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University of Balamand > News > Archive > Balamand To Stratosphere

Balamand To Stratosphere:

Recently, a team of mechanical and aeronautical engineering students at the University of Balamand carried out a challenging project titled “Balamand to Stratosphere”. The project aimed to launch an unmanned and uncontrolled high altitude balloon that would reach the stratosphere - the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere. Furthermore, a capsule suspended from the balloon was to be retrieved after parachuting back into Lebanese territory.

The balloon-capsule setup was successfully launched from the Beirut Golf Club. It took 49 minutes to reach the team’s goal of approximately 30 kilometers – well into the stratosphere. After the balloon had burst at that altitude, the parachute deployed successfully and the capsule took around 18 minutes to land north of Baalback, Bekaa. An enclosed GPS device transmitted the exact location two hours after the landing. The team rushed to the spot and retrieved the capsule after hiking up some steep mountains.

Two sub-teams of mechanical engineering students worked on the project which was supervised by Dr. Johnny Issa. The first sub-team being the capsule design team and it included the students Anthony Diba, Ghady Moussa and Tarek Tahan. This team successfully designed and built the capsule capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of the flight. It was designed as a photographing platform to capture and record the journey over Lebanon. It was also traceable using a GPS device placed within the capsule. The team successfully designed the capsule protecting the enclosed electric devices from the rough wind speeds, freezing temperatures (-55° Celsius) and the impact upon landing.

The second team is the aerodynamics team and it included students Elie Shami, Elie Mahfoud and Elie Harb. Based on forecasted wind data of the date of launch and calculation of lift and drag forces, this team worked on estimated the flight path and landing location. Their tasks also included setting up the balloon and parachute, filling in the right amount of lifting gas and ensuring zero leakage. The team successfully ensured a smooth and safe landing within Lebanese territory, and the capsule landed within a 3 km radius of their approximation.

The successful launch and recovery of “Balamand to Stratosphere” provided important data, and gave the team a chance to validate their calculations and estimations regarding high-altitude balloon projects. This paves way for future projects over the skies of Lebanon with various scientific objectives. For example, weather and wind data can be collected during the ascent, along with monitoring air pollution along different altitudes; all while operating over a small country with a modest budget. A video summary of the project and the journey can be found on the following link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CXQ1ppV928​, or by simply searching “Balamand to Stratosphere” on www.youtube.com.

The success of this project would not have been possible without the cooperation and help of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Balamand, the Lebanese Army, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and Mjad El Ghad, an organization presided by journalist Ferial Khoury Moussa that aims to encourage youth to prosper in their own country thus limiting the high emigration' rates.


Balloon Filling Process at the Beirut Golf Club











Landing location in Baalback District, Bekaa



Pictured is Capsule Design Team including Anthony Diba, Ghady Moussa and Tarek Tahan



Pictured is the Aerodynamics Team Including Elie Harb, Elie Chami and Elie Mahfoud 



Dr. Johnny Issa, Supervisor of the project
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University of Balamand,
Balamand Al Kurah,
Lebanon

Tel:  +961-6-930250
Fax: +961-6-930278