Officials have declared that a student team based at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering, and including interns from other schools, has broken last year's record for amateur radio high altitude ballooning. The team's super-size helium-filled weather balloon rose up to 128,379 feet before bursting. Last year's record-breaking flight was 125,449 feet by a team from Cornell University.
The Clark School balloon payload, designed and built by students, included a GPS receiver and a radio to regularly transmit the GPS location and altitude of the balloon to a ground station located on the roof of the Comcast Center on the UM campus in College Park.
The Clark School team included Dru Ellsberry (graduate research assistant in the Clark School's Space Systems Lab), Connie Ciarleglio (rising junior in aerospace engineering at the Clark School), Ben Phillips (visiting summer intern from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore), and Matt Griffith and Dave Thoerig (visiting summer interns from Hagerstown Community College). They were sponsored by the Maryland Space Grant Consortium.
"This team has been together only since the beginning of the summer, working on a number of different projects, but they continue to accomplish significant milestones," said team faculty advisor Mary Bowden. "After this successful altitude record achievement, they will be running part of a summer camp for blind high school students on campus, and then testing & flying a long-duration balloon payload later in the summer."
The flight took place on July 10; the record was confirmed July 13 by Ralph Wallio, who maintains the Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning Flight Records website.
The record-setting balloon was released next to the Space Systems Lab on the UM campus and landed just north-west of Fredericksburg, VA
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July 21, 2009