Download by parachute: Retrieval of assets from high altitude balloons

E. L. Sirks, P. Clark, R. J. Massey, S. J. Benton, A. M. Brown, C. J. Damaren, T. Eifler, A. A. Fraisse, C. Frenk, M. Funk, M. N. Galloway, A. Gill, J. W. Hartley, B. Holder, E. M. Huff, M. Jauzac, W. C. Jones, D. Lagattuta, J. S.Y. Leung, L. LiT. V.T. Luu, J. McCleary, J. M. Nagy, C. B. Netterfield, S. Redmond, J. D. Rhodes, L. J. Romualdez, J. Schmoll, M. M. Shaaban, S. I. Tam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We present a publicly-available toolkit of flight-proven hardware and software to retrieve 5 TB of data or small physical samples from a stratospheric balloon platform. Before launch, a capsule is attached to the balloon, and rises with it. Upon remote command, the capsule is released and descends via parachute, continuously transmitting its location. Software to predict the trajectory can be used to select a safe but accessible landing site. We dropped two such capsules from the SUPERBIT telescope, in September 2019. The capsules took ∼37 minutes to descend from ∼30 km altitude. They drifted 32 km and 19 km horizontally, but landed within 300 m and 600 m of their predicted landing sites. We found them easily, and successfully recovered the data. We welcome interest from other balloon teams for whom the technology would be useful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberP05014
JournalJournal of Instrumentation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation
  • Mathematical Physics


  • Balloon instrumentation
  • Data Handling
  • Large detector-systems performance
  • Models and simulations


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