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MEAP/P-BACE launch and flight. Martin Wieser Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden and the MEAP/P-BACE team. Wanted: Payload. October 2007, Esrange: Test of a circumpolar balloon flight Scientific payload needed 35..40km altitude 100kg Ready for launch Summer 2008. 0 km. =.

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meap p bace launch and flight

MEAP/P-BACE launch and flight

Martin WieserSwedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden

and the MEAP/P-BACE team

wanted payload
Wanted: Payload
  • October 2007, Esrange: Test of a circumpolar balloon flight
  • Scientific payload needed
  • 35..40km altitude
  • 100kg
  • Ready for launch Summer 2008

0 km


35 km


Mars Environment Analogue Platform

A stratospheric balloon platform for technology tests

  • Earth stratosphere ≈ Mars atmosphere at surface
  • Earth stratosphere is a natural test environment for instruments for Martian landers
  • Use long duration stratospheric balloon flight for extended tests
p bace

Polar - Balloon Atmospheric Composition Experiment

A high resolution neutral gas mass spectrometer

  • Built by University of Bern and Swedish Institute of Space Physics
  • Mass spectrometer for planetary missions
  • Test fly the instrument design in a representative environment and under realistic conditions
  • Measure atmospheric composition with high mass resolution
meap p bace collaboration
MEAP/P-BACE collaboration

D. Abplanalp, P. Wurz

University of Bern, Switzerland

PI-Institution, P-BACE hardware

M. Wieser, L. Kalla

Institutet för rymdfysik

P-BACE software, communication link,logistics

T. Hedqvist

Esrange Space Center

Balloon and platform

p bace sensor
P-BACE Sensor
  • Neutral gas mass spectrometer of reflectron time-of-flight type with own vacuum system
  • Mass resolution m/dm >= 1000
  • Mass range:1.. 1000 amu/q
  • One full mass spectrum every 65 seconds
  • 6-7 orders of magnitude dynamic range (in 65 seconds)‏
  • Sensor mass: 2kg
p bace instrument
P-BACE instrument
  • P-BACE sensor head
  • Linux based control computer
  • Commercial data acquisition board used for front end electronics and data recording
  • Two 2400bps Iridium satellite links for telemetry and commanding
  • Two GPS receivers
  • Two redundant 16GByte solid state disks, recovered after landing
  • Auxiliary sensors for pressure and temperature
  • 90 kg
  • 150W
  • Pressurized vessel73cm x 71cm x 56cm
semicircular flight
~5 days

Recovery in Canada

Semicircular flight
  • ~14 days
  • Recovery in Sweden
the balloon
The balloon

11 Million cft

~334 000 m3Helium

Gondola:~400kg, (total susp. weight on balloon ~900kg)‏

Solar arrays on all 4 sides,> 200W on illuminated side

Scientific payload: 90kg, 150W

200 m

p bace on meap

Iridium & GPS


Redundant Iridium & GPS antennas

P-BACE pressure vessel

Gas feeding pump

Platform control

Power distribution


Gas inlet

with microfilter

3.7m boom

Solar arrays

integrated gondola
  • GPS and Iridium antennas
  • Payload container
  • P-BACE gas inlet boom
  • Crash pads
  • Solar pannels
  • Ballast
waiting for launch
Waiting for launch
  • Launch window opened 9. June
  • Several launch attempts but always bad weather
  • In mean time:
    • Testing, testing, testing...
    • Improving procedures...
    • A lot of coffee...
    • ...
  • Webcam(attempt.m2v)
launch movies
Launch movies
  • Webcam(webcamlaunch.avi)
  • Launch movie 1(launch_still_images.avi)
  • Launch movie 2(MVI_2340_rot.avi)
seen by many eyes
Seen by many eyes...

Image: MST radar data

Launch05:07 UTC

Image: Stefan Bühler

meap p bace flight path
MEAP/P-BACE flight path
  • Launched from Esrange, Sweden on June 28
  • Semicircular flight following the summer polar vortex
  • 116 hours flight time
  • 5818 km distance
  • Altitude 33..38 km
  • Landed in Canada, 135km from Umingmaktok, on July 3.

Background image: NASA,

commanding and telemetry
Commanding and telemetry


Ground segment


Iridium Modem A + B






Iridium satellite network

Onboard computer


Storage A + B


IRF Webserver

2400 bps

Short burst data (like SMS)‏

p bace data example






P-BACE data example

Quick look data:

  • Zoom in:
    • Raw data
    • No background subtracted
    • Dynamic range: 6-7 orders of magnitude
    • Mass range:1-1000 amu/q, (1-50 shown)‏

Image: Google

  • Termination movie(balloon_termination.flv, Parachute test flight for Mars Science Lander /JPL,

Image: Google

Google shows many lakes....

Image: CSBF

MEAP on parachute as seen from recovery aircraft moments before touchdown.

Image: CSBF

Lucky landing on dry land...

meap back on ground
MEAP back on ground

MEAP with crashed solar panels (as planned) but otherwise completely intact.

P-BACE was still recording GPS data!

MEAP with remainder of flight train and recovery helicopter in background

umingmaktok nunavut

Image: Google

135km to Umingmaktok

Umingmaktok airfield

Umingmaktok, Nunavut

MEAP gondola arrives (movie) (uming.mpg)

CSBF recovery crew

solid state disk recovery
Solid state disk recovery
  • Instrument was found in very good condition
  • Both disks were taken out of the instrument and data copied successfully
  • Instrument prepared for transport by air
development timeline

November 2007

Decision to fly P-BACE on MEAP

November 2007 - March 2008

P-BACE development + manufacturing

March 2008

Onboard and ground software development

April 2008

Integration of P-BACE

April - Mai 2008

Test & Calibration

Late Mai 2008

Shipping to Esrange, Sweden

Begin June 2008

Integration with MEAP, final software tests

During June 2008

Flight rehearsal, two launch attempts

June 28 - July 3, 2008


Development timeline
  • Demonstrated fast development process
  • Very successful flight of MEAP/P-BACE
  • All objectives fulfilled
  • Valuable expertise gained by all involved parties
  • Instrument back in Bern for refurbishment and post-calibration
  • Data analysis in progress

atmospheric composition
Atmospheric composition

Average measured 2000 at Mauna Loa Hawaii,

The planetary scientists companion