Next September, NASA will send high-altitude balloons into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere as part of an effort to collect data on cosmic radiation. If all goes as planned, one of the balloons will be attached to a satellite designed by students at a unique class at the University of Virginia.

Steven Harrington works with the JefferSat cubesat, a small satellite that will measure cosmic ray activity high in the atmosphere. Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress
For the past two years, the Spacecraft Design course at UVA, led by associate professor Christopher P. Goyne, has been working on just one project — a satellite he hopes to eventually launch into space. Goyne, who’s always looking for ways to help his students get practical experience, was also hoping for some outlet to test his project.

NASA provided a chance to do both. The agency has been reaching out to college space programs, offering the chance to fly student experiments to the edge of space using high-altitude balloons.

“Doing a balloon flight is sort of a stepping stone to space flight,” Goyne said.

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