Project at the Colorado Space Grant Consortium

November 2012 - December 2013

rs10 team
The HELIOS II integration team. From left to right: Structures and Thermal Team Lead Ashley Zimmerer, Project Manager Caleb Lipscomb, Systems Engineer Jon Sobol, Electrical Team Lead Jorge Cervantes, Optics Team Lead Anthony Lima.

Program Background

The HELIOS II project was a part of the High Altitude Student Platform run by the Louisiana Space Consortium. HASP carries student payload experiments to an altitude of around 36km using a small volume, zero pressure balloon. HASP flies from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.


HELIOS II was designed to track the sun and photograph it in the Hydrogen-alpha wavelength. The Hα wavelength was used so sunspots in our photographs could be easily identified. HELIOS II, the second payload in a multi-year mission was a proof-of-concept that solar observation could be achieved at low-cost onboard a high-altitude balloon, relative to the cost of a satellite or ground observatory.

My Role

As the Team Lead for the Structures and Thermal sub-system, I worked with the Electrical and Optics sub-system teams to design a structure that protected our components. I took into account the cold temperatures in the upper-atmosphere, the forces of launch and descent, and the heat generated by the electronics. I designed the payload structure and the mechanism for rotating the tracking system, sourced materials, manufactured components, and tested the tracking system.


hasp structure
In order to track the sun, the camera platform moves in two axes. The upper structure accommodates two cameras and the lower structure protects the power board and control system. The camera housing is elevated by a stepper motor mounted on the side of the upper structure. The upper structure is rotated by a chain and sprocket connected to a stepper motor in the lower structure.


hasp panels
I used the mill to manufacture most of the structure. The holes in the larger panels were cut to reduce the weight of the structure.


roof testing
I frequently participated in testing the payload. I ensured that the top structure rotated and elevated smoothly, and that the sprocket-chain system remained taut. I also monitored the temperature of the electronics compartment.


hasp platform
The HELIOS II payload launched in August, 2013. The structure performed well in flight. Upon landing, several structural components were damaged by the impact. The electronics in the lower structure and the cameras in the upper structure survived. The payload was able to track the sun for a portion of the flight, and we obtained several Hα images with identifiable sunspots.