NASA picks Octagon Systems for balloon computer

Scientists at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) needed a computer to manage data flow for their “Long Duration Balloon” (LDB) program.

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Scientists at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) needed a computer to manage data flow for their “Long Duration Balloon” (LDB) program.

They found a solution with the PC-680 SBC from Octagon Systems in Westminster, Colo.

Engineers at NASA’s National Scientific Balloon Facility (NSBF) in Palestine, Texas, required an extended temperature range since only a small amount of air is available at high altitudes to dissipate heat. They required high-bandwidth communications and data acquisition flow, fulfilled by the PC-680 with its six serial ports, 32 lines of digital I/O, two USB ports, and an Ethernet port.

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The balloon will use the PC-680 as its main computer to gather scientific data and global positioning system information, and sending that back to NSBF via a variety of communications methods.

NASA polyethylene long-duration balloons are filled with Helium, and are capable of carrying an 8,000-pound equipment payload while drifting as high as 26 miles above the Earth for as long as two weeks. A next-generation “Ultra Long Duration Balloon” (ULDB) will use a pumpkin-shaped balloon design to achieve flights of as long as 100 days.

Scientists use data from NASA balloon flights to help answer questions about the universe, the Earth”s atmosphere, the Sun, and the space environment. Balloon sensors also perform data acquisition for cosmic-ray studies, gamma and x-ray astronomy, optical and ultraviolet astronomy, infrared astronomy, atmospheric sciences, magnetospherics, and micrometeorite-particle studies. For more information, see www.octagonsystems.com.

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