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Student space center's experiment carried out on stratospheric balloon

The collective scientific student project "Destiny", carried out within the Student Space Center of l'X, was selected after the presentation made by students in ESA’s ESTEC technical center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in November 2018, by the REXUS/BEXUS program to be flown on a stratospheric balloon in October 2019.

The REXUS and BEXUS programs offer opportunities for student experiments to be flown on sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons. Each flight carries a payload consisting solely of student experiments. The program allows students from universities and higher education colleges across Europe to carry out scientific and technological experiments on research rockets and balloons. Each year, two rockets and two balloons are launched, carrying up to 20 experiments designed and built by student teams. The REXUS/BEXUS programme is realised under a bilateral Agency Agreement between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB). The Swedish share of the payload has been made available to students from other European countries through the collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The DESTINY project  (Detection of Earthquakes through a STratospheric INfrasound studY)

The internal structure of terrestrial planets such as Mars, Earth and Venus contains key information about the Universe. To investigate the history of our solar system, it is necessary to understand these planets’ evolution. In this sense, Venus is particularly interesting, being similar on many aspects to Earth. Yet, the extreme conditions on its surface (460 °C and 92 atm) make it impossible today to use long-lasting landers. The challenge is thus to find a method to probe Venus’ structure without ground sensors.

One solution, proposed by researchers from ISAE-Supaero and JPL, consists in using balloon-borne barometers to study the infrasonic waves produced by seismic events. The interest of this technique is that at an altitude of 55 km, Venus’ atmosphere presents earthly conditions: a pressure of 0.5 atm and a temperature of 27 °C. Besides, infrasound signals are amplified throughout their propagation toward the upper layers of the atmosphere – due to the conservation of energy and the decrease in air density – which eases their detection at high altitudes.

The DESTINY experiment, aiming at testing this method on Earth’s stratosphere, was carried out by five l'X students in October 2019 in Kiruna, Sweden during a 6-hours flight. The students' goal was to characterize the infrasonic background of the atmosphere to be able to recognize specific signals and locate their origin. As infrasound event they used a ground explosion that took place in 240 kms from the experiment. In order to study the results of the experiment and make their conclusions, students will measure the phase difference between the signals detected by distant barometers, and will process to locate their origin with the help of gps units. The results of the experiment will be released in early 2020.

Eight other international teams coming from Italy, Sweden, Greece and Germany, carried out their scientific experiments on stratospheric balloons provided by the Swedish National Space Board.