SET Launches ARMAS Dual Monitor Payload With World View
PAGE, ARIZONA. On Wednesday August 16th at 6:30 AM local time Space Environment Technologies (SET) successfully launched its Automated Radiation Measurements for Aerospace Safety (ARMAS) Dual Monitor payload. A Stratollite balloon vehicle made by World View Enterprises (WVE) carried the ARMAS Flight Module 5 (FM5) total ionizing dose detector and a gamma-ray spectrometer.
This mission, called GRYPHON29, had two objectives: 1) to demonstrate new COTS-based technology for 24/7 real-time radiation monitoring in Earth’s atmosphere and 2) to enable broader understanding of the sources for Earth’s atmospheric radiation environment by measuring both total ionizing dose and gamma-rays.
A picturesque sunrise in good weather illuminated a near perfect launch that was executed by World View Enterprises.
The 300 ft. high balloon and vehicle assembly rose to 21 km altitude (~70,000 ft.) in about 2 hours. However, GRYPHON29 encountered westerly winds at its float altitude that presented an unforeseen flight safety issue. Therefore, the flight was terminated by WVE about 11 hours after launch although the planned mission was for 30 days.
A lesson-learned in the short-lived flight was that the Teledyne dosimeter chip in the ARMAS FM5 instrument provided anomalous data that was likely due to the extreme thermal conditions in the desert. In the summer heat the ARMAS detector appeared to exceed its maximum operating temperature of 40º C (104º F). An attempt was made to mitigate this issue by shutting down the instrument for 3 hours and allow the ambient temperatures at float altitude to cool the instrument; a second mitigation effort was planned for an overnight power off to cool the system. However, the flight was terminated before the effectiveness of these measures could be determined.
On Friday August 18th, the payload and vehicle were recovered fully intact in the Nevada desert by WVE. Dr. W. Kent Tobiska, the Principal Investigator of ARMAS Dual Monitor and the President of SET, commented, “We are disappointed in the flight results of this otherwise beautiful launch. SET will test and modify the ARMAS Dual Monitor payload to mitigate any excursions outside of operating temperature limits. Our objectives remain to be fulfilled and we seek to refly this payload in the summer of 2024.”
SET received funding for this mission from the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the NASA Flight Opportunities (FO) programs. SET has a long-term collaboration with World View Enterprises for activities to understand and monitor Earth’s atmospheric radiation environment.