Trevecca Nazarene University

High school students invited to join balloon experiment

Trevecca science students are inviting high school students to join a balloon experiment, which will take place Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, at 12:00 Noon (weather permitting), on the Trevecca campus.

The group will launch a large helium balloon that will carry several student-constructed scientific experiments to the edge of space. At an altitude of about 100,000 feet, the balloon will be above 99 percent of the earth’s atmosphere and the curvature of the earth is quite noticeable. The balloon will be followed and recovered by a “chase van” that continuously monitors the balloon’s location through GPS. Data from the experiments will be streamed live via high frequency radio transmissions to both the chase vehicle and “mission control” at the Greathouse science building on the Trevecca campus. Real-time tracking of the flight will be posted online at
Trevecca students of PHY 1010 and SCI 2510 classes will construct experiments for the flight, assemble the flight package, launch, track, and eventually recover the balloon payloads. Local high schools are invited to provide a small experimental payload (see guidelines below) that would “piggy-back” onto the flight. They are invited to contact Dr. Matthew Huddleston ( if interested.

Payload Guidelines
  • The payload must be able to fit in a container 4? inches long by 4? inches wide by 4 inches high.
  • The payload must weigh no more than 1 pound
  • The payload must contain no hazardous materials
  • The payload must contain its own power supply (if necessary) and data recording system (if necessary)
  • The payload must be able to withstand substantial shaking as the balloon passes through the jet stream
  • The payload must be able to withstand low temperatures and pressures (see general information below)
  • Measured altitude, external pressure, and external temperature information will be recorded over the duration of the flight and can be provided afterwards upon request.

General Information on High Altitude Balloon Flights
At an altitude of about 100,000 feet, the balloon is above 99 percent of the earth’s atmosphere, and the curvature of the earth is noticeable.  The visible horizon is about 350 miles.  Pressures and temperatures at peak altitude are comparable to conditions on the surface of Mars.  At this altitude the sky looks completely black because there is very little atmosphere above the balloon to scatter sunlight.
  • Highest altitude of balloon – 80,000 to 120,000 feet (well above the troposphere)
  • Ascent time – approximately an hour and a half.
  • Descent time – approximately 45min.
  • Ascent rate – approximately 1,000 ft/min.
  • Descent rate – 115 miles/hr (first 15-20,000 ft) then 1,000 ft/min.
  • Atmospheric composition changes with altitude. (At 100,000 ft significant amounts of ozone are present.)
  • Temperatures typically range from 20 Celsius to minus 60 degrees Celsius.
  • Pressures can drop to 10-20 millibars, about a hundred times less than atmospheric pressure at sea level
  • Cosmic ray counts are approximately 700 counts per minute
  • Path of balloon is dependent on jet stream and weather conditions but it generally travels east.

For more information, visit Trevecca’s Near Space Research website at