Up and away part two: York U spectrometer flies high

The balloon carrying the instrumentation took off from Alice Springs on Sunday, April 9

Alice Springs, Australia was the setting for a successful flight of a stratospheric balloon operated by Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES). The balloon carried six Canadian payloads, including one from York University. The mission took place April 9, began at

The mission took place April 9, began at 4:47am local time (3:17pm EDT) and landed about 100 kilometres (km) from the launch site at 17:15pm (3:45am EDT). The balloon carried the instrumentation 37km into the atmosphere.

Photo of York team with the instrument developed at York University contained in a special gondola before the flight. From left: Mike Voutsogiannakis, Ganesh Ramkumar, and Prof. Jinjun Shan.

Carried aloft in the payload was the Imaging Fabry-Pérot Spectrometer from York University. Development of the instrument was led by Jinjun Shan, professor of space engineering in Lassonde School of Engineering at York University. Professors Gordon Shepherd and Chris Sioris, also from Lassonde, are co-investigators on the project.

This is the second flight for this instrument; the first flight took place last September in Kruna, Sweden. The Fabry-Pérot spectrometer is unique says, Shan, because it can obtain very high spectral resolution measurements. It views sunlight that is absorbed and scattered by the atmosphere and reflected by the Earth’s surface.

Why is this important? Shan says the measurements obtained provide information on aerosols, surface pressure and surface albedo (the fraction of solar energy [shortwave radiation] reflected from the Earth back into space).

The small dot in the upper part of the screen is the balloon

Since last flight in Sweden, Shan and his team have made some modifications to the instrument in order to get better observation results. Their work is supported by the Canadian Space Agency, under its Flights for the Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST) program in 2016.

The instrument was able to conduct measurements during the entire 12-hour flight. Preliminary analysis of the observation data showed that the performance of the instrument has been greatly improved.

Mission control

Stratos, the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) stratospheric balloon program, was created in 2011 through the CSA’s collaboration with CNES. The program gives Canadian scientists the opportunity to test and validate new technologies and to perform scientific experiments at an altitude where only balloons can be operated.

For more information, go to http://asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/sciences/balloons/campaign.asp.