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This short BBC News item shows a very large high altitude balloon lifting a science payload to measure high energy cosmic rays for about 100 days, circling the Earth perhaps twice in the process.

Unfortunately I could not find any reference to the name of the mission or the payload. I'm wondering if there is a website or a map with it's current location as it circles the Earth.

I'm also looking for a short description of the cosmic ray detector itself. The payload looks really small and light, what kind of information can it record? Without a long or deep array, can it measure the angular distribution of the flux?

If each cell in the photovoltaic array is from a 6-inch wafer, I can use that as a scale to estimate the size of the two white "shoe boxes" sticking out on either side of the top of the payload as about 50x50x15 cm. Is this a two-element lateral telescope, looking for coincident detections through both? Can it point itself, or is rotation around the vertical axis random?


Up, up and away! Nasa's super soaring space balloon "This mega balloon - the size of a football stadium - was launched in New Zealand and will float around Earth for 100 days"

Alternate link.

Click (or right-click) images for large size:

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Sadly this mission that launched May 7 2017 ended in failure.

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This was billed as the third mid-latitude test flight of a Super-Pressure Balloon. The payload:

Flying on this year’s SPB test flight was the International Extreme Universe Space Observatory-SPB payload. EUSO-SPB is a high-energy cosmic ray particle astrophysics payload testing a fluorescence detector and its supporting technologies under the severe operating conditions of the stratosphere.

The balloon developed a leak and controllers brought it down in a controlled fashion after 12 days, 4 hours and 34 minutes aloft.

From here

There is a bit more info on the payload here:

The instrument is an updated version of the first EUSO-Balloon payload. It includes a full original JEM-EUSO PDM (photon detection module with 2304 pixels), as in EUSO-Balloon, and a Fresnel lens optical system, 1 m each side, covering a field of view of ±6 degree. An improved version of the trigger allows to catch high energy cosmic ray events.

and here:

The instrument was built by members of the JEM-EUSO international collaboration. It will fly suspended from the super pressure balloon and look down on the atmosphere from suborbital space to record the faint traces of UV light produced by cosmic ray extensive air showers. At its heart is a sensitive Photon Detection Module (PDM) that is mounted at the focus of a custom optics system of UV transmitting fresnel lenses. The lenses are 1x1 m in size. An array of 36 64 channel multichannel photomultiplier tubes form the PDM array. The signals of the PDM are digitized with a 2.5 microsecond time exposure. The data acquisition system records "video clips" containing 128 of these images. The field of view of the detector is 11x11 degrees. The recorded “videos clips” will show the trajectories of EASs as they develop in the atmosphere. To improve the contrast of the faint air showers above the night background, each subsection of the PDM is covered by a UV transmission filter. The instrument will operate at night when the moon is down.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for tracking this down - it looks like the original BBC news article was pulled, but I found an alternate that still has the video link. Now I understand the payload is a big, large-aperture, low-resolution near-UV(~350-400nm) downward-looking "camera" for cosmic ray tracks in the atmosphere. It turns out there is or was another one on the ISS as well. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 14 '17 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I was interested to see that the "camera" is the big box in the center and stares downward! Didn't expect that. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jun 14 '17 at 1:01
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    $\begingroup$ It looks like the ISS one is maybe going to fly after 2020... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JEM-EUSO $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jun 14 '17 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ Some image-stuffed presentation pdfs of the whole project: 4 MB Euso Balloon a pathfinder mission for the JEM-EUSO experiment and also 13 MB JEM-EUSO Program Cosmic Rays at Extreme Energies $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 14 '17 at 1:03

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