ASET Colloquium (Online)

Advancements in Indian Scientific Ballooning and Important Milestones

by Mr. Suneel Kumar B. (Scientist-in-Charge, Balloon Facility-TIFR, Hyderabad)

Friday, June 11, 2021 from to (Asia/Kolkata)
at Online ( )
Ever since its inception in 1969, the TIFR Balloon Facility (TIFR-BF) has been operating with a focus on the needs of its user scientists. A unique feature of the TIFR-BF is the presence of an in-house Balloon Manufacturing Unit and payload integration facilities with telemetry, telecommand and control electronics and finally balloon launch, tracking, data collection, balloon flight control, and also payload recovery, under one roof to cater the needs of user scientists. Over a period of time, the TIFR-BF has augmented its large volume balloon manufacturing (design and fabrication) capability and developed the capability to launch heavier payloads up to 1.2 tons. TIFR-BF has also successfully achieved total indigenization of balloon manufacturing by developing world-class balloon grade ‘ANTRIX’ film, ultra-thin film for high altitude balloons, high breaking strength (BS) load tapes (400 kg BS), and other balloon components. The balloon flight support instrumentation at the TIFR-BF has been regularly updated with several innovations to keep in pace with the growing complexities of the scientific payloads for safe and highly reliable balloon flights. Apart from meeting the needs of TIFR astronomy and astrophysics experiments, TIFR-BF also extends the launch support for Astro-biology, high-energy physics experiments, and atmospheric science observations especially during the Indian monsoon season for collecting aerosols, black carbon (BC) samples from the surface to the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere altitude (~18 kilometers) regions. The TIFR-BF can manufacture zero pressure plastic balloons of volume up to 740,000 cubic meters to reach 43.0 kilometers altitude with 600 kg payload and recently, a multi-layered (4 layers) balloon to carry a heavy payload of 4 tons to 8.0 kilometer altitude for conducting human flights has been manufacture. Apart from zero pressure plastic balloons which are the mainstay of TIFR-BF activities, the design, manufacture and hoisting of tethered balloons is another area where TIFR-BF has made significant contributions especially in the testing of various satellite mission components, Wi-Fi communication equipment, and boundary layer studies. This presentation gives an overview of recent achievements from TIFR-BF along with the status of current activities and the future prospects of scientific ballooning and its control instrumentation.

About the speaker:
Mr. B. Suneel Kumar, joined TIFR Balloon Facility, Hyderabad in October 1995 and is the Scientist-in-Charge of the TIFR Balloon Facility since 2014. He was also the Group Head of the balloon fabrication group at Hyderabad and is the key member of Balloon Facility who takes care of zero pressure plastic balloon designing and fabrication. Some of the key highlights of his works are the design and development of high altitude balloons which reached a record 51 km altitude, zero pressure plastic balloon for carrying 4 tons payload for human flights, live lab rat experimentation from stratospheric altitudes, four successful TIFR far-infrared astronomy payload flights in a span of fewer than two years during 2017-2018 which was a record for this large complex IR instrument, etc. He is currently the joint collaborator for some of the balloon flight programs of ISRO and IISc which of national importance such as Balloon measurements campaigns of Asian tropopause aerosol layer (BATAL-II), Tropical Tropopause Dynamics (TTD-II), measurement of black carbon and aerosols (ARFI). He has also served as an Associate member for Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) under “Panel for Scientific Ballooning: PSB1”. He has presented technical talks at various conferences and academic institutes and authored more than 15 publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Organised by Dr. Satyanarayana Bheesette