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This news release is outdated and posted for archival purposes.​​

Sept. 11, 2017
College of the Canyons Students Launch Payload on NASA Scientific Balloon

NASA’s High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) carrying a College of the Canyons payload successfully launched on Monday, Sept. 4 from New Mexico. The payload, designed to trap Interplanetary Cosmic Dust Particles (IDPs), was developed by Astronomy & Physics Club students.
It's the second year in a row the college was selected for the HASP program, and College of the Canyons is one of only five community colleges ever chosen during the program’s 11-year history.

The team of 12 students improved upon last year’s prototype designed to collect IDPs in the upper stratosphere, but the payload experienced some in-flight challenges when its enclosure was activated during the flight. 

However, the team, led by COC student Daniel Tikhomirov, worked together to troubleshoot the problem and found a way to keep the payload’s enclosure open as a passive collector. 

“We will not know for months whether the box captured any dust particles,” said Tikhomirov. 
“Maybe we'll capture some particles, but it is unlikely that they will be collected on the payload’s copper plates. Luckily, the optical dust sensor did not fail to give us interesting data on the detection of dust particles.”

The team’s second HASP experience has given the team of COC students invaluable hands-on experience and insight into the fields of science and physics. 

“These students are getting graduate student-level project experience at the community college level,” said Teresa Ciardi, a physical science professor at the college who, along with Greg Poteat, an adjunct manufacturing instructor, served as co-advisor on the project. “They are getting real skills that will help them as they move forward in their education and careers.”

In the fall, Tikhimirov will be designing and controlling prototype vehicles for Mars navigation as a Student Independent Research Intern (SIRI) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

As the author of last year’s accepted proposal to HASP, Tikhomirov submitted another proposal in December 2016 to send an improved version of the team’s payload on the HASP platform, which is carried aloft by a scientific balloon. The balloon, measuring 79 feet in diameter, traveled to an altitude of 108,000 feet. 

The proposal was accepted in January 2017, which is when the team began to work. 

When the final payload launched, a camera was attached to the science balloon, which allowed the team to view the launch and the scene from above during the flight on the NASA HASP webpage.

After the science balloon’s launch, the NASA HASP recovery team followed the team’s specific checklist to retrieve, detach, pack, and send the team the box that was designed to trap IDPs. 

The team will analyze the box at a clean room at COC. 

Funding for the payload, clean room cleaning and equipment for payload testing was provided by the COC Foundation. 

The HASP program is run by Louisiana State University and the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.