Purpose of the flight and payload description

This was a test flight of a stratospheric airship carried out by SCEYE Inc., a material science company that is developing a new generation of high-altitude platform stations, or HAPS. The company has chosen the form factor of an airship over balloons and fixed-wing aircraft as it allows for geostationary capability while lifting and powering far more payload than any other platform. The future goal is to offer communications and remote sensing services from an operative altitude of 65.000 feet with station-keeping capabilities of weeks.

Regarding communications the focus is to offer internet connectivity directly to devices on the ground across rural communities and urban centers, connecting underserved locations previously out of reach. On the remote sensing field, the airship can carry advanced sensors for Earth observation, forest fires and land protection, maritime search and rescue, and industrial emissions monitoring.

There is not much data regarding the composition and construction of the airships. According to the information published by the firm, their hull fabric compared to the nearest alternative used by others in attempts to build the stratospheric platform is 5 times stronger relative to weight, 1500 times more gas tight, and UV and ozone resistant. The platform is solar powered during the day and battery powered at night. For that purpose, the hull fabric counts with an ultra-light cape that covers the platform's top surface capturing solar energy. Advanced lamination for weathering layers has achieved extreme weight reduction. The solar panels are formed by Copper Indium Gallium Selenide and Gallium Arsenide cells. Power captured from the Sun is stored on lithium-sulphur batteries with an energy density of about 400 Wh/kg. Electric motors with propellers are used for propulsion and maneuvering.

Details of the balloon flight

Balloon launched on: 7/1/2023 at 17:00 utc
Launch site: Roswell Industrial Air Center, New Mexico, US  
Balloon launched by: Sceye Inc.
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Stratospheric Airship Sceye High-Altitude Platform Station
Flight identification number: N519HB
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 7/1/2023 at ~ 21:00 utc
Balloon flight duration (F: time at float only, otherwise total flight time in d:days / h:hours or m:minutes - ): 4 h
Landing site: N of Lovington, New Mexico, US

The primary purpose of the flight test was to evaluate a novel launch method that could increase reliability during the initial ascent phase of flight and simplify the overall launch procedure. The platform also carried a high-resolution camera, which was developed in-house by SCEYE for ground mapping with partners like the USGS and NASA. The two images at right were obtained using that device.

External references

Images of the mission

         

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