Launching a rocket from a balloon

A rockoon is a rocket that is launched from a high-altitude balloon (further HAB). The HAB, typically filled with hydrogen or helium, lifts a special launch platform with the rocket up to an altitude of 20-30 km. As higher levels of the atmosphere get significantly less dense, even a rather small rocket can achieve meaningful altitudes due to reduced friction. If the ascent is nominal and the HAB is within its corridor of maximum height, the rocket is launched. After launching, both the rocket and the HAB are recovered.

PROJECT GOALS

Our objective is to demonstrate our abilities in the following areas:

  • Organisation, planning and execution of HAB flights
  • Long-distance two-way communications with the balloon platform
  • Stabilisation and pointing of the platform in the roll axis
  • Gain flight heritage for our systems in the stratospheric environment
  • Recovery of the balloon platform

PLANNED FLIGHTS | TIMELINE

  • 2023 October

     

    Flight I

    Test & Validate early flight computer and antenna pointing system versions

  • 2023 December

     

    Flight II

    Improved flight computers
    Test initial versions of BMC collab experiment systems

  • 2024 March

     

    Flight III

    Mission control overhaul
    Individual BMC collab system validation before integration (Experiment Jar, Payload flight computer, Ranging, Parachute ejection test)
    Ballon detachment mechanism test

  • 2024 May

     

    Flight IV

    Live analog video
    BMC collab microgravity experiment payload drop
    Upgraded antenna pointing mechanism
    Platform stabilisation system (reaction wheel)

  • 2024 May

     

    Flight V

    More data collection from the payload drop for BMC

  • 2024 Summer

     

    Rocket Flight VI

    Rocket test flight from the platform (close to the ground).

  • 2024 Summer

     

    Rocket Flight VII

    Rocket test flight from the platform at 25+km height

TEST FLIGHT V1

  • Launched from Cēsis Airfield on the 16h of December 2023
  • The launch platform V1 was safely recovered over 100+km away
  • All data and some video footage were recovered
  • Core systems were tested

Balloon-launched platform (V1) first integrated test flight
Key achievements:

  • Testing of both the main flight computer and microgravity flight computer
    • Two-way radio communication at a distance of 130+ km
  • Base station with an automatic antenna pointing system
  • Testing of the microgravity experiment container
  • Successful recovery of the launch platform at a distance of 100+ km from the launch site

In the coming months, the launch platform will be improved (V2), incorporating various individual systems we have been working on and addressing issues observed in this flight.

  • Improved microgravity experiment container, maintaining 36.6C and 1atm
  • Improved microgravity vehicle flight computer
  • Adding mission control software to the existing base station
  • Adding the platform detachment mechanism from the balloon for more precise control of the landing location

MORE TO COME!