What is being explored in the stratosphere?

    April 12, we will send our server to the stratosphere. Soon we will write in detail about the technical stuffing of our project “ Space Data Center ”. In the meantime, we want to talk about why flights to the stratosphere are used today.


    Space Research Stratosphere is much closer than we think. And this is not a beautiful metaphor: today the boundary of the Earth’s atmosphere is accepted at the level of 100–122 km. However, already at 30 km, in the stratosphere, 99% of the air mass remains below you. The last one percent of the air is “spread” over the remaining 70–90 km of altitude. For comparison, at sea level the average atmospheric pressure is about 1000 millibars, and at 30 km - about 12 millibars. Since the stratosphere is the “ozone shield”, the level of solar radiation is much higher in its upper part. Only the temperature is knocked out of the harmonious picture of a harsh almost airlessness: from -75 ° C for 12 km it rises to 0 ° C for 45 km (sometimes it warms up to such a temperature already 30 km, although usually here -20 ...- 10 ° C )

    Due to the totality of conditions, the altitude range of 30–40 km is sometimes called the “precosmos” today and is actively used to conduct all kinds of scientific studies requiring minimal atmospheric influence. That is, in the upper stratosphere, you can cheaply conduct research and testing without spending money on a full-fledged launch into space.

    The world's first stratospheric balloon was built by scientist Auguste Picard to study cosmic rays. The nature of cosmic rays until the 1940s. remained unclear. Studies of the interaction of cosmic rays with matter using nuclear emulsions raised on probe balls have led, in particular, to the discovery of new elementary particles - the positron (1932), the muon (1936), and the π-meson (1947).

    Nowadays, despite the title of “pre-cosmos”, the stratosphere is most often used for ... forming weather forecasts. According to modern concepts, atmospheric processes occurring in the stratosphere, very much affect the weather on Earth. Therefore, hundreds of weather balloons are launched all over the planet every day, at 12 and 24 hours, at a single time: these are small balloons under which small hardware blocks are attached, which, as they ascend into the stratosphere, record air temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction. Information from weather balloons is collected into a single information system and is used in weather forecasting models. For example, if today air masses move from Africa to the north-north-east, then at this speed this atmospheric front will appear in Europe in a couple of days, and so on.

    Also, studies are being carried out in the stratosphere in which the atmosphere is in the way, and it’s too expensive to go beyond it. And the atmosphere is usually disturbed by astronomers. Back in the 1950s, the world's first stratospheric telescope with a diameter of the main mirror of 30 cm was launched in the United States, which made unrivaled photos of the solar corona at that time. In 1966, an 8-ton platform with the Saturn automatic observatory set off to fly in the USSR to shoot our star under a stratosphere balloon . The main mirror of her telescope was 50 cm in diameter (although it was structurally designed for a meter-long mirror).

    Also , telescopes operating in the x-ray and infrared ranges have flown into the stratosphere ; for them, the influence of the atmosphere is much more detrimental, since it absorbs these types of radiation.

    Another interesting task is the study of silver clouds. This is a rare atmospheric phenomenon that appeared about 130 years ago, shortly after the eruption of the volcano Krakatau. Silvery clouds form at an altitude of about 80 km, only from May to September and only at high latitudes. They become visible only when the sun has almost set and is 6–16 ° above the horizon.

    Silvery clouds have been studied since they were first seen in 1885. It is still not known exactly where they come from. According to one version, the smallest dust from a volcanic eruption fell into the mesosphere, and its particles condense moisture under certain conditions and become visible. And for several years, a fresh hypothesis appeared that methane rises in the upper atmosphere, interacts with cosmic dust and turns into ice crystals.

    The stratosphere is of great help in space exploration. The conditions there are very similar to space ones: the pressure is 100 times lower than at sea level, the high level of solar radiation, as the temperature rises, there is a very strong temperature drop, which is also characteristic of space: the difference between the "solar" and the "shadow" side can reach 170 degrees.

    A card used to transport bacteria on a stratosphere balloon.

    So during one of the solar eclipses, NASA conducted a study of the behavior of bacteria in an environment similar to Mars. The atmosphere of Mars on the surface is about 100 times less than the Earth, with cooler temperatures and a lot of radiation. Under normal conditions, the upper part of our stratosphere is similar to Martian conditions, and during a solar eclipse the likeness to Mars increases. The moon restrains the emission of radiation and heat from the sun, blocking certain ultraviolet rays, which are less common in the atmosphere of Mars, and further lowering the temperature in the stratosphere. In general, the stratosphere is an excellent sandbox for testing various equipment and materials.

    Another interesting area of ​​stratospheric research is the testing of satellite communications systems. Due to the sphericity of the Earth, the range of direct radio communication on the planet's surface is limited to about 27 km, this is the distance to the horizon. And if you pick up the transmitter in the stratosphere, then it will “hit” for several hundred kilometers, this is quite enough for full-scale tests.

    Also, biological experiments are conducted in the stratosphere: they study the ability of various living organisms to survive in conditions of high radioactive background, which always accompanies astronauts outside our atmosphere.

    But the people themselves are rare guests at an altitude of 30 km. Usually they are here only when they are transported by a rocket. In the 1950s and 60s, several super-high stratospheric parachute jumps were made, but in the last 40-50 years there were only two. The last of them, the most sensational, is Felix Baumgartner's jump from a height of more than 36 km.

    Pleasure is extremely expensive: you need a large stratospheric balloon, a lifting capsule, a spacesuit with a life support system - all together it costs millions of dollars.

    Finally, one of the strategic directions in research is the search for structural materials that are most effective in terms of volume, mass and strength, since one of the most difficult and expensive tasks in creating orbital and planetary objects intended for people to stay is to deliver large elements from the Earth designs. And in the stratosphere, the behavior of polymer composites is being studied, from which in the future they plan to blow (with subsequent curing) entire rooms in orbit, the moon or Mars. Scientists found out how the material behaved during curing, at what speed, what properties it acquired. From fresh, you can recall the study of carbon fiber material .

    Of course, our new project “ Space Data Center ” will cost many, many times cheaper than the mentioned experiments. Now in full swing is coordinating the launch with the responsible authorities. Most of the equipment arrived, the server is assembled and we are linking the components to each other.

    Follow the news on the blog :)

    We invite you to take part in our experiment and send your message on April 12 to our server in the stratosphere.

    Also popular now: