February 28, 2017


EUSO Balloon gondola

The mission’s science instrument, under the responsibility of the IRAP (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie), is flown in a dedicated gondola partly designed by CNES.

The gondola is a down-looking UV telescope with a 1-metre aperture and an ultra-sensitive, ultra-fast camera (400,000 frames per second).

Weighing 460 kg in total in flight configuration, this gondola is:

• 1.2 m on a side and 2.7 m high telescope,
• 3.2 m on a side and 3.8 m high with all of its accessories (chiefly its landing system).

Designed to acquire measurements over the open ocean and be able to splashdown to reduce risks for populations on landing, the gondola is waterproof and has valves made of a material (TemishTM) that is permeable to air but not water. Impact attenuation in the event of a splashdown is achieved through laminar flow of the air in the instrument’s baffle.

Although the gondola was not scheduled to splashdown on its first flight from Timmins in summer 2014, its waterproofing proved useful as it landed in a small lake inside the flight polygon.


As shown in the photo above, the EUSO-Balloon gondola is equipped with deformable aluminium crash rings for hard landings and with holes (5 black spots) that turn the instrument’s baffle into an airbag for landings on water.

The gondola has had to be altered for the conditions of the second flight. The first flight was conducted at night, while the second could in theory stay aloft for up to 100 days. Batteries and solar panels for recharging them have therefore been added, as well as the communication system from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF). There are now 14 lead batteries inside the gondola. The solar panels have been fixed to a crinoline and the whole system housed inside an external structure containing the gondola from the first flight, as shown below.