The High Altitude Student Platform (HASP), a collaborative venture of the NASA Balloon Program Office (BPO) and the Louisiana Space Consortium (LaSPACE) at Louisiana State University, is designed to provide undergraduate and graduate students with real-world science and engineering project development and payload design experience.
HASP provides a launch platform for a total of 12 student research payloads and is launched yearly in August / September from the NASA balloon launch facility at Fort Sumner, NM. Annually, a call for proposals is released for teams from across the United States for a slot on the HASP balloon flight.
HASP was conceived to provide students with flight opportunities that are intermediate between those available with small latex sounding balloons and Earth orbiting satellites. It is a support vehicle, based upon flight-proven hardware and software designs, that uses a a small volume, zero pressure, 11-million-cubic-foot, thin-film polyethylene, helium-filled balloon to carry multiple student-built payloads to altitudes of ~120,000 feet (~36km) at an ascent rate of 1,000 feet-per-minute, for durations up to 20 hours.
The major goals of the HASP Program are to foster student excitement in an aerospace career path and to help address workforce development issues in this area. HASP provides a “space test platform” to encourage student research and stimulate the development of student satellite payloads and other space-engineering products. By getting the students involved with every aspect of the program, HASP hopes to fill the gap between and student-built sounding balloons and satellites, while also enhancing the technical skills and research abilities of the students.
Since 2006, HASP has flown 77 student-built payloads engaging close to 720 undergraduate and graduate students from 34 universities, colleges and minority-serving institutions located across 19 continental U.S. states plus Puerto Rico and Alberta, Canada, with a total float time of more than 123 hours.
Configuration and System Description
The platform is currently designed to support eight small payloads of ~3 kg weight and four large pay- loads of ~20 kg weight (i.e. 12 experiment “seats”). A standard interface is provided for each student payload that includes power, serial telemetry, discrete commands and analog output. HASP will archive student payload data on-board, as well as telemeter the stream to the ground for real-time access.
The four large payload positions are on the top of the central structure while the eight small payloads are mounted on fiberglass outrigger booms. The small payloads may be mounted for nadir pointing. The core structure of the platform is a welded aluminum gondola frame with dimensions of 112 cm long, 91.5 cm wide, 51 cm tall. For flight, HASP is attached to a Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) Frame which provides support for the CSBF vehicle control equipment and attach points for suspension cables, crush pads and the ballast hopper.
The HASP command and control subsystem provides the means for receiving and processing uplinked commands, acquiring and archiving the payload data, downlinking status information and controlling the student payloads. There are three primary modules in the subsystem:
- Flight Control Unit (FCU), which manages communications
- Serial Control Unit (SCU), which provides a serial communication link to each of the individual student payloads
- Data Archive Unit (DAU), recording in-flight data.
The primary power source for HASP will be 11 cell lithium battery packs, eight of which will supply ~29 to 32 Volts for ~270 Ahr @ +20oC.
Specifications for the mechanical, electrical and data interface between HASP and a student payload are provided in the latest version of the document “HASP – Student Payload Interface Manual” which can be obtained from the Participant Information page or the Technical Documents page of the HASP Web site.
Participation and Application Process
Students from all universities are invited to apply for a HASP flight opportunity, offered annually. Application details and other resources can be found at the HASP Web site. The application deadlines change slightly from year to year. However, general guidelines should be observed unless stated otherwise for upcoming years.
- The completed application should be submitted electronically by 11:59 pm CT on December 20 to the Louisiana Space Consortium at email@example.com.
- The deadline will be preceded by an informational Q&A teleconference on or around November 15
- Applications are then reviewed by both the BPO and LaSPACE
- Selections of candidate payloads will be made by mid-January of the flight year.
- Student payload integration with HASP is accomplished during July / August just prior to the flight.
Once selected as a HASP participant, student teams are not charged for the flight. However, student teams must provide their own funding to support payload development and integration, and there are a few document “deliverables” that the teams must supply. Student teams must provide their own funds for travel to integration and flight operations.