Balloon-Earth, to count the radiation in altitudes higher than 20km and to reach an altitude of 35km.

    • Launch date: 19. June 2010, 09:38 local time (CET)
    • Launch area: Lustbühel, Graz, Styria, Austria
    • Balloon: 3000 g sounding balloon
    • Balloon size on ground: 2m, Burst diameter: 13 m
    • Ballon gas: Helium, 9600 m3
    • Payload mass: 2,319 kg (including parachute and radar reflector)
    • Ascent velocity: 288 m/min
    • Descent velocity: 1001 m/min – 400 m/min
    • Burst altitude: 35228m
    • Landing: Teichalm, Styria
    • Major components:
      • Instrument package: GPS logger, Environmental data acquisition hardware
      • Camera for high res pictures
      • Geiger Mueller Counter
      • 2 Automatic APRS transmitter for the 2m band
      • Linear transponder (70cm -> 2m)
      • GSM Track & Track system
      • Globalstar Tracking

Mission Results

    • 100 of high res pictures during launch, flight and balloon burst.
    • the lineartransponder worked very well, numerous talks were transponded
    • characterisation of the environment outside the capsule
    • characterisation of the environment inside the capsule
    • important information on the behaviour of the hardware at low temperatures, high altitudes, high dynamics and low pressure
    • complete telemetry from launch via 35,2km and during the descent from down to 1000 m
    • all recovery systems worked to 100% and made the locating very easy
    • the capsule was recovered in fine condition

Special Thanks to the Company Mennersdorfer for their sponsorship concerning the radarreflectors.
Fa. Mennersdorfer, Fallschirm- und Reflektorerzeugung für den Wetterdienst, 1180 Wien, Austria

Passepartout IVenv / 05. Juni 2010

Start of Passepartout IVenv from Linz in the occasion of the UN world environment day.

Mission Parameter

  • Black Widow KX131C Camera – Live Picture !
  • 500mW Transeiver, 2410MHz (Channel 1), small stubby antenna
  • Power supply: 6 AA cell Duracell Procell; with vottage convertter 7805
  • Weight: 280 gram
  • Styrodur cube body with printed circuit board bottom,length of the edge: 10 cm
Balloon Passepartout III digi / 23. August 2008

On the 23th of August the Austrian Space Forum in cooperation with the Austrian Amateur Radio Service ÖVSV has launched again a stratosphere balloon, Passepartout III digi. The launch area was once again the Lustbühel in Graz, Styria, Austria.

Passepartout III digi was a pure technical mission for testing new flight hardware and new recovery systems (NEW). Also a digipeater was aboard, which was able to repeat short messages (APRS format) from amateur radio stations. The first time a satellite supported position reporting system was used for one of the recovery systems (Globalstar satellites).

Mission Parameter

  • Launch date: 23. August 2009, 09:24 local time (CET)
  • Launch area: Lustbühel, Graz, Styria, Austria
  • Balloon: 1500 g sounding balloon
  • Balloon size on ground: 1.85m, Burst diameter: 9.44 m
  • Ballon gas: Helium, 3,800 l
  • Payload mass: 2.00 kg (including parachute and radar reflector)
  • Ascent velocity: 250 m/min, expected
  • Descent velocity: 400 m/min, expected
  • Burst altitude: 31,104 km
  • Burst time: 11:31 local time (CET)
  • Landing area: Slovenia, 8 km north west of Omoz
  • Landing time: 12:11 local time (CET)
  • Major components:
    • Digipeater (70cm Band) (NEW)
    • APRS transmitter (2m band)
    • Environmental data acquisition hardware (inside & outside)
    • Digicam (horizontal)
    • Power supply (NEW)
    • Bearing transmitter (70cm ISM band) (NEW)
    • GSM Track & Track system (NEW)
    • Globalstar Tracking (NEW)

This Mission was a full success. All new parts were working well.

As a result we have:

  1. 90 Minutes flight video taken from the capsule in horizontal orientation
  2. Characterisation from the inside and outside environment
  3. nearly complete telemetry during the ascent
  4. complete telemetry during the descent from 31104 m down to 700 m
  5. the digipeater worked very well, numerous messages were repeated
  6. all recovery systems worked to 100% and made the locating very easy
  7. the capsule was recovered in fine condition

This launch was operated in cooperation with the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Österreichischer Versuchssenderverband ÖVSV and the Austrian Armed Forces.

