University of Saskatchewan

September 23, 2014   

U of S student research team launches imaging system to the edge of space

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April 08, 2011

A team of students from the University of Saskatchewan launched a prototype probe to the edge of space on April 5, 2011, the first step in studying the effects of pollution on the upper atmosphere.

“The experiment was a huge success,” said Adam Bourassa, who supervised the student team. “We reached an altitude of 30 kilometres, which is above the ozone layer and near the edge of space.”

Environment Canada donated a high altitude balloon and technical help for the April 5 launch from their research site at Bratts Lake south of Regina. The prototype flew to its maximum altitude before the balloon burst as planned, then fell to earth and deployed a parachute for a safe landing near Stoughton, about 170 km from the launch site.

The three students on the team, Brenden Elash, Sarah Toderian, and Adam Vigneron, are in their final year of their engineering physics degrees working with the Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies at the U of S.

Bourassa, an assistant professor in physics and engineering physics at the U of S, explains that the probe is a prototype design for measuring the stratosphere, whose air currents can carry pollutants around the world.

“We're particularly interested in tracking how forest fires affect the pollution of the upper atmosphere, which is of particular importance to Saskatchewan,” Bourassa said.

The probe also included a high-definition digital camera as a prototype imaging system, along with a GPS-satellite phone tracking system and a few other custom built instruments for tracking the sun and the earth's magnetic field.

“The imagery we obtained from the camera includes some stunning shots of the atmosphere and geography of the south of the province,” Bourassa said. “You can see the blackness of space, the blue layer of atmosphere below, and the curvature of the earth.”

Photos from the mission are available at


For more information, contact:

Adam Bourassa
Assistant Professor
Physics and Engineering Physics
(306) 966-1418

Michael Robin
University Research Communications
(306) 966-1425

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