We conducted three experiments:
  • Collecting stratospheric bacteria
  • Growing seeds exposed to stratosphere
  • Launching a model rocket

1. Collecting stratospheric bacteria

The purpose of this experiment is to collect and grow bacteria of extra-terrestrial origin replicating recent research from a scientific team from Hyderabad India.

If successful, we would conduct further studies to test the bacteria's resistance to UV radiation.

To collect the bacteria we used a diaphragm pump connected to an IOM sampler. The IOM sampler contained an 8 nanometer polycarbonate filter and IOM MultiDust Foam Disc. We started the pump once the capsule reached well within the stratosphere at 60,000 feet and turned it off once it fell back below 60,000 feet. We controlled the pump through the ArduPilot microcontroller and logged the pump activity along with the GPS location and altitude to ensure the pump was activated only above the 60,000 height.

After recovering the capsule we took the filter and inoculated a petri dish containing an agar-based solution of sheep's blood. We followed very careful procedures throughout the preparation and post-recovery process to ensure that the sample was not contaminated from earth-based bacteria.

As you can see we were successful in growing bacteria. For further studies we will test the bacteria's resistance to UV light.

2. Growing seeds after being exposed to stratosphere

The purpose of this experiment is to grow seeds exposed to the stratosphere and compare their growth to a control group. We chose two types of seeds, bell peppers and carrots for the experiment. We will compare the germination and growth rates to those from seeds which were not exposed.  Amelia's hypothesis is that seeds exposed to the high UV in the stratosphere and low temperatures of the troposphere/stratosphere inversion layer will not germinate and grow as well as the control sample.

3. Launching a model rocket

The purpose of this experiment is to see if a we can ignite a model rocket motor within the stratosphere. We constructed a launch platform on the outside of the capsule and programmed the ArduPilot to fire the ignition at 90,000 feet. We used a A10-3T Mini Rocket Engine with igniter and plug. To keep the igniter in place, we glued it to the bottom of the engine and soldered a connection between the igniter and ArduPilot controller.

While the balloon was rated to burst at 95,000 feet, it actually burst at 89,619 feet - 381 feet below the ignition height we programmed.  The Chief Engineer takes full responsibility for the failed launch.