The high altitude student platform (HASP) for student-built payloads

T. Gregory Guzik, Louisiana State University
John P. Wefel, Louisiana State University


An outstanding issue with aerospace workforce development is what should be done at the university level to attract and prepare undergraduates for an aerospace career. One approach adopted by many institutions is to lead students through the design and development of small payloads (less than about 500 grams) that can be carried up to high altitude (around 30 km) by a latex sounding balloon. This approach has been very successful in helping students to integrate their content knowledge with practical skills and to understand the end-to-end process of aerospace project development. Sounding balloons, however, are usually constrained in flight duration (∼30 min above 24 km) and payload weight, limiting the kinds investigations that are possible. Student built picosatellites, such as CubeSats, can be placed in low Earth orbit removing the flight duration constraint, but the delays between satellite development and launch can be years. Here, we present the inexpensive high altitude student platform (HASP) that is designed to carry at least eight student payloads at a time to an altitude of about 36 km with flight durations of 15-20 h using a small zero-pressure polyethylene film balloon. This platform provides a flight capability greater than sounding balloons and can be used to flight-test compact satellites, prototypes and other small payloads designed and built by students. The HASP includes a standard mechanical, power and communication interface for the student payload to simplify integration and allows the payloads to be fully exercised. HASP is lightweight, has simple mission requirements providing flexibility in the launch schedule, will provide a flight test opportunity at the end of each academic year. © 2005 COSPAR.