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SNC completes high-altitude balloon trial for UK MoD

SNC trials its HAB for Project Aether, a UK MoD programme that seeks a stratospheric ISR solution. (World View Enterprises)

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has successfully trialled its persistent high-altitude balloon (HAB) as part of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Aether project.

Bill Leonard, director of programmes for SNC's Mission Solutions & Technologies (MST) business area, told Janes on 28 October that the company's HAB successfully accomplished all mission objectives set by the Aether programme office, proving the viability of the system in the stratosphere.

Launched in Page, Arizona, the HAB flight 1 demonstration was held from 15 to 25 September and was conducted in partnership with the UK MoD as part of the Project Aether Flight 1 Assessment Phase contract, Leonard said.

For the demonstration, the system was fitted with radio and communication payloads that were attached to a gondola. Following early completion of the mission objectives, the gondola was subsequently released from the non-reusable balloon segment via a guided parafoil with all mission payloads recovered safely, Leonardo said. The platform was flown to different areas and US states to fulfil MoD mission requirements, and the team was able to perform unplanned real-time MoD requests to demonstrate the capabilities of the system, he added.

The platform was also fitted with solar arrays and batteries that provide the power necessary for the larger payloads on board, and the system is also “capable of around-the-clock operations, exploiting the natural speed and directional diversity of stratospheric winds”, the company said.

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