High-altitude scientific balloons have been used for years by scientists for a variety of studies including hauling telescopes to near space for observations. However, planetary scientists haven’t been able to use them. That’s because they needed a highly stable system to accurately point their instruments and track planetary targets as they move.
Now NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., has designed a new pointing system — the Wallops Arc Second Pointer (WASP) — that can point balloon-borne scientific instruments at targets with sub arc-second accuracy and stability. A full scale test is scheduled later this year.
“Arc-second pointing is unbelievably precise,” said David Stuchlik, the WASP project manager. “Some compare it to the ability to find and track an object that is the diameter of a dime from two miles away.”
WASP is designed to be a highly flexible, standardized system capable of supporting many science payloads and frees scientists from having to develop their own pointing systems. Now, they can focus on creating the instruments.
– Ex astris, scientia –
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