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Sat, Nov 11, 2006

JP Aerospace Flies Two Edge Of Space Missions In One Day

Logs Missions 29 and 30 With Student Experiments Aboard

JP Aerospace (JPA) bills itself as America's OTHER space program. It calls itself an independent space program -- a volunteer-based organization that achieves access to space by just doing it. In that spirit, JPA launched two missions on November 7, Away Missions 29 and 30.

Company organizer John Powell says flying two missions on the same morning was a real challenge for the team. For JPA, managing two vehicles at once is a critical step toward future operations in the upper atmosphere.

For last Saturday's launches, the company used a new high wind launch system. It consists of giant envelopes containing the balloons and tear panels to release them. The seven to twelve knot winds would have meant a scrubbed flight without the new system. Powell says the company is improving launch systems with each flight with hopes to achieve all-weather balloon operations.

Powell said, "We are very excited about the missions. Many procedural changes and new techniques allowed us to do two launches in less time it normally takes to do one. Each mission is a real shakedown of systems and techniques for performing work at the edge of space."

The platforms were the twenty-ninth and thirtieth in the Away series of missions. Each platform is carried aloft by two large weather balloons. Away 29 carried one hundred and ten PongSat student experiments. It also took 2640 photographs of sponsor logos with the Earth in the background. Six cameras were on short booms looking back at billboards mounted on the vehicle. Away 29 reached a peak altitude of 95,100 feet. It landed ninety-six miles downrange.

Away 30 carried 570 PongSats. Away 30 was also testing telemetry systems to be used on JP Aerospace’s new high altitude airship. After liftoff, data from the vehicle showed the climb rate was 250 feet per minute -- well below that needed to continue the flight. At 17,600 feet, controllers sent the command to release the balloons. Away 30 landed by parachute six miles downrange.

Powell says the company still has a lot of work to do adding, "Away 30 didn't reach its altitude goal and the Away 29 landing site was farther downrange than we like. These flights gave us two more bits of experience under our belts and are another step down the road toward Airship to Orbit."

The next flight is scheduled for January 2007. JPA plans to conduct plasma drag experiments at 120,000 feet. The next flight with room for PongSats and high altitude ads will be in April 2007. Powell says platform space on both flights is starting to fill up, so contact them soon if you're interested in participating, or if you'd like to buy ad space.



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