Global Constellation of Stratospheric Platforms

Global Aerospace Corporation is developing a revolutionary concept for a global constellation and network of perhaps hundreds of stratospheric superpressure balloons which can address major scientific questions relating to Earth science by globally measuring stratospheric gases, collecting data on atmospheric circulation, observing the Earth's surface and detecting and monitoring environmental hazards.

This work was initially supported by NIAC, the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts.

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Global Aerospace Corporation is developing a revolutionary concept for a global constellation and network of perhaps hundreds of stratospheric superpressure balloons which can address major scientific questions relating to NASA's Earth Science Mission, by globally measuring stratospheric gases, collecting data on atmospheric circulation, observing the Earth's surface and detecting and monitoring environmental hazards.

Such a system could replace satellites for making some environmental measurements. The keys to this new concept are:

  • Affordable, long-duration balloon systems
  • Balloon trajectory control capability
  • A global communications infrastructure

In the nearly forty years since the launch of artificial satellites, there has been a shift away from making in-situ measurements of the global environment to remote sensing from Earth orbiting spacecraft. Today, there may be reason to challenge this remote sensing paradigm. In combination, (a) the advance of electronics, communications and balloon technologies, (b) the difficulty of doing some remote sensing, and (c) the interest in simultaneous measurement, argue for a reevaluation of the current reliance on satellites for many global environmental measurements.

Total system cost for a constellation may be quite competitive with or even lower than spacecraft systems due to the inherent high cost of getting to space. Balloon systems will be less costly than spacecraft if they have lifetimes measured on the order of years, reducing the need for replacement or refurbishment. In-situ measurements costs are coming down dramatically with the advance of technology. In addition, the technology for very long-duration and guided stratospheric balloons is now beginning to be developed which will enable an affordable global constellation of formation-flying, stratospheric platforms.

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