Deep in the Russian provinces on Tuesday morning, a team of Russian students launched four helium balloons into the stratosphere with scientific experiments designed to advance our understanding of how composite materials, new batteries and other technology behave in space-like conditions.

The spectacular pre-dawn launch in the Yaroslavl region, nearly 150km north of Moscow, was led by assistant professor Alessandro Golkar, who gained international recognition last month as the winner of the Luigi G. Napolitano Award for space research.

Each of the four white balloons was fitted with experiments, filled with up to 1,200g of helium and released for a five-hour ascent to what is considered the first boundary of space, an altitude of 35km.

Golkar, in yellow, assisting with the balloon launch near Yaroslavl on Tuesday morning. Photo: www.skoltech.ru

“In these experiments the students of the Skoltech space program will receive valuable organizational experience,” Golkar said.”They will conduct trials for Skoltech research centers and take part in a science-education mission that I hope they will remember for years to come,” he added.

The students split into four teams and mounted their respective experiments upon their balloon.

The first group attached 15 pieces of newly developed fiberglass and rubber to study how they react to the high altitude.

On the second balloon, the scientists sent up an anode electric reactor to see if it would be a reliable power source on the CubeSat nano-satellite for communications.

The third balloon is being used as a navigator and monitor of temperature and air pressure, having a radio receiver attached, and also uses a new form of stabilizer that could be adopted for CubeSat.

 

The final balloon hosts an experiment that tests the low-temperature threshold of a new form of lithium-ion battery developed by the scientists. Traditional lithium-ion batteries begin to encounter trouble when the mercury approaches zero degrees Celsius, and low pressure destroys the battery. Students added electrolytes to the coin-sized batteries to help them work in sub-zero temperatures.

The balloons are also equipped with special video-cameras GoPro, by means of which video and photographic shooting will be carried out in the course of the flight. Video clips made as a result of this experiment will be available at the Skoltech website.

When the balloons land, the flight organizers will determine their location with the help of a GPS sensor and will set out in search of the airborne devices. The experiment is to end by Tuesday evening.