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High-Altitude AirCore-Glider System


The Global Monitoring Division (GMD) of NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab (ESRL) has revolutionized high-altitude trace gas sampling with the balloon-borne AirCore sampling system, which is capable of collecting samples up to altitudes of 30 km. Over 120 AirCores have been launched, recovered and analyzed for a variety of trace gases, providing profiles of more than 98% of the atmospheric column for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO). These profiles provide valuable information for satellite validation and some of the only trace gas measurements available in the lower to mid-stratosphere unreachable by most aircraft. The current system is limited in profiling locations due to the feasibility of its recovery. The proposed study provides a critical path to make the sampling of 98% of the atmospheric column operational almost anywhere in the world by enabling a controlled UAS recovery of the AirCore sampling system and its accompanying in situ measurements package. GMD’s new project technology, under development provides a platform and an operational pathway for many other high accuracy measurements that would benefit from a dependable recovery system while at the same time providing the capability to reach altitudes that no manned aircraft are capable of reaching.

Double AirCore string using 3000 g weather balloon which includes two AirCores, AD-B transponder, balloon cutter, iMet radiosonde and parachute (Figure 1). The parachute automatically deploys at balloon burst at around 100,000 feet and falls to the ground as much as 70 miles downwind of the launch location. The AirCore captures the full profile of atmosphere which is later analyzed for CO2, CH4 and CO providing more than 100 independent measurements in the atmospheric column from 0 – 100,000 feet above sea level.

Fig 1. Notional High-Altitude AirCore-Glider System / Flight profile.

Figure 2 is 3D sketch of glider system for AirCore payload. This system carries two AirCores, AD-B transponder, balloon cutter, iMet radiosonde and parachute in a single payload that is designed to glide at roughly a 11:1 glide ratio from 100,000 feet enabling the AirCore package to be returned to the launch location normal weather conditions. This system is designed to carry slightly more than 12 lbs.

Fig 2. 3D sketch of glider system for AirCore payload.