Purpose of the flight and payload description

The High Altitude Shuttle System (HASS) is a lifting body-shaped gliding unmanned aerial system developed by Near Space Corporation aimed to carry new technologies to high altitude for testing and then released to fly back and land in semi-autonomous flight. At left can be seen an image of the HASS in flight (click to enlarge).

Standard HASS platforms can lift payloads of up to 10 kg to altitudes of 28 km for flights of up to six hours. Non-standard options include higher altitudes and longer flight durations. For HASS, the primary payload bay is comprised of the center section of the Shuttle with payload attachment and access provided through its bottom hatch. This composite payload tray/hatch serves as the 'framework' onto which the payload is mounted. The standard HASS avionics suite is mounted on the forward part of the tray just prior to launch. All other real estate on the payload tray is available for primary payload use within the enclosed physical constraints of the Shuttle center-body, the 10 kg maximum payload weight limit, and specified center of gravity constraints.

The HASS semi-autonomously can return payloads to pre-specified landing sites, allowing payloads to be rapidly turned around and reused in reflights. Other caracteristics of the platform are an enhanced flight path control from release thru landing, iterative payload changes between frequent, high altitude flight tests and high quality reduced gravity parabolic flights. Combining HASS with NSC's Tactical Balloon Launch System (TBLS) is also possible to launch the glider under a balloon in winds up to 30 knots with a minimal crew of 2 or 3 persons from remote sites.

In this flight, HASS was integrated with a payload developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aimed to evaluate how the equipment could help the FAA detect and track commercial spacecraft entering the National Air Space, as it descends from space.

The test was conducted by Near Space Corporation, under the first FAA Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) test site for UAS high-altitude Certificate of Authorization, COA. With that flight, NSC became the first commercial suborbital space company to conduct a flight test under the agency's UAS rules.

Details of the balloon flight

Balloon launched on: 10/3/2016
Launch site: Naval Air Station Tillamook, Oregon, US  
Balloon launched by: Near Space Corporation (NSC)
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon  
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 10/3/2016

The balloon was launched on October 3, 2016 from Tillamook, Oregon and after the system reached 70,000 feet altitude, the HASS drone was released simulating a winged spacecraft's entry into FAA Class A controlled airspace. The descent back to the launch site lasted slightly over 30 minutes, and was followed by the FAA using the new surveillance technology. The agency tracked the HASS drone from its Seattle Air Traffic Control Center and was observed by agency personnel at the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation in its Washington DC offices.

External references

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