Freefalling balloon launched laboratory for low cost microgravity

Abstract

A new, inexpensive, open source microgravity research system is proposed for scientific use, especially by universities in developing countries, which cannot afford existing technologies like suborbital rockets. The system is composed of a robotic freefalling laboratory carried aloft by a high altitude probe flying over the sea surface using multiple helium balloons. The laboratory is released from an altitude between 10 km and 50 km to obtain 32 seconds (or multiple times of up to 32 sec) to 86 seconds of high quality microgravity. Air drag will be compensated by a small propulsion unit. At the end of the freefalling flight, the laboratory and the probe will finally parachute themselves into the sea, where they will be collected by the ship that launched them. The system is designed to be very safe and mostly reusable. It will be developed as a free worldwide collaboration and it will be used primarly by scientific institutions for fundamental and applied microgravity research. It is designed to prevent any kind of abuse or non-peaceful use. Its operation is fully automatic and allows no kind of remote control nor any directional flight and requires no telemetric control.

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