Vandy Engineering Students Prepping High-Altitude Balloon For Eclipse

Posted at 8:40 AM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 09:51:02-04

Engineering students at Vanderbilt University are hard at work, making last-minute changes to a high-altitude weather balloon they plan to launch during the solar eclipse next month. To get live-streaming video of the solar eclipse, thousands of feet in the air, the work starts on the ground.

"How do you even do high-altitude ballooning. What steps do you take," said Adam Jarrell, a third year graduate student at Vanderbilt. 

Jarrell and his teammates have been working on the project for about a year. 

"And this is actually a national project," he said. 

They're one of more than 50 teams selected by NASA to live stream the eclipse from 100,000 feet in the air - at the very edge of space. Putting a balloon on the edge of space is no easy task, especially when you have a radio and camera gear on-board. 

There are many challenges to overcome, like weight and weather.

"It's really, really cold so water is freezing and stuff so we want to make sure that when it comes back down to the ground the water doesn't melt and ruin the electronics," said teammate Jack Murphy.

"You can't put something up in the air uncontrolled that is too heavy. So this whole project has to be under 12-pounds," Jarrell said. 

So what are they hoping to see? 

"Video of the shadow coming across the United States from 80,000-plus feet. Or if the teams are brave enough to point the camera directly at the sun you can get the full-eclipse, without any distortion from the atmosphere," he said. "[NASA] wants us to live-stream video down and that is basically it."

This will be the first total eclipse in the United States since 1979.

To find out more about this project click here