June 3, 2008 The Alaska Space Grant Program and the Arctic Amateur Radio Club formed the Balloon Experiment And Research Program--or B.E.A.R. for short--in December 2007. The program's aim was to launch a high altitude balloon equipped with two amateur radio signals and more from Poker Flat Research Range in the spring of 2008. On May 10, BEAR participants met to inflate and launch their first balloon. It flew as high as 95,327 feet above Fairbanks in three hours, capturing more than 100 photos and video during its flight.
The balloon had three payloads in tow, all built and designed by Dan Wietchy of the Fairbanks-based Arctic Amateur Radio Club. The packages performed well, allowing B.E.A.R. participants to track and document the balloon's flight, and its subsequent recovery. The balloon was found less than seven miles from where it was launched at Poker Flat Research Range.
The Alaska Space Grant Program intends to expand B.E.A.R. into a larger program that will allow University of Alaska Fairbanks students the opportunity to fly payloads of their own design, and to conduct atmospheric research in the spring and fall. Faculty from the Geophysical Institute already are interested in designing graduate-level courses that will take advantage of this new arena to bolster hands-on student research.
Former Alaska Space Grant Director Neal Brown will recap B.E.A.R.'s first launch in a special presentation before the Arctic Amateur Radio Club on Friday, June 6 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.
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