Universe Cluster News: Student project succeeded in DLR program

The start of a Bexus balloon from the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna in northern Sweden. (©DLR)
The start of a Bexus balloon from the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna in northern Sweden. (©DLR)

A student research project at the department E18 of Prof. Dr. Stephan Paul at the Technische Universität München (TUM) succeeded in the program REXUS/BEXUS of the German Aerospace Center (DLR): An experiment to measure the low-energy spectrum of charged particles in the Earth's atmosphere is to fly on a DLR balloon in September 2014. As part of the project "Rocket and Balloon Experiments for University Students" (REXUS/BEXUS), the DLR offers twice a year lift-shares for exciting student’s experiments on a stratospheric balloon.


After a pre-selection of the proposals submitted, the student teams were invited to a workshop at the DLR Space Administration in Bonn in early December. The "ticket" for the selected experiment includes not only a place on the balloon, but also a training week for the team and the involvement in the start campaign. In addition, participants will receive technical and logistical support from rocket, balloon and space experts throughout the project.


In September 2014, the stratospheric balloon will start from the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna in northern Sweden with a total of up to 20 experiments. Depending on its payload weight, the balloon will rise to a height of 20 to 30 kilometers. It will fly uncontrolled with the wind over a period of two to five hours towards Finland. Measurements can be made during the ascent, the horizontal flight and when the balloon descends. For the parachute landing, the payload is separated from the balloon. The experiments are performed under conditions that are significantly different from those in a normal laboratory: High mechanical stresses during take-off and landing, falling pressure with increasing altitude, reduced gravity and temperatures down to minus 70 degrees Celsius on the balloon represent an additional challenge. "This project is a major technological challenge for us and we are happy to demonstrate that students can be successful also in a research project", says Martin Losekamm, 7th semester physics student at TUM.


But the flight with the BEXUS balloon is only a first milestone on the way toward the actual goal: the measurement of antiprotons. Antiprotons emerge in the upper atmosphere by the reaction of protons with cosmic rays. The name of the experiment therefore is: Antiproton Flux in Space (AFIS). With this project, the team aims to be the payload on a mini-satellite (30 cm x 20 cm x 10 cm), which is developed by students at the Institute of Astronautics at the TUM. The committee will decide in summer 2014 over the coveted places on the rocket. A success in the balloon mission will be one of the decision criteria for the selection of the satellite mission. If everything works out, the mini-satellite could be exposed in space and send the first scientific data from the low Earth orbit in 2016.


"The project is a wonderful example of good cooperation between the students of two faculties. The successful application at the DLR also shows that the Excellence Cluster Universe offers young scientists an entry into independent research,” says Prof. Dr. Stephan Paul not without pride.



This article was taken from the website of the Excellence Cluster Universe, www.universe-cluster.de.