Balloon Lab Project

"ASEN 2002 Design Laboratory Assignment 1: High Altitude Scientific Balloons"
Jeffrey Thayer
Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences
University of Colorado at Boulder 

Project Overview

To design and model a high-altitude zero-pressure balloon carrying a payload with minimal altitude variation caused by thermal heating and cooling.

Societal Context & Relevance
Many scientific experiments and measurements require the use of long endurance high-altitude balloon systems to ferry a payload to specific altitudes. Zero-pressure balloons will rise and fall with the heating and cooling of the inside gas, usually changing altitude cyclically with the day/night cycle. However, some measurements may require the balloon/payload to remain within a specified altitude range, and thus engineers must optimize a balloons design to stay within a close range of the target altitude.

Students in ASEN 2002: Introduction to Thermodynamics and Aerodynamics are assigned into teams of 5-7 students for a 5-week design lab. These students will implement the thermodynamic principles encountered in class lectures in their study of, analysis, modeling, and design of a zero-pressure highaltitude balloon. Students will have lab time as well as additional time outside of class/lab to meet and work on the lab.

The objectives of this lab are to study scale-model balloons, understand their physics and to design a balloon proposal meeting with “customer” specified requirements in altitude, endurance, and payload capacity. Students are expected to learn the required fundamentals of thermodynamics including the First and ideal gas laws, and incorporate them into engineering analysis, modeling, and design work as a team.

Learning Activities and Tasks
Students will experiment with a scale model of a zero-pressure balloon to observe its underlying characteristics and become more familiar with its design aspects. After establishing the basics of zeropressure balloon design, they are tasked with designing a payload-bearing balloon to fly at a specified attitude and endurance with a minimal amount of altitude variation caused by thermal heating and cooling. Their final design and model will need to be presented professionally within a final report and presentation.

Project manager name: 
Jeffrey Thayer, Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences
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