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Defence trials balloon-mounted sensors

The RAAF’s Plan Jericho is undertaking a number of advanced sensing activities, including high altitude balloon launches and sub-orbital rocket launches. Air Force’s Jasper hitched a ride on this launch to accompany the high altitude balloon into the stratosphere. Photo: Defence

Defence has begun a series of high altitude balloon launch trials to test its ability to quickly send sensors and communications equipment into the upper atmosphere carried on a balloon. The first balloon was successfully launched last week from West Wyalong in NSW.

Minister for Defence Hon Linda Reynolds said the balloon was launched into the stratosphere to explore the under-utilised altitudes between space and where aircraft generally fly.

“The trial aims to demonstrate Australian designed and developed launch capabilities that can deliver and maintain sensor payloads to an altitude that significantly improves situational awareness over a wide area,” she said.

“Having these high altitude balloons as part of Australia’s sovereign capability means that we could deploy advanced sensors into the atmosphere quickly and cost-effectively, giving our forces comprehensive data in the air, on the ground, or at sea.”

The Government’s investments in defence capability are creating new opportunities for local businesses to innovate and take up opportunities in Australia’s burgeoning space sector, according to Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price.

“Air Force’s partnership with ThunderStruck Space will help boost their capability and give us greater opportunities to access innovative Australian stratospheric launch capabilities,” she said. “It offers Australian industry the chance to conduct quick and relatively low-cost, pre-launch testing of space payloads, before being integrated onto launch vehicles for deployment into orbit.”

A 3D printed version of Jasper, an award-winning animated character developed by Air Force to encourage more children to pursue STEM careers, will be filmed as she soars into the stratosphere on one of the balloons.

The trials are taking place in close consultation with the Civilian Aviation Safety Authority.

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