In the spring of 2017, an international team of students from Luleå University of Technology in Sweden gathered together to brainstorm a REXUS/BEXUS program idea. The European program supports scientific and technological experiments on research rockets and balloons, sending two of each into space every year.
After some deliberation by the team, it was a scientific article on the potential of a manned mission to the upper Venusian atmosphere, that gave the impetus for the Balloon Ejection Student Prototype INvestigation (BESPIN) project. Though Venus’ runaway greenhouse effect makes the planet’s surface hot enough to melt lead, at a height of 50km, temperature and pressure conditions are very similar to those found on Earth. This fact makes a balloon-assisted manned mission to Venus highly plausible.
The Luleå University of Technology students are now busy working on the complex task of ejecting a descent probe from a rocket’s nose cone at apogee (around 80km), deploying the descent probe parachute at around 5000m and achieving balloon flotation before the probe’s slow controlled descent.
Following the deployment of the descent parachute, the team will be using a RockBLOCK to communicate housekeeping and positional data to a ground station. Like the rest of the equipment, the RockBLOCK will be undergoing some rigorous testing to ascertain its suitability for vibration, shock and pressure changes associated with the mission.
The rocket is set to launch on March of 2019, but we hope to have good news about the suitability of the RockBLOCK for the BESPIN project well before that time.
All of us at Rock Seven wish the BESPIN team the very best of luck.