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6 July 2018 World View Enterprises altitude controlled balloons: a new stratospheric platform for persistent Earth and space imaging campaigns
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Abstract
In June 2017, World View (WV) launched a Stratollite (an adjustable altitude, trajectory controlled, lighter-than-air flight vehicle) from Page, AZ to lift a 50 kg commercial payload to the Stratosphere to perform a flight test of the critical Stratollite subsystems. In October 2017, World View (WV) launched the Stratollite from the newly commissioned Tucson Spaceport at WV Headquarters. Using solar rechargeable batteries and a proprietary air ballast system, the Stratollite was able to navigate and loiter over the state of Arizona for 5 days. ~50kg of customer payloads were flown on this mission including a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) ,nadir-pointing, 50.6MP Canon EOS 5DS. Post-flight analysis of the Canon images achieved 16cm ground sample distance (GSD) from an altitude of ~75,000ft, which serves as a proof-of-concept for future WV remote sensing geospatial applications. WV is also already involved in several collaborative talks within the imaging community to fly exciting new detector technology and gimbal stabilized cameras.

A Stratocraft (traditionally referred to as a gondola in historic lighter-than-air platforms) is a tetrahedral structure that hangs below the balloon flight train and contains flight avionics, power systems, and a reconfigurable payload deck utilizing a modular open systems approach (MOSA) for customer payloads. Currently, the Stratocraft can host a total mass of 50kg, provide 250W continuous payload power, and 1000W instantaneous payload power, with planned growth to 100kg and 300W continuous by the end of 2018. At the end of flight, the Stratocraft is separated from the flight train, is remotely guided to a specified ground location, and is able perform a flared landing to minimize landing loads to the Stratocraft. This process not only makes the Stratocraft reusable but minimizes risk of damage to payloads.. The Stratocraft has azimuth pointing capability to maintain the vehicle solar arrays pointing at the sun to maximize the efficiency of the solar array. The vehicle pointing resolution and jitter environment is due to be characterized on future flights.

The Stratollite vehicle was designed to operate nominally between the 42nd parallel north and the 42nd parallel south. The vehicle enables long duration (up to 6 months) missions globally with support for launch and flight operations performed from WV headquarters in Tucson, AZ. It is a sensor agnostic long duration capable flight vehicle with long dwell capability depending on regional and seasonal stratospheric wind conditions that offers a multitude of applications to meet the scientific community needs.
© (2018) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Alexander D. Miller, Iain Beveridge, Andrew Antonio, and Tom Pirrone "World View Enterprises altitude controlled balloons: a new stratospheric platform for persistent Earth and space imaging campaigns", Proc. SPIE 10700, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes VII, 107004G (6 July 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2313446
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