A year ago, Benoît and his team, future engineers and students at ECAM, contracted space fever during the Apolo Pretzel Mission. On May 19, 2018, they sent 2 balloons into the stratosphere from Kleber Square in Strasbourg. But today students want to go further (and higher!): they launch into the adventure of the rose of Space in partnership with the AALMA (Association des Amis de la Ligne Maginot d’Alsace). Overhung by a 3kg helium inflated balloon, the nacelle this year will be fitted with several sensors, cameras and a rose. It is not just any rose: it is the rose of Fort Schœnenbourg, a symbol of Franco-German friendship.
Although the gesture is symbolic, the students also wanted to place their initiative under the banner of scientific research, which explains the multiplication of partnerships and their high expectations for the results obtained. This balloon, thanks to partners such as the ATMO Grand Est air quality agency, will be equipped with air quality measurement systems (fine particles: PM2.5 and PM10, ozone and, in a world premiere, pollen). In addition, the nacelles will carry human cells provided by INSERM (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale) for CNES (Centre National des Etudes Spatiales), in order to study the impact of radiation on cells for the fight against cancer.
While the whole team is excited to launch into the stratosphere, we are also very excited to see the results! We are taking advantage of the event to perform long-range communication tests from space with a LoRa module. The opportunity to challenge our technology, and to improve our knowledge on the subject. We will talk more about the technical issues of IoT in Space in another more technical article.
How long did it take you to prepare all this?
The adventure began in mid-September 2018, and lasted all year long. We mainly focused on the sensors: we had to reduce their weight (initially between 10 to 13kg) to 100g in order to install them in the nacelle! We then proceeded to the test phase, in particular the resistance of the sensors at very low temperatures (which can drop to -50°C in the stratosphere!). The cold room of ATMO’s premises was used, and the results allowed us to measure the impact of temperature on the sensors, and thus calibrate them.
What do you hope to find as a result?
Already, that the sensors work perfectly, and that we can recover the data without any problem. And then that we find the nacelles very quickly! It took five days last year to get it back. This time, particularly because of the presence of human cells that will thaw, it is necessary to recover the nacelles as quickly as possible. And then after recovering the data, let it be meaningful, of course.
Our plans are completely different! It covers everything from aeronautics to mechanics, including IT. But this project has brought together different skills and super passionate students.
If the wind is too strong, the balloon may explode when inflated, so you should wait for a milder weather. To stay informed of the latest news, go to their facebook page:
If a person loves a flower that is the only one of its kind on all the millions and millions of stars, then gazing at the night sky is enough to make him happy
Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Le Petit Prince, chap. 26.