Passepartout IIc / 05. Oktober 2008
On the 5h of October 2008, the stratosphere balloon “Passepartout IIc” was launched successfully from our launch area at the Lustbühel in Graz, Styria, Austria.

  • Launch date: 5. October 2008, 09:49 local time (CET)
  • Launch area: Lustbühel, Graz, Styria, Austria
  • Balloon: 2000 g sounding balloon
  • Balloon size on ground: 2m, Burst diameter: 13 m
  • Ballon gas: Helium, ~6 m3
  • Payload mass: 2,45 kg (including parachute and radar reflector)
  • Ascent velocity: 327 m/min
  • Descent velocity: 400 m/min
  • Burst altitude: > 31437km
  • Landing time: ~12:00 local time (CET)
  • Landing area: Budinci, Slovenia
  • Major components:
    • Instrument package: hardware for internal and external environmental data acquisition
    • Launch video transmitting system (13 cm band), ATV down oriented
    • Digicam for side oriented video
    • High res. Camera for side oriented picture
    • Automatic APRS transmitter for the 2m band
    • APRS and telemetry transmitter for the 2 cm band
    • GSM Track & Track System
    • Biological experiment: artemia parthenogenetica eggs
    • Biological experiment: 100 primeval tadpole shrimp eggs (Triops cancriformis)
  • 70 minutes live ATV video, up to a high of 24km
  • A horizontal video during the hole mission time
  • Some hundred high res. pictures taken during the hole mission time
  • Characterisation of the environment outside the capsule
  • Important Characterisation of the environment inside the capsule
  • Important information on the behaviour of the hardware at low temperatures, high altitudes, high dynamics and low pressure
  • Correlation between GPS data and radar data

This event was operated in cooperation with the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Österreichischer Versuchssenderverband ÖVSV and the Austrian Armed Forces.

Special Thanks to the Company Mennersdorfer for their sponsorship concerning the radarreflectors.
Fa. Mennersdorfer, Fallschirm- und Reflektorerzeugung für den Wetterdienst, 1180 Wien, Austria

Passepartout IIa,b / 19. Juli 2008
Due to problems with the leashes we had on 19th of July 2008 two launch failures of Passepartout II (IIa, IIb). However the payload could be saved.

The capsule of “Passepartout II” is a very improved version of the first flight hardware. The structural design has changed from a wood-styropor construction to a carbon fibre-styrodur chassis, which is more stable against deformations and more insulating. Some parts of the flight computer have changed and the software was updated and parts of it were completely new programmed. All hardware components were optimized in weight and are completely new arranged in the capsule. A complete new main power supply was built.

More importance was attached to recover the capsule after landing by having more reliability in the transmission of GPS coordinates by two independent transmitting systems. An improved arrangement of the Track And Trace system will prevent inferences with other components.

Passepartout I / 04. Oktober 2007
On the 4th of October 2007, exactly 50 years after the launch of Sputnik1, the first ÖWF/PolAres flight hardware, the balloon Passepartout was launched. With this event the Austrian Space Forum was celebrating the first 50 years of space travel.

One day after the launch the capsule was found in Hungary and brought back to Austria for data analysis and verification of the hardware components. We are still working on this analysis.

Mission Parameter:

  • Launch date: 04. October 2007, 15:49 local time (CET)
  • Launch area: Lustbühel, Graz, Styria, Austria
  • Balloon: 2000 g sounding balloon
  • Balloon size on ground: 2m, Burst diameter: 13 m
  • Ballon gas: Helium, ~5,2 m3
  • Payload mass: 2,45 kg (including parachute and radar reflector)
  • Ascent velocity: 310 m/min
  • Descent velocity: 300 m/min
  • Burst altitude: > 28 km
  • Horizontal distance: ~100 km
  • Major components:
    • Instrument package: GPS logger, Cameras, Environmental data acquisition hardware
    • Telemetry for real-time data relay
    • Radio transmitter for the 70 cm band
    • GSM Track & Track system
    • Bearing transmitter
    • Biological experiment: 100 primeval tadpole shrimp eggs (Triops cancriformis)

This event was operated in cooperation with the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Österreichischer Versuchssenderverband ÖVSV and the Austrian Armed Forces

Highest Flight:
35.228 m ( Passepartout Ven “Hannes Capitano Mayer”)

 

Longest Flight:
7 hours 13 minutes

This article is available in: German