Project HALON sends student projects soaring

High altitude balloon flights have long been favored for weather data collection and have only recently begun to be utilized in the collection of near space data.

Students in Robert Hjelle’s Principles of Engineering class are participating in Project HALON (High Altitude Learning Over Nebraska).

James Taylor, research coordinator at the Peter Kiewit Institute, is the creative force behind Project HALON.

Project HALON sends student sensor projects up into near space, or about 20 miles above the earth’s surface. Automatic Packet Recording Systems, GPS, and cameras provide a constant data stream and a way to find the projects after they fall back to the earth.

In a high altitude balloon launch, the balloon is filled with gas before being sent to the near space altitude.

At this altitude, the balloon expands to a diameter exceeding 30 feet before popping, releasing the payload. The launch takes anywhere from four to five hours to complete, with the addition of the time it takes to find the payload after it drops.

Project HALON is unique in that not only will the data be streamed to a ground station, it will be streamed into NASA’s Simulation Exploration Experience (SEE). The Project is the first attempt of its kind in this endeavor.

SEE, in its larger extent, has the end goal of: designing, developing, testing, and eventually successfully executing a simulated lunar mission, which may then inform future space travel.

The effects of near space on student projects is an important part of the simulation development process, making for a necessity in creative project ideas.

The projects students can send up cannot have a mass larger than 1.1 kilograms.

North students in charge of projects are considering analyzing the effects of near space conditions on alternative energy sources, such as a solar panel, hydrogen cell, and a wind turbine.

Hypothetically, the students will be able to collect data on the voltage and current readings, with which they will then be able to calculate the power generated by each in the near space environment.

On September 12, 2012, several balloons launched at a Nebraska Huskers game with the projects of college and K-12 students as their respective payloads.

The North high altitude balloon launch will be in April 2015.