What is HELEN?
HELEN is a network of four weather balloons carrying two payloads each. It's intended to be flown during thunderstorms to gather a radiation profile of the storm, which will help us learn about the mechanisms behind phenomena like Gamma Ray Glow and Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes.
Why are we developing HELEN?
Terrestrial Gamma ray Flashes have previously primarily been studied from satellites, which can't see weaker TGFs and have only about a 5km precision in pinpointing where they started. Observing a TGF from a balloon near the storm could help us learn how and why TGFs form, a question that is being researched by many atmospheric scientists, including some at NASA, NOAA, and UAH.
July 2019, with 8-10 missions throughout 2019 and 2020
On April 13th, 2019 HELEN launched its second personnel training flight, this time with a functional Electric Field Meter (EFM). The EFM spins about 2 axes, making it a unique challenge to launch and recover. The EFM spun exactly as intended, and was a great note to end the semester on!
Fun fact: HELEN's final flight requires 3 balloon launching teams operating simultaneously! In order to have final flight day operations run smoothly, training launches were scheduled. These launches were a great opportunity to test both hardware and personnel procedures. BalloonSat 82 on March 2nd, 2019 was the first of the training launches
On March 3rd, 2018, HELEN completed its first test flight with assembled detection instrument.
Assembled payload for initial test flight on March 3rd, 2018
EFM Measurements Printed Circuit Board
Assembled scintillator crystals, photomultiplier tube, and socket for radiation detection payload
Interior of assembled payload initial test flight on March 3rd, 2018