University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Space Studies to participate in high-altitude balloon launch with West Fargo students May 17

UND Space Studies students and faculty will be working alongside first and seventh-grade student teams to launch and track two high-altitude balloons Friday, May 17,  from the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo, N.D.

The High-Altitude Balloon Launch is sponsored by the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium. The public is encouraged to attend and observe the launch. This launch is completely dependent on weather.

Balloon competition

High-altitude balloons are fun, inexpensive and increasingly popular tools to put experiments in a near-space environment. Students will attach payloads (containers holding experiments), along with a ham radio, GPS tracker, radar reflector and a parachute, to a latex balloon filled with helium.

As the balloon rises, the atmospheric pressure drops and the balloon expands. At a certain point in the stratosphere, the balloon can no longer stretch and it pops. As it falls back to Earth, the parachute deploys. Ham radio operators track the balloon as it descends to Earth. After continuously following the balloon’s trajectory with tracking equipment, the chase teams pinpoint the balloon’s final landing destination.

Balloon launch

This is the first launch to include multiple payloads from seventh-grade teams at the STEM Center Middle School in West Fargo.  The plan is to launch two balloons from the Red River Valley Fairgrounds. UND is launching a Go-Pro camera to record the entirety of the flight.

The seventh-grade students have been designing their own science experiments throughout the school year and will be launching the high altitude balloons alongside first-grade students.

Space Studies students and faculty will join the student teams in tracking the balloons. They will retrieve the balloons once they descend, usually a couple of hours after launch.

-- David L. Dodds, media relations/writer and editor, University and Public Affairs, 777.5529,

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